The Covid-19 pandemic has put a lot of strain on business leaders and professional managers. Companies are facing the most serious crisis where laying off or furloughing employees has become a necessity not a choice. As the economy takes major body blows and job security becomes uncertain for managers it is natural for their anxiety to be knowingly or unknowingly transmitted to the employees down the line. Being in a lockdown for more than a month with no light at the end of the tunnel naturally also creates stress. No one is sure about what s(he) is supposed to do or how s(he) is supposed to do it. In such times how well we are able to adapt and navigate through this adversity is a test of our capability and leadership.
When things are not in our own control the worst thing we can do is to beat up ourselves by worrying and having negative thoughts. Calamities and adversities are a part of life and when we are faced with difficult circumstances which are not of our own doing and over which we do not have any control then the best thing we can do is accept them as divine intervention. Negative emotions are not only bad for one’s own physical, emotional and mental health they also affect everyone around us. Strong leadership is very important during such crises and an optimistic attitude is absolutely necessary to keep both ourselves and our team feeling positive and motivated.
What do we do if we want our car to be in the best shape? We take care of the car. Continuing the same logic, if we want to be in the best shape to handle this crisis, we need to take care of ourselves. If we are not in the best shape then we cannot be effective in facing this challenging situation. For good physical health make sure you are getting enough sleep. Since you have the spare time now, get into the habit of exercising regularly. Eat well and maintain a good healthy diet. Build up your immunity by taking a high dosage of vitamin C and also take vitamin D and zinc supplements. For your mental health read good books; indulge in a creative hobby like writing poetry or challenge your mind playing games like chess. For your emotional health do a lot of ibadat and fasting in the month of Ramadan or practice some other form of meditation.
One of the painful aspects of this time is that we are in a limbo. Whatever plans we made or the targets we had set for ourselves and our team are not relevant at the moment and we are not able to do anything. It is like being paralyzed. This is the time to regroup and reflect on the greater purpose of our life than just the material pursuits. Our professional and material pursuits are just one part of our life. For the ambitious go getters this may be a very important part of life but there is much more to life than our material pursuits. In our busy lives we tend to overlook those other important aspects. Now is the opportunity to focus on them. Catching up with old friends and relatives; devoting more quality time to the family at home; participating in some social work are all examples of activities which nourish the soul that is so much in need of nourishment in these difficult times.
If we look at the challenges of the pandemic through the window of worry and frustration, this will be a very hard experience. Why not see it as an opportunity to innovate and be creative? Why not make use of this time to improve the relationship with your team members and to train and mentor them? Everybody is feeling nervous and anxious now; this is the best time for mentoring and guiding your team. With Zoom and Skype holding meetings remotely is so much more convenient than holding physical meetings. Boredom also gives rise to anxiety and worry. Even if one is facing financial worries due to being laid off or furloughed it is best to try to be engaged in positive activities to avert boredom. Apart from our everyday operational functions related to our specific job, every manager should also have a parallel role in constantly improving the way his/her organization functions. It may be acceptable if a junior officer just does his specific job function as he is told but for mid and senior level managers and indeed the owners of companies a very important function is to constantly work on improving the organization. Any mid or senior level manager who is just good at doing his specific job and does not contribute towards the improvement of the organization is not a complete professional in my opinion. There are so many things that can be improved in any organization. If constant improvements are not made then the organization becomes stale and gradually becomes irrelevant. The concept of Kaizen in Japanese management is about constantly making little improvements in the organization. Kaizen is not about big ground breaking innovations that happen once in a while. It is about making everyday little improvements which over time add up to significantly change the organization for the better.
What are the improvements that can be brought to your company and how can you be a part of this process? Can your company be made paperless to a greater of lesser extent? Can you take the lead in this initiative? Can you come up with a new marketing plan to boost sales during the recession? What are the pain points for your customer? Can you bring about some policy changes which would address those customer pain points? There is so much that can be done. The lockdown is not a deterrent to taking up these organizational improvement initiatives; it is the most appropriate time to think and act on such matters. Meetings can be held on Zoom or Skype to discuss these plans with your team. During our normal busy life we do not have the opportunity to think about these things. Now is the perfect opportunity. Not only will this work be beneficial for your company, such initiatives create bonding amongst the team members and help fight boredom for everyone. At bti we have a HR development program called the “Knowledge Club” (KC). It has voluntary participation. In normal times we have an attendance of about 60 people in the weekly KC sessions. During this lockdown we have more than 100 people voluntarily attending the KC sessions on Zoom. The participation could possibly be even bigger but there is a maximum to the number of people that can be accommodated on Zoom meetings. This goes to show the desire people have to make better and more productive use of their time. Having a sense of purpose and achieving something is very important during such times.
Of course it is very difficult to feel optimistic amidst this gloom and the depressing news that we constantly hear on the television and read in the newspapers. Some doomsday advocates are already talking about the next wave which is supposed to come in the fall season and some are talking about this pandemic lasting for at least another two years. But why should we worry about all these unknowns? Let us force ourselves to think positively. No matter how long it stays or how many lives are lost to this pandemic, Covid-19 or any other virus will not be able to defeat mankind. This is just another crisis in which our resolve and resilience will be tested. We are all in the same boat. When this storm is over we will pick up the pieces and there will be a plethora of new opportunities for us to make up for the ones that we may lose during this crisis.