We will reopen businesses, and then?
In future times nothing will be like it used to.
We will keep being women and men doing our jobs, producing, selling, and recovering from an unseen crisis since the II World War.
In those times, the enemy was known, the sound of bombs was ordinary and the man in a uniform knocking on our door with a telegram could only mean the news that everyone already expected.
After its end, the enemy was dead, defeated, annihilated. Despite being anxious, stressed, and traumatized, there was no time to lose, it was necessary to rebuild and assure survival.
Nowadays, 75 years later, we are faced with what has been called the “Great Confinement”. There is not a single living generation that has any experience fighting an invisible enemy, insidious and – many times – brought by those who are closest to us.
A lot of people are on layoff, others are working remotely, but most of us are experiencing mixed feelings:
“I want to go back to work, but I’m afraid of getting sick”; “I can’t handle this confinement anymore, but I won’t be able to be close to other people”; “if someone in the company gets too close to me, how will I react?”.
In April 2020, this is the conundrum for most earthlings, that, although being sapiens, they are having difficulties to balance their emotional and rational sides and, as we know too well, in case of doubt, the emotional always wins and reacts with our most primitive side, the old part of the brain that has those survival-related functions.
But what does this have to do with reopening companies? COVID-19 has kindly gifted us with at least five “feelings” that will create distortions, conflicts, and losses of productivity.
The “C” has bought us a complex environment, the “O” offered us a new set of obligations, the “V” came with a volatile setting, the “I” has installed the insecurity and with the “D”, a mountain of doubts popped up – at least 19 of them.
What is at stake at an entrepreneurial level in the next months (being optimistic… years if we are more pessimistic), isn’t the technology, digital or investigation, but the way we all will behave: the fears, anxiety, and stress that will drain us, the irritability that will instigate conflict, the apathy that will bring some kind of presenteeism and insecurity that will depress us and increase the absenteeism.
More than ever, leadership will have a crucial role in the success we want to achieve.
However, it is worth it to differentiate two types of leadership that will have different roles to achieve different goals.
A top-level leadership, directed to strategic functions and decision making, that will try to implement the vision of a new future and will sustain the organizations’ viability; and a proximity leadership that will promote trust, will lead by example, deal with the inevitable conflicts, will remedy the presenteeism levels and will feed employees’ mobilization.
This last one is the one that should be supported, the direct and indirect leaders, team leaders, and any other function that is in charge of managing people.
But is this proximity leadership fully equipped to deal with the storm that is coming in a skillful, agile, and quick way? It is necessary not to forget that the leader will also have the same problems as the ones being guided.
Thus, top-level leadership needs to have into consideration these needs and, in a quick way and with an appropriate configuration, promote a support system for this stability, trust, and mobilization agents.
They must have access to a program that contemplates two stages: a “me” stage, with techniques that give them the means to deal with their fears, anxieties, and demobilization, and a “we” stage, with a set of skills that teaches them to effectively unblock the huge constraints they will face while managing teams.
The organizations that, even in the middle of the chaos we will live in the coming times, have the courage and wisdom to understand that a “New Deal” having this proximity leadership is needed, and practice it, will achieve better results and outcomes than others, more fearful and less proactive, that will hardly be successful.
What then? Then, courage, creativity, and resilience are urgently needed!