...or How I Spent my COVID Vacation
Two months ago a lot of people were saying, “I really could use a break!” Which should serve as a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for. Most of us got some unexpected downtime during the first half of Q2. Some people were able to take advantage of the “time out” for personal improvement or play around with potential start-up businesses. Business owners have seen a different story play out. We've watched fixed expenses continue and watched revenue plummet (maybe even to zero if you're in the restaurant biz or a similar space). We try to read the tea leaves, look into our crystal ball, or watch CNBC…they all seem pretty equal in trying to see what's next.
How you are responding now will shape your business for the future.
According to Todd Herman, performance coach, there are 3 CEO types, and they all have responded in particular ways to the COVID event. See if you see yourself in these.
- The Fear Focused CEO
- The Unfocused CEO
- The Strategy Focused CEO
The Fear-Focused CEO
In the course of the research, this group of CEOs spoke most using negative future terms. Also, their conversations revolved around "The President, Trump, Covid-19, Coronavirus" up to 11 times more than the other groups.
They talked about how hard business is, what a struggle it is, how afraid they are for the future, etc. Their businesses are suffering, and so are their employees and stakeholders.
The Unfocused CEO
They're consuming 3.5 times more media than the Strategy-Focused Group but less than the Fear-Focused.
They used the word 'PLAN' (or derivatives) in a negative or needs-based way eight times more than the Strategy-Focused Group, and They used the word 'FINDING' in an emotional needs way, six times more than the Strategy-Focused Group. 'HYSTERIA', and 'VACATION/TIME OFF' came up much more than the Strategy-Focused Group. We need a plan vs we are making a plan are two different mindsets.
The Strategy-Focused CEO
They're three times more likely to know about TAIWAN's response to the Coronavirus. (Taiwan has had the fastest, smartest, and most measured response. Despite the incredible proximity to China, it has a dramatically low number of cases when compared to other nations.)
They have quickly shifted focus or pivoted to new offerings entirely and have rebuilt their teams to handle the new ways of working. They used the word 'ACTION' or 'OPPORTUNITY' derivatives 6 TIMES more than the other groups.
I find it very interesting that they focused on seizing opportunities. They used the word 'BUY' 8 times more than the other groups in the context of possibly buying other businesses, buying more advertising/marketing, buying more talent/hiring.
They were also more likely to have already spoken to other CEO's about plans for growth, sustainability, or opportunities.
What can you take away from this (other than it is better to be a Strategy Focused CEO or to work for one)?
Even though all of the subjects in this study said they wanted their businesses to be better and to thrive, their actions spoke loudly that there were other factors at play. The Strategy-Focused group took early decisive action, kept their people in the loop through good communication, and looked for opportunities in the crisis. This requires an ability to remain calm under pressure to keep thinking and moving during an emergency. It is a conscious effort to overcome the fight/flight/freeze response hardwired into our brains.
There are a few things you can do to become more of a Strategy-Focused CEO:
Adventure Sports or other adrenaline-inducing activities help you learn to think under pressure. Even some online games can help you learn to think and move at the same time while staying focused on the objective. If strategy games are more your thing, speed up the pace. Play speed golf. Use a timer when you play chess. Challenge yourself to finish the crossword by a particular time. The goal is to get your brain used to tight deadlines, competing priorities, and distractions competing for attention when completing a task.
Talk to other leaders at your level and above. Find out what they are doing and how they plan on thriving. You may even want to form a mastermind group to develop response playbooks. Talk to your leadership team, as well. Keep your team in the loop and have open candid conversations. Trust is the watchword here. If you think and act confidently, your leadership team will rise to the occasion.
One final strategy that you may think is irrelevant: meditate. Find your center. The top three CEOs whose companies have performed the best in this crisis (out of the survey group) had this one trait in common. They all spent time in meditation daily. A sacred space of calm is critical for surviving any storm.
What are some ways you have found to be strategy-focused as we have gone through and are now growing out of the current crisis? Share your thoughts with others in the comments below.