Manitoba Roundtable on Crisis Leadership in the Midst of a Pandemic

NEWS RELEASE – APRIL 30, 2020 – Manitoba ELO supporters gathered via Zoom on April 29th for a “round table” regarding leadership in the midst of the challenges created by the present Coronavirus pandemic. ELO wants to combat the isolation of marketplace leaders by bringing together the community as best as possible. ELO roundtables are an opportunity to discuss "crisis leadership." What are the ways to lead in the present situation? What are the lessons to be learned from this situation? How are companies coping? What is a Christian perspective? Ultimately, how to lead in these circumstances?

The Manitoba roundtable garnered great insights and varied perspectives. One retail business owner pointed out that business leaders have a very hard time not being able to plan for the present pandemic and its sudden and massive impact. He noted that the pandemic “rolled out in such a way that we didn't proactively shut down our organization and we didn't shut down the retail industry—but it was actually shut down by government action.” An added challenge is that government guidelines are forming in process and so it is difficult to make plans as to when and how stores can reopen.

Another retail business owner shared both the incredible challenges and opportunities caused by the current pandemic. “We closed our doors March 15th, a little before we were forced to by March 20th, and we pivoted and launched an online meal and grocery service. These services have gone over very well. I kept 20 key staff and laid off a whole bunch of other staff. We've been asking people to do jobs they don't normally do and that they weren't hired for. It's been challenging as a team.” At the same time, there are opportunities. The crisis has been “so life-giving. I've said many times to our team that we claim certain values, such as generosity. But when fear sets into people you really see how the scarcity mindset can take over. So how our company will act in the midst of this situation has been my question all along. I have no doubt we will come out stronger but it's been incredibly challenging to pivot the business to try to take care of your people and to take care of our guests.”

Another retail operation owner has had to lay off most staff at multiple locations. He lamented that “One challenge for business leaders is that you feel helpless as you are not in control and someone else is dictating what has to happen to you. That's a terrible feeling I've never had that before.” He has focused on not trying to be fearful in these present circumstances. He noted that “if you look in the Bible you can plainly count the amount of times that it says that we should not fear.” Although his retail business has required him to shut stores and lay off staff, he tries to be as positive and try not to breed fear.

One business leader, Hans Boge, Boge & Boge, Professional Engineers, noted that you really have to put your trust in the Lord now. He explained that “I'm finding it a very stretching experience. Fear is massive in the community and in the office. I think that as owners, and especially as people of faith, we have to dispel fear with the hope we have in Christ.”

Another theme was to be thankful, even in these circumstances. Ed Ratzlaff, Owner, Aerofoil Consulting, explained that the blessings he has received need to be “more than just a spiritual idea.” He explained that “I quite intentionally started counting my blessings over some time and that is a practice that I have continued even during this present situation.” Carlin Thiessen, CFO, Rocket Rez, Steinbach, referred to Psalm 37 about not being fearful and instead trusting in the Lord. He noted that “we have very ‘first world’ problems. We need to realize that we are very blessed. I think that it's a good opportunity for us also to remember those brothers and sisters in other places that are in very difficult situations.”

What is a practical way to help? One marketplace leader noted that “probably one of the worst things is to be at home and not have anybody to talk to. Whether you are a family member or a business leader, if you are someone with influence, a positive way to make a difference is to reach out and connect with people. That is a great way to impact the community.”

The present pandemic provides an opportunity for Christian marketplace leaders to serve others in need. This is admittedly a big challenge when leaders themselves are under severe pressure. The roundtable was able to provide a valuable forum for the exchange of useful ideas and to provide mutual encouragement to keep on with the good fight. ELO will be holding roundtables in the coming weeks for supporters in Ontario, British Columbia and Singapore, respectively.