In Three Words

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership, 4-ExtPost

Robert Frost:

In 1954, Robert Frost told a reporter, “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” That statement seems especially poignant right now. Many folks I speak with are struggling to understand how “life goes on” after this pandemic.

First, many people are dealing with the death of loved ones, and indeed, while life may go on, it will not be the same. Many of our business colleagues are out of business or struggling to figure out how to hang on. For them, life going on means continuing to cut costs, work longer hours, and try to keep employees safe.

Gratitude

Despite the challenges, I experienced an outpouring of gratitude during the Thanksgiving holiday this past week. Those who were healthy expressed appreciation that they had escaped the pandemic so far. Many expressed sincere gratitude for their continued income and ability to take care of their loved ones.

For several of my colleagues, their gratitude turned into action as they helped to feed those less fortunate. They, of course, stayed as safe as possible while helping out, but help they did!

Optimism

I believe optimism springs from gratitude. My friends and colleagues who regularly express appreciation for their lives are also the most optimistic. They demonstrate the most optimism about the potential for vaccines on the horizon. They are hopeful about the timeline for when things will get back to the new normal.

The “life goes on” attitude, and the “we will survive” posture of the entrepreneurs in my network are very inspiring. I know it helps keep me going. It helps me to appreciate our good fortune and to be grateful for where we are in life.

Realistic

I don’t want to misrepresent what is going on here. There is a fair amount of frustration, concern, and fear for these leaders, not only optimism. At the same time, these fantastic leaders also see this pandemic time as a chance to instill hope, energy, and competitiveness in their businesses. They strive to outperform competitors and to come out of this pandemic stronger than when it started. They all have their heads down and are plodding through the COVID-19 swamp.

Enabling the Team

Admiral John Richardson, in a recent McKinsey & Company interview, said, “The stakes are really high, and when the stakes are high, many leaders naturally tend to feel they have to be there all the time, to make all the decisions. But if you can’t conserve your energy, you’re in trouble.”

As leaders, if we have developed leaders around us (Intent-based Leadership), we will conserve our energy for the marathon battle ahead to survive and thrive post-pandemic. Again, Admiral Richardson: “As a leader, make a point of being present, being attuned to your team, and really talking to them and learning about what they’re going through. In the navy, we call this ‘walking the deck plates.’” In the business world, we call that management by walking around.