Like many self-employed freelance consultants, I’m sitting at my home office desk looking at an empty diary and wondering how on earth I will pay the bills. It’s rare to have the luxury of time on my hands to sit back and really think. So here are some personal reflections on managing change – Coronavirus is here to stay.
I am grateful that I have a roof over my head (for now at least) and food on the table. There are so many people out there who are much less fortunate. Some are fighting for their lives. Some are desperately trying to save lives.
My family, friends and clients are safe. I’ve communicated with them – on the telephone, through FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and Zoom – much more over the past few weeks. I am so grateful to have these people in my life. It certainly IS good to talk. We need to feel connected. Now – as we are isolated indoors – more so than ever.
I’m grateful that I have some purpose in editing my next book which must be submitted at the end of the month. I’ve never been in a position before where I approached a deadline with such calm.
I’m grateful that I can choose different rooms in the house to sit in. And that I can admire the plants and birds – I have a woodpecker visiting regularly. And I can soak up the sun in my garden. The dogs are loving that I am always home now.
I look forward to my one permitted walk a day and really enjoy noticing the beauty of the empty streets and Spring flowers.
These are better thoughts than the diet of misery, selfishness and panic I see on the news right now.
Uncertainty and fear
Humans don’t like change. Humans don’t like uncertainty. We have both in spades at the moment.
Change and uncertainty kick off our fear response. And when we are fearful we go into a different state. We become hyper-vigilant to perceived threats. We may become anxious – and even panic. And our ability to think clearly and rationally dissipates.
Some people mask their fear with anger. They lash out in a rage. They point the finger at those they want to blame. And their anger causes fear – or yet more anger.
Yet all those emotions are doing something else. They have torn down the veneer of perfection that we were all force-fed through social media. Emotions enable us to connect. And when we express our emotions we become more authentic. It resonates. It reassures.
And I’m mindful of the sage advice of Stephen Covey in his book “Seven habits of highly effective people” – learn to discern the difference between your circle of concern and your circle of influence. And Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
The change cycle
Looking at the news and talking to people I see Kubler-Ross’s grief cycle playing out real time – amplified across a nation and across the globe.
First there’s the shock. You just can’t believe or process the awful news. There are a lot of people who are frozen into inaction right now.
Then there’s denial. Maybe that is why people kept going out when they were told not to. And that’s why perhaps we are seeing so many seemingly insensitive “business as usual” posts on social media. But it does feel surreal at times so no wonder people disconnect from what’s going on.
Then there’s the anger – with blame, resentment and conflict – and we can see plenty of evidence of that right now. I’m avoiding my Twitter stream as it appears to be rampant there.
Depression comes next. That’s the really sad part where we blame ourselves, lack confidence and fail to find meaning in anything that we do. The book on the nine causes of depression by Johan Hari is a must-read.
Some say the next stage is bargaining – where we offer ourselves in order to save others or try to negotiate with some higher power.
Finally, we move on to acceptance and the letting go of old habits before experimenting with trying to do things differently.
I’m in awe at all the businesses and people who appear to have effortlessly transitioned to working from home. Whilst I have worked from home for decades, I remember well the impact of the sudden solitude.
Right now I think I’m oscillating between depression (my business has stalled – what the hell do I do now?), acceptance (once the coronavirus is defeated it will be a very different world out there) and experimenting (what can I do differently in the future?).
I’m trying to remain calm. For my mental well-being and for those around me. A calm voice in a world of panic and hysteria is reassuring.
I’m also mindful of the insight that a third of people adapt more easily than others.
Reinvention, regeneration, innovation and renewal
So. Things will be very different in the future. Things will not return to the way they were. Coronavirus is here to stay.
The global economy will take time to recover. Thousands of businesses will have ceased to exist. Millions of lost jobs will never be replaced.
The distribution of wealth will become more challenging. Maybe the divide between those who have and those who don’t will become wider. Maybe universal income models will be accelerated – after all, the futurists long predicted a time where only a lucky few would have employment.
Or maybe people will realise that they can manage so much better with so much less. And that will have a profound effect on how our consumerist economy operates in the future.
Yet there will be many new jobs created – using different skills to do different things.
So now is the time (and we certainly have a lot of that right now) to be creative. Marketing professionals are supposed to anticipate future client needs and find a way to do so profitably. No-one knows what will happen in the future so your guess is as good as anyone else’s.
And for those people who are not already committed to lifelong learning, now is the time to update your knowledge and skills. There’s an incredible array of free on-line training courses from digital marketing to the latest management thinking. And who knows, all that reading and learning may spark the germ of a new business idea.
There will be thousands of people looking to be the first to market with new digital economy services. There are far fewer barriers to entry into many service markets right now – anyone with a reasonable tech set up can compete. Now is the time to be bold and brave.
I am looking at ways to take my consulting, coaching and content-development services online. And rather than diving head first into the current methods of online training I’m exploring alternative methods – that make the best of my particular style and skills and differentiate me from the competition. And I’m drawing on an incredible pool of talent, insight and kindness from family, friends, clients and colleagues.
This new collaborative and mutually-supportive “we’re all in this together” mind-set is perhaps the best thing to result from this horrible situation.
We need to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Stay safe.
And don’t hesitate to get in touch – by telephone, by email, by Facetime, by Zoom, by Microsoft Teams or any other method.
PS Anyone struggling with their mental health in these challenging times – please seek some support
Change management books
Here are some books on change management that I recommend:
I also really enjoyed “Neuroscience for organisational change – an evidence-based approach practical guide to managing change” by Hilary Scarlett. I’ll try to get a review up on that shortly.