COVID-19 lessons in business and life


By Jodi Duncan | Posted August 5th, 2020
View related articles: Business Management and Growth, Leadership

Women leaders are in as good a position as ever to shape what our world looks like on the other side of the pandemic and racial reform. We need to speak up, speak out, and speak loudly. I’m still trying to figure out what I can jump into to make meaningful changes. We’ve done some things at work and at home that hopefully will result in positive impacts. As women in business, I hope you all do the same. Think about where you can have impact, and what and how you can communicate as an individual and with the power of your business. Let’s all work on how we can make the world a better place.

Throughout all the change happening in the world and workplace, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share with you.

 

We are bad at washing our hands. This is one of those “funny, not funny” realizations. Personally, I was a frequent handwasher, but if I spent more than five seconds doing it, I’d be surprised. Every once and a while I’d try to sing “Happy Birthday” in my head but still would cut it short. I mean, after all, I am VERY busy. I am much more diligent now and very conscientious of lathering up the entire hand and wrist. This is a good lesson to hang on to. I know this is off-topic and goes without saying, but it is a good example of how sometimes we need to remember the basics and make sure we are tackling them.

The other piece to this is that we/I need to take the time to do some of these things. My constant frenzy to move on to the next activity is more apparent to me lately. My train of thought goes something like this: “OK, when I’m done with this, then I need to do this…” I’ve recognized that I need to make a concerted effort to stay in the moment. And let’s be honest, 20 seconds isn’t that much time to spend washing my hands.

Information changes quickly. It frustrates me when we pull comments someone said two or three months ago, and then currently, and they give the opposite direction. Contradictory? Yes. However, things change quickly. As more information becomes available, direction, goals, and understanding adjust with it. It is important to understand direction in its current state and with context. This is true in business, our family/personal lives, and government. It is not necessarily hypocrisy; it is an evolution of our understanding.

When we hear conflicting messages, we often feel that we are being played or delegitimizing what someone has said. Information is coming at us at warp speed. Different sources of information offer up completely opposite sides of that information. For businesses, what we say today may change tomorrow based on new information or further understanding of the information we have. Most leaders are not trying to be deceptive. Don’t take that wrong – I know some are purposely being deceptive, but most of us are trying to do what’s best for our employees and our businesses based on what we know to be true.

Facts are not always facts. In marketing, we tell stories with data. Often, it is how you present this data that sways someone’s opinion. We are experiencing this every single day in more ways than we can track. It is probably best to view everything with a bit of skepticism. It is also important to understand that data is representative of a point in time and usually there are factors and variables that should be considered to see the whole picture. We’ve seen this time and time again with the COVID-19 research. If you look at positive test results for example, but don’t look at number tested, you may have a completely skewed understanding of the results.

This is also why storytelling and content management is critical in business. How you relay information and data represents your brand and your company’s position. You can use this skill to your advantage but to gain and keep trust, you need to be truthful with the facts as you present them. With social media, it doesn’t take much for someone to call out dishonesty. Craft your story but tell the truth.

People don’t like to be decision-makers. This has been most shocking to me. Giving people choice is often met with pure frustration. In many instances, people want to be told “you can’t leave the house,” “you can’t come into the office,” “you must wear a mask.” Having the freedom to make those decisions for oneself isn’t readily embraced. Many people need more concrete direction.

Clearly communicating the benefits of your service, your business, your product, your action, your policy will help people make the best decision they can. Messaging and sharing information at the right time is effective. Often, people take messaging at face value. This reminds me of a quote from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”: “Tell me what to say. But don’t tell me what to say.” Tell me what to do. But don’t tell me what to do. Communication is a tricky business. The more transparent we can be, the better. As always, you can’t please all the people all the time.

Time to be home. This was great at first. No traveling for work. No packing and unpacking. No need to go out when all I wanted to do was spend some time at home. After a week of “Tiger King” binging and movie-theme weeks (yes, we did), sitting at home can be dull. I learned that I needed a break, and I needed to build some downtime in my life. I haven’t figured out the right balance of this for me. I can never decide if I’m an introvert or an extrovert. In reality, I’m an introvert with extrovert tendencies. Is that a thing? I have made some changes in how I use my time.

People are spending their time differently and making adjustments. It likely won’t go back to how it was pre-COVID-19 but all is not lost. People are anxious to get out and do more. The inability to do what we want, when we want has made us rethink how we live. There is a lot of potential on the other side of COVID-19. Understanding how behaviors change and what sticks will absolutely impact business. If you haven’t learned more about yourself during this time, you missed a huge opportunity. We’re still in some phase of this so there’s time to do some serious self-reflection.

Video chatting sucks. It is not for me. I equate it to having a mirror in front of myself while meeting with someone. I have always wanted to be one of those put-together women who looks good no matter what she is wearing, and her hair always looks great whether it’s pulled back or simply styled. Me… not so much. Lack of effort, unruly hair, and being overly self-critical makes Zoom its own kind of nightmare. I am officially Zoomed out. (And yes, I do know you can hide your own video.) However, video chat allowed us to move smoothly into a more remote business and still connect on more personal levels. I suspect this will continue to be a better utilized tool for years to come.

Not everyone likes me, still. That’s all. Does it matter that in 1985 my boyfriend’s mom didn’t like me? Does it matter that someone didn’t like what I said or wrote? We’ve all heard the saying: “It’s none of your business what others think about you.” Women take that in and take that to heart. Those hurtful comments and critical feedback are bitter pills to swallow. I try hard to compartmentalize what I need to pay attention to and what I need to brush off. It’s challenging to not let those negative comments rule your mind. Work hard to not let that happen. Use the information to improve as you can but don’t let it destroy you or cause you to retreat.

I’ve never felt as fortunate as I do today, that I have incredible, strong women friends with varying political views who love just the same. When I think of the hard things we need to do, stepping up and making sure our voices are heard, I know that I have a network of support. It’s a different need for female leaders than it is for male leaders. Women, let us think about what we can do, and think about what we will do. Let’s find our people and go out and do it!

This has been a difficult and painful time. Let’s consider the many lessons we have learned along the way and leverage them to make the world a better place. Find where you can have impact and start there. It might be with your own happiness, and that seems like a very good place to start.

“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” – Mary Tyler Moore