Corporate Services

The things we thought we knew about the pandemic business world

As sands shift beneath the feet of every business leader all over the world, so much effort is being made to label the time. It is part of how humans seem to like to work with time – labeling change as it happens with what we interpret it to be while it is happening.  “The Great “, the “Work From Home Economy” and in my own industry “The Coaching Revolution”.  The names send businesses and leaders a short burst of control, a sense that if we can name it we can deal with it, and figure out how to step into the future, pivot and survive.

The truth is none of us know where this wave of change is going to take us and there is plenty of recent evidence for this.  Take a moment and remember the beginning of the activation of your business continuity plan, where many of your teams moved home or some went to shift work or some were even furloughed.  Some of you may have lost jobs like my husband did, when business leaders saw WFH as an opportunity to cut costs.  Some of you had to find ways to care for children, teaching them a full school day, while meeting deadlines that were made even tighter by the expectation that you would find it easier to meet them without a commute.  Some of you fought for the life of your business, your livelihood, your team, working crazy hours from home or on the front line. Some of you invested in elaborate WFH set ups only to choose to take the laptop to the patio or to bed where we would stay in our pajamas until we had to put on some makeup and a clean shirt for a client.  Look at how wrong we all were just a year ago! We had no way of knowing the extent of the supply chain issues, mass leadership abdications, and the labor crisis that was waiting in the wings, the social unrest, the isolation, the impact on travel – all the things!

One day I will write about my own experiences of this uncertain time, but for the moment I would like to share the more global lessons I learned from it.

1.      What we believe is about to happen is a guess, not a fact.

2.      What we believe is happening right now is a guess, not a fact.

3.      How we believe this will come to an end is a guess, not a fact.

4.      Who we will be through this and on the other side of this is the only thing in this world within our influence and control.

Even our most educated guesses that we made two years ago about our futures were based on the well trodden limits of the past. Though some guesses may have come close, none really captured the full, round reality in which we live and feel and work today.

We have made decisions for ourselves and for our businesses based on what we have seen happening around us.  This is how it has been for a long time.  We have attempted to anticipate the needs of our markets and pivot who we are being and what we are offering to meet those needs. Perhaps this period of change is inviting us to move in a different direction.  It has exposed a truth – the only thing within our control is ourselves.  

If you take a look, you’ll see that this has always been true. And you’ll also see that the leaders and businesses who have known this have been the ones to rise above the rest, to create something the world didn’t even realize it needed. They have worked from the inside out, creating businesses that we all interact with everywhere in the world today.

If we all begin taking on an inside to outside approach rather than an outside to inside approach to strategy and decision making, what wave of change would this make possible? What would it be like to work from the inside out on things like culture, values, intentions, goals, connection, ideas, and innovations? What would be the impact on the bottom line?  Who would we (collectively and individually) become?

My best guess is that this is the perfect time to find out.

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