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Someone pushed “RESET” – Wow!

Mapping a Leader’s Uncharted Journey through a Pandemic - 5 markers to survive or thrive??

The world’s status quo has been totally disrupted. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit every nation on earth. Babies to world leaders. Fit and the vulnerable. Economies big and small. No one seems immune.

Seen across the globe: deserted streets, empty supermarket shelves, businesses closed, jobs lost, skies and waterways clear of pollution, church buildings vacant at Easter, opposing sides of politics working together…

The world is in reset.

The world is in reset.

The only resets worse would be the Flood (promised never to happen again), a nuclear war or an ice age.

Single Biggest Challenge.

Many have said (and, I suspect it is true) that this will be the single biggest challenge to our collective status quo that most of us will ever have to face. What do we do when the world as we knew it has been so devastatingly disrupted?

The system isn’t just in shock. It’s in shut down.

I’d like to invite you into my journey so far.

Hustle. Triage. Communicate.

Like you, I have been going through the: What’s happening? How many? When? What now? Really? Wow! How’s that going to impact my family, my business? Oh! Oh no!

Like you, I spent the better part of two weeks in business disaster response–in triage mode.

First, safety.

Next, getting a gauge on the looming threat.

Then: cancelling all group work (almost everything); cancelling supply; cutting costs; and hustling to locking in future contracts before the world stops. I’ve reached out in support of my clients (business leaders, small business owners, board members and pastors), as they lead in the midst of unprecedented challenge.

And, thanks to video meeting apps, it feels like I’ve had more meetings than ever before!

The whole time, I’m trying to be clear minded, calm in the face of uncertainty and staying firmly connected with everyone who is important to me, my family and my business.

Stop. Breathe. Reflect.

Over the weekend, I paused to breathe and reflect.

As I reflected, I thought it might be helpful (for me, at least!) to share my journey through this crisis as it unfolds before us. It would give us a chance to join together and work things out so we make it to the other side better and stronger than we were before all this started. You’ve heard the proverb “iron sharpens iron” (see the Bible in Proverbs 27:17). And, I truly believe there is unique opportunity waiting on the other side of this crisis for those who are well prepared.

I’m not proposing this to be a lesson in leadership. But, as a leader like you, I’m on a journey to lead my family and my business through this massive global ‘reset’. What I’m hoping is that a few of you will join me, because we will do better together.

Let me know what you think of my idea in the comments section.

In the meantime…will you walk with me a little further?

Still unfolding.

While I have triaged my business–and wait on government stimulus assistance and for banks to make decisions–the ongoing threat is still real and new circumstances unfolding. I’m still well outside my comfort zone.

Things have happened so fast, I still don’t know what the rules are!

In the midst of all this, I’m trying to be clear, calm and connected. I’m continually reminding myself (and we know this) that like all others, this crisis will move through a few different stages as it runs its course and the world reboots.

So, where are we now?

Many of us are still in shock that this has happened so incredibly fast. Some of us are anxious. Few remain in denial. There’s growing panic at the news of economic fallout. Some of us haven’t had time to scratch ourselves. Most of us are coming to an acute awareness of our current reality. Probably, if we are honest, we each have a mix of all these.

And, we all share a common frustration, that no one can tell us enough about what will happen next or when.

The environment globally and locally is still shifting quickly. While infection numbers seem to be flattening, the world is still resetting. System shut down is still running its course–and it might be a while yet.

Right now, it is important for me to stay alert and manage my immediate circumstances, in light of the ongoing health and economic threats they unfold. At the same time, looking for some important markers.

I am trying to stay informed on how these crises are advancing. As a business leader, coach, strategist and ideas innovator, husband, father and son, I am constantly assessing the impact on me, my family, my business and my clients in the short term (like ‘cabin fever’, home schooling and ‘Zoom fatigue’!), but with an eye on the medium and longer term.

I still feel like I’m managing on the fly, as circumstances shift.

Decisions for now?

Hibernate or ‘Pivot’?

Like many of you, I am trying to balance: what to keep operating (and for how long?) and what to put into hibernation (and how?). I want to generate revenue to keep staff and service clients through tough times, but also remove cost so my business survives, then thrives on the other side.

So, I’ve been working on a quick ‘pivot’ (shifting my business offer and service model). I’m looking for needs created by these extreme circumstances that align in some way with my business competency and focusing creative effort on how my business might be able to meet those needs in a valued way.

My writing this piece–sharing my journey–is part of my search.

Time to shine?

For some of you, this is your ‘once in a lifetime’ chance! You and your team are flat out filling demand for your core product or service. You are under pressure as you continue at scale. Your anxiety is not scaling up enough, in this limited window, to capitalise on all the opportunity that’s available. A different set of issues, but just as stressful nonetheless.

If you are in this situation of having to fulfil peak demand (the likes of which you have never seen before), please remember this: you can’t do everything.

Whatever it is you need to do, can I encourage you to do it in a way that makes an important and thoughtful difference to others–your staff, customers and suppliers. It’s what they need right now. They will love you for it long after this is over.

Checkpoint: Am I leading?

My people

People around me are looking for strength, resilience and wisdom in a time of continued ambiguity, uncertainty and frustration. As I hear the news each day, I try to process it within a bigger picture, knowing we will get to the other side. This helps me be clear minded, remain calm and stay connected with people in a meaningful way.

