Chances are that if you were in a leadership role in ’20 and ’21, you struggled to make sense of the fluid situations we were handed, but if you stayed true to values and pushed through everything, you have evolved into a more resilient and grittier leader.
As I have reconnected with several people that I respect and consider impactful on my business success and evolution as a leader, I asked every one of them the same question; “How has your mindset, priorities, actions, and decision making changed in your business and personal life after the past two years?”
Many companies experienced anywhere from a 20 to 60 percent loss in revenue in 2020 and into 2021, and more than 14 million Americans either temporarily or permanently lost their jobs. Half of society was deemed unessential, people got paid more to stay home, we mastered washing our hands but those of us still on the roads forgot how to use turn signals. With a 99% survival rate, >90% of the fatalities being realized in older people with several co-morbidities, we had to make it about the children and deaths by gun shot wounds and motorcycle accidents counted towards the daily death tolls leaving us with more questions than answers from the health “experts” about real risks. Toilet paper was rationed and we couldn’t get our hair cut or go out for a beer, but weird how no grocery clerk or gas station attendant died of symptoms. We even threw out the global play book that was adopted by the experts in case things like this happened. In fact, now we have a study from the same people that produced the first study we threw out that says we should not have thrown out that previous study and never should have followed the second study. Douglas Adams could not have dreamed this scenario up.
The Covidiocy started in March of ’20 and still continues in some aspects today. All of the sudden we all felt like Robinson Crusoe being thrown into a strange and surprising adventure and it was trial by fire time. As things evolved, there was no pondering WWJD, no ghost written bibliographies from leaders during Spanish Flu or Black Plague to learn from, there were no wiki’s or even historical references for leaders to use, and no precedent for the command and control political decisions that were being handed down daily with false end dates. Opinion became scientific fact and objectivity disappeared. Biased subjective misinformation became gospel and fear was willingly used against individual liberties and free market economics.
Not everyone in my circles fully landed on both feet after two years of staying committed to their roles and responsibilities. There was a lot of burn out and a lot of good people retired early or took simpler roles where they can just take orders and no longer be the one that gives orders. I miss them and I am grateful for a few stronger people than myself that kept me going.
Business leaders spent the last two years getting kicked in the groin daily and weekly by government policies, conflicting health data, lack of consistency in supply chain delivery and responsiveness, chirping crickets when you needed questions answered from your customers that went remote, and trying to write a new play book weekly for business strategy as the world was changing the game. All this while you tried to keep your employees whole and involved with decisions, being empathetic to their family needs and life balance, and helping to translate all of the politics of the situation where objective truth was non-existent or buried. Not to mention that the people that tried to raise flags of concern and had objective data to prove it were cancelled and deemed witches. The Salem Witch Trials may have taken place in the 1690’s but I would argue the mentality and mechanisms are still being stirred in the kettle.
The answers varied and if I hear the word pivot one more time I will probably puke. If you thought perseverance, passion for achieving goals, staying positive and hence resiliency and grit were important before, I say that before March of ’20 we had it pretty easy. Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit” was published in 2016 and contains some brilliant subject matter, but now more than ever, we need to confront even more obstacles and distractions as well as deal with the lagging results described later.
So, as I was listening to my network, gathering feedback, and trying to find my own answer to the questions I was asking of others, I started researching leadership trends now that we realize we were not in a life extinction event. We are starting to see some great articles but they are sanitized because of the fear of being cancelled or being doxed by the perpetuators of what the official line is supposed to be.
I found the information out there overwhelming, conflicting, and subjective depending on the industry the authors were in, but I also found some of the information validating to how I stayed the path and that I was not alone in how my mindset, priorities, actions and decision making have changed. I know I was burnt out by Q3 of ’21 but I took a few days to organize things at home, clean out the garage, replaced some rotting boards, took a lot of long walks with my dog, and made sure my family had their paths set for a strong end to the year. When I got back to work, I found that some of the team had accelerated some of the goals we set and realized the others that were being subsidized and dragging down efforts had to go. I don’t miss them and since we made those changes, the team has never been more aligned on mission.
Through this journey, I found the acronym V.U.C.A. which stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous”.
Let’s dive deeper.
Volatile: “characterized by or subject to rapid or unexpected change, transitory”
Uncertain: “not known beyond doubts, not reliable, variable, indefinite, indeterminate”
Complex: “hard to separate, analyze or solve”
Ambiguous: “capable of being understood in two or more possible senses, obscure, indistinct”
V.U.C.A. is actually the love child of and seems to be more acceptable in the business publication world than it’s predecessors F.U.B.A.R. and S.N.A.F.U. and may be followed by B.O.H.I.C.A. in the next pandemic.
V.U.C.A. acts like a catch-all for the changing and evolving business and social environments that we had. Some of the outcomes of navigating V.U.C.A issues were great! Like the speed that restaurants adopted different technology just to serve a hot dog with to-go margaritas curb side, people that did not believe in Amazon now ordering everyday items you would pick up on the way home now delivered to your door without human contact. (this also finally meant not having to wait for that challenged individual in front of you to find their check book). Virtual meeting tools were adopted so we could stay in our pajamas waist down and save on gas. Traffic patterns for those of us that were deemed essential actually became tolerable and even though we seemed to master washing our hands, I think it would be useful to find a mass hysteria that leads to using turn signals next. I actually think some people thought masks saved them from being idiots on the road like my neighbor that masked up speeding through the neighborhood and ran through the stop signs while driving on the wrong side of the road while wearing his mask in his car all alone with the windows up. Although this same idiot did do some of these things before but now combined the activities like an full orchestra and not just the first chair of each activity.
