Is COVID 19 a problem to fix or a tension to manage?

Posted on March 19th, 2020

A problem to be fixed, or a tension to manage?  This is a key question we routinely ask ourselves as leaders. So how does it apply to the COVID 19 situation?

Is COVID 19 a problem we can fix?

Is it within your authority and capacity to fix the problem? I would suggest that it is not. COVID 19 is here. It’s not going away. You could take your tent and go sleep in the trees for the next 6 months and you will come back into a changed society. How much? Who knows. But it will not be the same. And yet, wanting to fix something that cannot be fixed is a source of angst for us, and those around us.

Or is it a tension to be managed?

Tension is a fundamental force that makes this world work. It makes cars go down the road, it produces product, it creates deeper relationships and it is as necessary for personal learning and growing as water is to life.

As leaders we are constantly faced with decisions to manage tensions between employee mental and physical well being and the financial, legal and ethical components of ensuring our companies stay healthy. Healthy companies provide jobs to our employees, value to our customers and contribute to our communities. We are serving nobody well if we lose our ability to keep healthy companies. And we are navigating this tension, as usual, without having all the data we need for clear decisions. Furthermore, no matter what decisions we make, there will be those around us who disagree with them.  Such is leadership.

The first element of managing this tension is keeping ourselves healthy. Physically, mentally and spiritually. With intention, set aside time each day to focus on self-health to be in position to lead others in a healthy manner.

The second element is to release the shaming. Yes, we are being bombarded by messages that if we don’t make decisions exactly as prescribed by others, we are being shamed. The media is most active in this messaging as well as those who are being driven by fear. Let it go.

The third element is to keep your eyes on the learnings.  What opportunities are coming out of this situation? New business opportunities? New ways to conduct business? New family traditions? New personal practices leaning into your faith?

The remaining elements are numerous and tactical.  Expecting magic answers? Sorry. They are the ones that only you know about your business, organizations and family. Choosing the priorities that achieve employee wellness AND company health, as well as family health, will be difficult and, to be frank, unachievable. You won’t have enough data, you never do. You can only do the best you can do. But if we stay centered, mentally and spiritually healthy, and intentionally lead with hope and vision, then we are doing what leaders do in times such as these.

My thanks to Richard Fagerlin, author of Trustology, for giving us this perspective on tension!