I’m reminding myself to lead daily. It is my job to make sure that at every stage, those around me (family and work) know where we are at, what we need to achieve and what we need to do to get there. They must feel enabled and empowered to take action, no matter how trying the circumstances or uncertain the next step is.

Even more so, right now, I need to find creative ways to encourage and empathise with my team and those around me as we face these challenges together.

My business

The system isn’t just in shock. It’s in shut down! While infection rates appear to have stabilised, much is still up in the air. When will there be a vaccine? When will social restrictions lift, how and at what speed? What will be the full extent of the economic fallout? God willing, a new day will dawn soon.

What do I do when the world as I knew it is changed forever? Out of adversity–with purpose and determination–I know leaders rise to find a path to a better way. If there was ever a time I wished for a chance to change things, or felt the frustration of not being able to, then this is as good a moment as I will ever get.

What markers lie ahead?

I’m looking out for five markers that will indicate a need to shift my leadership thinking to another level.

As a business owner and leader, I’ve turned my mind to anticipating the journey ahead. At this stage, I’m looking out for five markers that I think will crucially signal a transition into new stage or phase in the journey to the other side. Each marker will indicate a need to shift my leadership thinking to another level. Importantly, each marker should help me work out the right questions to ask, leading to right actions at the right time.

Like many of you, I believe there is enormous opportunity waiting on the other side. So, I know I need to be ahead of the wave.

But, I suspect there is risk in being too early and too late.

The 5 markers

I’ve mapped out my initial thoughts here. As circumstances unfold and evolve in this journey, I plan to wrestle with the timing of each marker as it approaches and what it means for me as a leader. I’m sure over time, I’ll change my mind on some things too! Walking this journey with others like you will be a great help to me!

The first marker: temporarily settled.

Signal: Communities settle into the temporary changes. Full awareness of the current reality. The ‘calm’ before the economic ‘storm’. Hurtling towards system shut down. 

Do you think we are here now?

Action: Watch and listen. Support the team. Leg work and preparation. Get my ‘house’ in order. Start exploring potential futures, new scenarios and strategic options for my business. Broad planning and testing ideas and early steps.

The second marker: health crisis under control.

Signal: Restrictions begin to lift. Damage assessment begins. An acceptance of loss of life and livelihoods. Celebrate victory over the enemy. The system completes shut down–momentarily, before reboot.

Action: Time to vigorously explore and test my preferred strategy by executing bigger steps in the plan, checking and adjusting regularly.

The third marker: wheels of business begin to turn, tentatively.

Signal: Scale and impact of the crisis becomes clear. People trying to get back to “normal”. The system starts rebooting. Business starts trying to reboot. Economic ‘tsunami’ hits. 

Action: ‘Lock and load’. Continue to execute, check and adjust. Increase pace as I gain confidence in my strategy.  

The fourth marker: business pace accelerates.

Signal: New normal becoming clearer and clearer. After false starts, businesses start to adapt to the change. 

Action: Execute at speed. Look for ways to scale and turbo boost.

The fifth marker: business settles in…new status quo.

Signal: Coronavirus crisis no longer constant front page news. New ‘normal’. System reset complete. My ‘once in 100 year’ window to ‘change the game’ will be closed. 

Action: Double-down and execute my plans to scale at speed. 

The only thing I know with certainty is that when the fifth marker is spotted, the post-COVID-19 world will have come all too quickly.

Search for meaning.

By this time, we will all be well into the ‘search for meaning’ behind this global ‘reset’ event. The impact on the world will be profound.

Was it a wake up call, and for what? What is really important in life, my life? What does it tell us about humanity? What really is happiness, peace and security?

Perhaps this search for meaning will be the most important part of everyone’s journey through this crisis.

Please join me.

So, there you have it. A high level map of my journey ahead. I hope to continue sharing my thoughts as I work through the different stages–striving to be ahead of the curve and aiming to thrive on the other side. I’m not entirely sure what form or forms this might take in time, but it’s good just to get started.

I hope you will join me on this journey. My hope is that we can challenge each other with the right questions at the right times, wrestling with uncertainty and potential, to make courageous, purposeful, strategic decisions for the future of our businesses and our families.

Remember, iron sharpens iron.

Or, just follow my journey and I hope you find it valuable.

So, what now?

What action do you need to take?

1.    Ask yourself: How are you putting your business in the best position to survive this crisis?

2.    Ask yourself: What are you doing to position your business to come out of this crisis better and stronger?

Further action on some resources:

  • Review – If you want to review your triage set up, feel free to download the Business Triage Checklist we developed for our business. No charge. No sign up.
  • Chat – If you would like to chat, I am offering non-clients leaders a FREE 30-minute video chat coaching session. I have allocated 10 slots each week over the next 4 weeks, as a start to help business leaders chat through their challenges. If you are interested, please reach out and contact me here and mention your interest in the 30-minute video chat.
  • Feedback – please let me know your thoughts. What stage do you think we are at? What do you think lies ahead? Please click through to Contact Us and leave a comment.
  • Just Follow – If you would like to simply follow me through this journey, please make sure you follow Leadership Resources Company Page or click through to Contact Us and leave your contact details and put “just follow” in the comments section.


[The markers or stages alluded to in this article were greatly influenced by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ Grief Cycle and her updated Seven Stages of Loss model. There is a helpful explanation here and here.]

[Photos: "Reset" Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash; "McCafe" Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash; "Lost key" Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash]

Michael Lin is Lead Consultant at Leadership Resources Consulting Group.