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Leadership in Crisis: Redeeming the Time

Crisis situations quickly sort companies into three groups, and then two:

1) Companies drowning under a crush of new business because of their essential services,

2) Companies desperate to stop the bleed of cancelled opportunities, and

3) Companies that shut down until the crisis passes.

Companies in the second category eventually find themselves in category 1 or 3, depending on whether they can pivot to become relevant.

Category 3 companies still have a business passion. The crisis will pass and they’ll have opportunities once again. But there will be forced evolution. Things may not look the same. Expectations and habits will shift.

Will you be ready when your customers are?

Even if you’re stuck in quarantine, unable to work at all or as you normally would, what you do with you time matters. I love Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote from the “Poor Richard’s Almanack” of 1746, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

When it seems like the world has come to a stop, how do you redeem the time? How do you make the most of what you’ve been given, even if it wasn’t want you wanted or expected?

You can read more business books and invest in your professional expertise. You finally have time to revisit those conference notes and listen to those industry presentations that have been on your to-do list. You can reach out to your affected team members and make sure they’re ok. You can continue to be a leader and a voice of calm direction. You can put together resources and options to help your team grow professionally. You can revise your strategies, streamline your operations, and develop ideas for new products and services.

These are all great options that will help you maintain focus and productivity.

However, redeeming the time can look different. Professional focus is good, but it’s not the only option of making the most of an unexpected set of circumstances. I’d like to offer some other thoughts on how this can be time well spent.

1) Do Nothing. Really. In a culture obsessed with productivity, we have stopped valuing time to sit and ponder. Give your brain time to process without incessant input. Embrace quiet. You’ll be surprised at how hard your creativity is churning when you give it a minute. And even if you don’t come up with a million-dollar idea during your personal monastic home-based-possibly-much-louder-and-more-chaotic-than-actual-monasteries retreat, rest is good. You have permission to enjoy life. That is something worthwhile.

2) Invest in a hobby. Did you know that Nobel Prize winning scientists are 2.85 times more likely to have an artistic or craft hobby than average scientists? Balance the other side of your brain by doing the opposite of what you get paid to do. Your brain is amazing at finding correlations and insights from seemingly unrelated activities. You may find your hobby gives you the creative idea you needed to boost your business.

3) Build your community. We all know about the importance of networking in your industry. This is a great time to reach out to people you haven’t connected with in years. Check in with them on how they’re doing in this crisis. See if there’s something you can do to help. Offer to assist neighbors in need. Call an elderly person who is isolated and unable to get visitors. The sense of community that small connections build is powerful. It’s important. It’s kind. Also, you are more likely to get new job leads through weak ties, that second tier of acquaintances, so you never know where those community connections might lead in the future.

These are uncertain times for many people. There are real concerns about how to pay bills, support family, and rebuild businesses after the crisis passes. But this time, when you may feel paralyzed and unable to DO anything, your time now, matters. It doesn’t have to be lost or wasted. You can come out on the other side of quarantined and shut-down life stronger, more creative, and better positioned to succeed. Redeem the time, because this too shall pass.

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