The COVID-19 crisis has now persisted since the start of the year and looks to be going through various permutations rather than abruptly ending. Meanwhile, there are promising signs of vaccines on the horizon, but not coming to the rescue soon. People and companies are adjusting and innovating as best they can. But not all can and will survive. Long-standing institutions have already perished in the COVID-19 wasteland. Some will be able to bounce back; others not. The COVID-19 situation has caused us to think, to actually re-think, various aspects of our present situation to sort out how to survive. Here are six areas to rethink.
This is Part II of a two-part series discussing six ways to "re-think" our present circumstance. The six themes reflect the focus of the upcoming ELO Forums Online in Winnipeg (Nov 9th), Vancouver (Nov 16th) and Toronto (Nov 23rd).
RETHINK: RELATIONSHIPS & NETWORK
Fourth, we need to rethink the importance of relationships as part of an individual’s support network, which can be especially beneficial during challenging economic times. After 100s of interviews and meetings over the past 15 years, I have discovered that Christian business leaders often feel like no one understands them, they feel alone and isolated, they are not affirmed in their calling, they wish they could access affordable coaching and they want world-class resources.
One solution is ELO's peer advisory group network. There are distinct benefits to a Christian peer advisory group: it helps to develop the cornerstone of calling, provides deeper level peer interaction, helps develop an ethical leadership framework, and facilitates a desire for making a Kingdom difference. One of the chairs/facilitators is Jeff Williams. I ask him about his spiritual disciplines and why are they important? Jeff explained: “John Maxwell taught us that everything rises and falls on leadership. My faith relationship with God and my relationship with others is critical. So I take time every day to read, journal, take walks. I seek out relationships with other business and faith leaders with similar passions to connect and be in relationship.”
A fifth factor to think about is innovating in a crisis. One sector of the economy that is subject to ongoing change is the digital economy, which continues to create opportunities for innovation and acts as a catalyst for change. We had an ELO Webinar on August 12th with So-Young Kang, CEO of Gnowbe, who has applied her entrepreneurial skills to the digital economy. Gnowbe was created to empower content creators, thought leaders and trainers from organizations to scale experiential, participatory learning on mobile to develop real skills and change mindsets and behaviours. I asked her how did you come up with Gnowbe? So-Young explained: “we know, the human experience is very high touch, very difficult to scale, coaching, leadership development. Pre-COVID many of us thought that we couldn't do any of this online.”
She was prepared to innovate in the midst of the present situations. So-Young explained that, “I think COVID has taught us that we can create amazing conversations online as well. So, we crafted Gnowbe to be a platform that would allow us to scale the human experience. What does that mean? We allow people to put multimedia content because we are multifaceted. We don't like to only talk and listen and do Q&A. We like to interact. We like to take selfies and videos. We like to chat. We like to engage with each other in a community.” She described how they took all those elements of the human experience and digitized them to allow anyone to create that type of experience. They also found that this was a way to engage and learn from other people. So-Young highlighted that “our platform allows for authoring as well as access to content. It's a mobile micro-learning platform for communications, engagement and training.”
A sixth factor to rethink in the midst of the present situation is leading in a crisis. ELO focuses on empowering marketplace leaders to help them to be difference-makers in the present circumstances. Rob Wildeboer, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Martinrea, in his ELO Webinar on May 20th noted: “I think we all have a purpose-driven life. That may include working as a business leader or serving in a business. Whether times are good or whether times are challenging you've got the same ministry in the context of what you do. What am I all about? Who am I living for? What's my purpose in life?” Rob explained that challenges bring opportunities and this is one of them. He is hopeful that a lot of people are focusing on their faith. He said this situation has shown a lot of people that they are not in control of what they think they are. This has been a real game-changer at least in that thinking.
Rob shared some of his background: “A lot of people that find comfort in our Creator are going to view this as a new challenge—but a lot of people have been through challenges. I've got parents that lived through World War II. They immigrated to Canada and started with nothing but they were quite happy. This present generation in Canada, the United States and Europe have not experienced war or famine or pestilence, so the present response may be an overreaction.” Rob further explained that “We have an opportunity to gain a lot of people for faith. This is our time and so at the end of the day when we have this opportunity. We need to seize it. I think you seize it in your businesses, you seize it with your families and you seize it in a spiritual sense, too. We have a number of heroes in this pandemic, obviously frontline health workers, but there are also those working with food banks, with battered kids shelters and working with the poor. This is an opportunity for us to bring comfort to a lot of people and that is an opportunity that God has given us.”
Another great example of leading in a crisis is Jeff Williams. In terms of pivoting his business, he explained that when change happens, as John Maxwell taught him, the first thing a leader needs to do is define reality, then they need to communicate some form of a message of hope and then they need to create a plan. Jeff said he took that advice and looked at the reality of his business both internally and externally. He talked to his employees as if today were 100 years ago. “I told them this because I wanted to make a bold statement that would cause us to shift towards the future drastically enough. Everyone including me wanted to go back to yesterday; we had some success we were having an impact. We thought we had worked hard to get where we were and then we had it pulled out from under us. If it was a mistake that we had made that would almost be easier to take than a pandemic because you have no control over a pandemic. In this situation, framing the change boldly to say to my team, we know society is changing and I know our industry is going to change drastically, how do we prepare for it? so we first had to frame the change and then once we had it framed we asked, what do we think it's going to look like? and how do we build towards that?”