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COVID-19: It's not temporary. It's not permanent. So, what is it?

Michelle Wolter profile picture

By: Michelle Wolter

June 30, 2020

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As leaders, this is one of the largest, most looming questions in the cauldron of leadership we must confront as we seek to bring our business and our people through these uncertain times. How long will this affect us? What measures do I need to take temporarily? What measures should be permanent? And, the savviest question: what new preferences are forming that will change the way we work and the way our clients or consumers want to be served for the foreseeable future?

Authoring our next chapter

Person taking notes on notepad with computer in the background

Not only do we have the opportunity to pick up the pen and author a new chapter of our organization's future, but we also have the responsibility to do so. We must challenge ourselves as leaders not to simply return to "normal" (i.e. Pre-COVID time). We must seize this chance to make something new. We stand in a unique moment in time to blend the best of our past with the new realities and preferences to create something entirely different. More importantly, COVID is giving us the unique ability and liberty, rarely experienced in leadership, to get outside the box in our thinking, experiment with new ideas, and run fast with execution.

Lest I imply we are bringing back the wild west of leadership styles, let me clarify that a significant portion of our time as we author this new reality needs to be spent on protecting the health and safety of our employees, clients/consumers, and communities. As leaders, that is our first and foremost mission. There is a myriad of risks and concerns that must be weighed with all the strategies we endeavor and the decisions we make.

Invest deeply in understanding

How do we move forward as bold authors while being conscientious to protect our people? Can we be bold and careful at the same time?

Hourglass with red sand falling

My answer is yes. We can be courageous and care-filled at the same time. It begins and continually centers on a keen understanding of what our people, clients/consumers, and communities need. We have the ability to make changes that in a pre-COVID environment we didn’t think we needed to consider.This is the time, more than any other, to invest deeply in understanding what our people and communities are going through. Now is the time to reflect deeply on what they need to restore faith and confidence in "returning to the workplace" (whatever that may be in the future) and in leaving their homes to shop, dine, and travel.

And, when we have shown them that we have done this we can ask them to take bold new steps forward with us. We can ask them to leave behind some of the old paradigms, perceptions, and preferences to embrace the new chapter we author. We will author this new vision not because the former was wrong, but because it no longer gives us the path forward we now need and desire.

Running headfirst, into the COVID unknown

In his book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't, Simon Sinek sums it up beautifully, "Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And, they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. This is what it means to be a leader. It means they chose to go first into danger, headfirst into the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers."

At Bailiwick, we are picking up the pen and writing our future, our post-COVID reality. And as we do so, we are running first into the COVID unknown. We are breaking down the old frames of what we believed possible. We are doing our best to show diligent care and protection to every one of our Bailiwickers and clients. We are adding our voice to the fight for equality, equity, and civility that we believe can and should co-exist.

We have one shot to show our people, our clients, and our community that we have taken thoughtful action to create a better and safe post-COVID reality. And when we show them that we have done all that we can to protect them and to create a better path forward, we will all band together and fight tirelessly to make it a reality.

My desire for all of us is:

  • Be brave. Pick up the pen and author a new chapter
  • Be courageous. Fight the urge to "return to normal"
  • Be intentional. Use your time and conversations with your employees, clients, and greater community to
  • foster a deeper understanding of what they need
  • Be bold. Create new frames, new ideas, and new paradigms
  • Be positive. Believe in our ability to chart a new and better path forward for our organizations, our people, and our nation
  • Be leaders.
Michelle Wolter profile picture Michelle Wolter is a senior leader, owner, and board member of Bailiwick. Michelle has been guiding our clients through the changing and complex world of IT and business leadership for 20+ years. Outside of Bailiwick she is an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas teaching an MBA course on storytelling in business. She is an avid traveler who is getting her wanderlust through virtual travel these days.

Curiosity and creative problem-solving.

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