V.U.C.A also acts like a catch-all for the respective problems and ongoing repercussions to operations, business models, supply chains, inflated costs, and disruption to home life that we are still navigating through. Solutions that should have been simple had to be over thought for unnecessary contingencies and every plan you developed for the next day and week was blown up because someone you were connected to had a tickle in their throat and posted in on social media.
I found that navigating through issues caused by V.U.C.A. helps us realize that the tools and attributes we already had in place could be applied to the new normal. You realize that the V.U.C.A situations already existed and you have already been fighting them. V.U.C.A. has technically always been here, it is just wearing new clothes and could be blamed on a new enemy. Tools and attributes such as agility, responsiveness, collaboration, adaptation, continual learning and setting SMARTER goals were already in your playbook.
Let’s get back to the original question I was asking of my network and the answer about how priorities, actions, and decisions making changed in ’20 and ’21. Zig Ziglar said that sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful. I would say that navigating ’20 and ’21 has given you a good base to become even more resilient and successful and I hope this gives some guidance for the next B.O.H.I.C.A moments handed to us by the world. I believe many leaders have these qualities and I look at this list as a time to recognize what works as well as bringing forth some evolved qualities, traits, and skills that you can integrate and reprioritize.
These are not prioritized in any way.
- Be human and be honest. It is ok to admit you don’t have all the answers and it will build trust.
- Make decisions based on solid facts.
- Build a support network….nobody is an island and you do not have to be alone.
- Collaborate and use your network outside your four walls as sounding boards.
- Take care of yourself mentally and physically, take care of your family, and remember your empathy when working with others.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Complacency kills.
- Embrace agility, responsiveness, creativity, and collaborative solutions development.
- Realize that what got you here might not get you there.
- When facing new adversities, be able to see through ambiguity and uncertainty and stay focused on opportunities.
- Be confident in how you communicate about the opportunities you are focused on.
- Turn head on into problems and be able to reprioritize without losing sight of the bigger picture.
- Be realistic with SMARTER goals and discuss timelines and deadlines as well as agree on a schedule of checkpoints at which you’ll review project progress.
- Have contingencies and be able to rapidly reprioritize and address problems quickly.
- Do the work that is meaningful to the mission and delegate the administrative aspects.
- You will have failures but it is more important not to quit and learn to use in game amnesia. Use mistakes and set backs as learning opportunities.
- Give credit to the right people so that their hard work is acknowledged.
- Never stop meeting new people, learning new things, and helping others whether it is making connections for them to people that make sense or filling a void they can’t fill themselves.
- Keep your door open, dissent is not disloyalty, and be open to other peoples opinions.
- Stay true and hold fast to your values and culture.
- Emotional intelligence became mission critical and you may need to fine tune your communication style to fit the situation.
Business today needs more resilient leadership than ever before but it will also need the more necessary help of human creativity and innovation for imaginative solutions to problems that have not even surfaced yet. This new resiliency was named “VUCA-bility” in one of the articles referenced and the list above was gathered from many resources as well as my own experiences and those of the people that made it through. If this BS happens again, which it will, I hope that you are can make use of some of the points above and integrate them now so you are better prepared for later.
Unfortunately, we are just now seeing the lagging issues of our Covidiocy that were actually predicted to occur, but of course we were over reacting. Even now with all of the policy rollbacks, even with Canada being open again, there is no academic acceptance that the “experts” were foolish and wrong in their approach. And what should scare you the most is not how may rights were trampled upon, it is how fast so many people willingly gave them us.
These lagging and lingering issues include:
- K12 test score results recently published show kids are dumber than ever.
- Increased drug use and suicides are logarithmic in growth.
- The “Sofa” generation was created and being short staffed is here to stay.
- Major crime rates are surging.
- Mental health has diminished in all age groups.
- Respect for other peoples opinions has disappeared.
- Consumer and producer price inflation continue to increase.
- Traveled lately? The service mindset is gone.
- Those that want to do the least in society are being rewarded the most.
- Educrats thought they could raise our children better and spent more time on pronouns than the three R’s (now the two R’s according to the Simpsons here ).
- Believing in God, Country, and Family makes you a racist or a fascist or both.
- All objectivity continues to be missing in reporting and an the ongoing practice of deny, deflect, and distract in the press instead of shining light on hypocrisy, double standards, and holding people accountable is normal.
Time to get gritty.
A key component of grit is resilience, resilience is the powering mechanism that draws your head up, moves you forward, and helps you persevere despite whatever obstacles you face along the way. In other words, gritty people keep moving forward and we’ll wrap this up with the ever wise John Lennon who said “everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end”.
VUCA: a definition – From war to the business environment by EHL Insights
What are the main traits of resilient leaders? by EHL Insights
The future of leadership: Skills to look for in business leaders post-COVID-19 by Erin Joy on March 11, 202
urbandictionary.com/covidiocy /by Deus-ex-machina August 2, 2020
5 Characteristics Of Grit-How Many Do You Have? by Margaret M. Perlis on Forbes from October 29, 2013
Learning from Robinson Crusoe – Isolation Specialist by Kent Choi on LinkedIn from April 30, 2020
3 Pandemic Lessons Leaders Should Learn Before Moving Forward by Marcel Schwantes, INC contributing Editor and Founder