What a decade these past weeks have been!
I’ve never seen our social and business climate change so dramatically in such a short period. Just over a week ago, I was experiencing highs from deep pride for our Prialto team achieving its best financial month and from a deep appreciation for my kids thriving in school. That’s all shifted as those schools suddenly closed, and many of our clients suddenly faced financial distress.
Over a year of change has occurred in just a few days, and yet I’m feeling remarkably centered. I’ve never seen such a giant socio-economic cluster bomb materialize so quickly. Still, I’m convinced that my family and my Prialto team will navigate through all this with a fair amount of composure and grace.
I understand that, to businesses that have already nearly shuttered in this crisis, my outlook may seem tone-deaf. Please don’t hear me as callous or unfeeling. I’m abundantly aware that in a different sort of crisis, I could be in your shoes. And a big part of my drive to power through on Prialto’s strengths is so that I can help those now hitting brick walls.
It is also key for me to share that the composure I’m feeling has not come easily or naturally. I’ve panicked and blustered through at least two other downturns. Thus, I spent some time over the weekend wondering why I’m feeling on relatively solid ground this time around.
I’ve distilled it down to six core principles.
If grace under pressure comes naturally to you, much of what I write below may seem obvious and intuitive. But If you are reaching to find greater and enduing composure, these hard-learned principles may help you through.
1) Return to Your Values
This crisis is an opportunity to show ourselves, our entire team, our clients and vendors, and our broader community that our values matter. Whenever my team finds themselves losing their way or struggling with a decision, I encourage them to review our core values: commitment, ownership, integrity, learning, and service. These COILS bind us now more than ever as we strive to stay strong through these unstable circumstances.
Whatever your core values are, I encourage you to lean on them during this time as you struggle with uncertainty and difficult decisions that you don’t feel prepared to make. Doing so will help you move forward with a greater sense of clarity and purpose during these difficult times.
2) Always Remember that Circumstances Are Going to Get Better
No matter how challenging the crisis becomes, I have an unwavering belief that circumstances will improve, and when they do, things will be better than ever before.
That does not mean that we will go back to being “the same” as in the past. That’s key. The root of suffering is attachment. A crisis is painful precisely because it threatens the attachments upon which we think our happiness relies.
I’ve found strength can be gained from the mindful relinquishment of those very attachments. I try flipping the narrative in my mind to imagine how any loss -- the loss of a customer, of a key employee, the loss of predictable revenue – can be liberating. Even the most treasured attachment represents some aspect of burden. In that sense, any loss is also a gain: a chance to rebuild, to reinvent, to renew.
Right now, it’s challenging to know exactly when and how things are going to get better; however, every day, I see lots of potential within my team, our clients, and the broader community.
I’m consistently impressed by local officials taking on herculean initiatives, the outpouring of community volunteerism, the renewed sense of common purpose.
Additionally, some of our clients have come up with creative ways to thrive with market volatility, and my team has quickly adapted and continues to do great work. In fact, our workforce is more committed than ever before since many people are grateful that we took swift action to enable them to work from home and limit their community’s exposure.
Seeing the incredible work that so many people are doing during this difficult time makes me confident in the recovery.
As we capitulate to the unavoidable loss, we make room for some new positivity that we can’t even yet imagine.
3) Find Ways to Give
At Prialto, we’re fortunate that we were able to shift all our employees to work from home within a couple of days. Though it has slightly impacted our operations, we’ve been able to implement workarounds that allow us to keep delivering great service to our clients during this challenging time.
However, I recognize that many small businesses don’t have the luxury of going remote due to the types of services they offer. These businesses are making a great sacrifice as we all participate in essential social distancing efforts.
My family and Prialto are committed to supporting these businesses by continuing to work with our local vendors, even if they’re only able to provide a fraction of the service we’re accustomed to. We believe this is the best way to do our part to help keep the economy alive.
Similarly, Prialto is supporting those members of our client base that are struggling with highly reduced or deferred payment plans.
My family and Prialto will do this so long as we have the financial strength. We don’t think of this as altruism. Everyone at Prialto is acutely aware that it is privileged to have resources to offer. That understanding is the joy of the gift and the satisfaction in knowing that we may make this small contribution to a recovery that benefits all of us.
4) Don't Allow Physical Distancing to Equal Emotional Distancing
At Prialto, we are firm believers that social distancing doesn’t have to impact emotional connectedness. Acting on this belief is critical since research shows that having secure social connections keeps your stress levels low and reduces your risk for an abundance of health conditions associated with chronic stress.
Here are some of the actions we are taking to foster emotional connectedness with my team and personal relationships:
● Encouraging all our employees to use video in meetings and regularly checking in to see how everyone is doing.
● Offering assistance with grocery shopping and other activities for friends and family who are particularly vulnerable.
● Using the time we are saving by not having to commute to engage in meaningful activities with family or help in the community.
Taking proactive steps to sustain your relationships ensures that everyone in your inner network has the support needed to stay productive and positive.
5) Embrace Work-Life Integration
My home, like so many others, has had to quickly evolve into a multiuse facility. It’s now my office, my kids’ school, their extracurricular activities, our source of entertainment, and so much more.
I know this to be similarly true for everyone at Prialto.
As a result, it’s impossible to fully separate work and personal activities, so I’m encouraging everyone at Prialto to embrace work-life integration. This means accepting that kids and pets will occasionally interrupt zoom calls and using those moments as an opportunity to get to know each other better.
We’ve also started hosting bring-your-pets and bring-your-kids “to work” days where we invite our teams to have their dependents with them on video meetings. Our goal is to foster community and to help our full selves be more known to each other.
6) Foster Employee Resilience
During difficult times one of a leader’s most important responsibilities is fostering employee resilience. You need to take action to ensure your team remains focused on overcoming their challenges instead of feeling defeated by them.
Here are some tangible ways you can sustain focus and morale:
● Give them opportunities to expand their skillset. If your business has been affected by the crisis, you inevitably have some positions that no longer have enough work to keep busy. Instead of letting employees be idle, encourage them to take online courses, read relevant books, and take other actions to expand their skills, so they are more productive than ever when your business stabilizes.
● Be transparent about your company’s situation. Uncertainty is one of the biggest drivers of anxiety. Giving your team regular updates and details about the steps you’re taking helps them remain confident that there is a path forward. It is also empowering as it provides context into which they can pitch in and contribute to powering forward.
● Assign company-building projects. One of the best ways to boost resilience is to set your business up for success in the long-run. Having your team focus on building your company’s future instead of stressing about the present will keep them productive and engaged.
Taking these actions will help your team remain resilient as the situation continues to evolve.
I’m sharing all this with a sense of humility. While I take pride in the deep sense of certitude with which I’m facing the current crisis, I’m also acutely aware that I’ve not always had such certitude. The pride stems mainly from my sense that the certitude has not come naturally and has, instead, been hard-earned from less gracefully facing past challenges. I’m sure that some of the points above will resonate among those facing their own leadership challenges. Other points may not resonate as well.
What I know will be most beneficial to all, regardless of the specific points above is to take the step back I took this last weekend to consider what will or will not get you through.
Until then, I’ll leave you with the mantra that I’ve heard is now in use among my fellow entrepreneurs over in Italy: Be positive and stay negative!
About the Author: Eric Taussig is Prialto's founder/ CEO. He speaks and writes about the future of work, global workforce, and employee happiness issues. His ideas have been featured on National Public Radio and in places like Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine and Inc. Magazine.