The Pandemic Revelation

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I like this quote by actor Denis Leary:

“Crisis doesn’t create character; it reveals it.”

Denis Leary, Irish-American actor and writer

Have you noted that during the various locked down phases where we were condemned to Zoom calls for our outside contacts and to conduct business, many things that were already trending have been reinforced. I think of a few items:

  • that hipster unshaven look has taken hold even with the unhip
  • the low-hanging trousers that showed off your underwear (see right), have now come off entirely, for no one needs to be dressed below the waist for the Zooms…
  • video production and consumption of silly pets has sky-rocketed
  • gym memberships are lapsing faster in the new year than ever before
  • ….

Among businesses, meanwhile, the pandemic has certainly revealed some winning trends, but it seems to have brought around many more losers. The signs were there before the pandemic hit in many instances. So many companies were being run with low morale and employee engagement. Many were just surviving despite mediocre service and products. There were those that didn’t have a strong balance sheet. The vast majority don’t have a clear and elevating purpose. Others still had been resisting the inevitable move toward digitalization.

Among the powerful effects of the pandemic, it is said to have accelerated the digital transformation of many companies and organizations. For many companies this would be manifested by two things: (1) a rush to ecommerce and (2) the forced conversion to remote work. Considering the stultifying pace of change that was evident in large legacy businesses, the shift has been eye-opening. Concepts and activities that previously “couldn’t be done” have been deemed critical and suddenly been implemented. But the economic collapse and fallout of the pandemic will bring about a slew of more victims, well beyond the high street retail stores.

To me, the pandemic helped to reveal a number of important facets about work. And for the companies that can transform and embed these aspects will have a better chance of succeeding:

  • remote work can work and make employees’ lives better (when done well)
  • in order for remote meetings and conferences (Zoom, Meet, etc) to work well, you need to show up and be on time
  • trust is the glue that makes team function — even more so in remote work
  • your professional experience is intrinsically related to your personal life
  • what counts is NOT face time (or another Zoom!), but the outputs

To the extent companies had engaged in digital transformation programmes prior to the pandemic, we can say that the pandemic just accelerated a pre-existing trend. I thoroughly believe it is going to take a new form of leadership to navigate through these troubled waters, starting with a stronger ability to listen and be empathic, a willingness to clear the palette and learn again, the courage to follow one’s convictions and an attitude and belief in the power of giving without expecting in return.

There are some genuine positives coming out of the pandemic experience, including the chance for many to reflect on what’s important, a chance to tackle the big pile of books to read and for some bona fide family time… But like any agentic stoic will tell you:

it’s not what about happens to you, but how you react to what happens that counts.

This underlines one major need: to be sure to have the self-empathy to understand where you stand, how you feel and what you need to do to keep a healthy mind and spirit.

Happy to hear your comments and additions to the list of reinforced trends, too!

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