Anybody can be a leader when everything is running smoothly.
It’s crises that elevate leadership from a title to a badge of honor.
Realism, empathy, and optimism
Steve: Leading in this crisis, you’ve got to be human, and you have to be optimistic.
I’ve found that optimism can land poorly with some people because I think it can come across as insensitive or lacking empathy.
“The reality right now is that we need to be realistic and empathetic, no doubt. But we also have to remain optimistic.”
Because as communities, as a country, as a global community in general, we’re going to get past this.
There are a lot of people suffering right now. And we need to be sensitive to that. But we also have to remain focused on the long term as well.
We’re going to be okay. That’s what people want to hear.
I just tend to be a very optimistic person. And I have learned that modulating optimism to remain empathetic and sensitive to how other people interpret what’s going on matters.
90 minutes of quiet
Steve: 100,000 years ago, we were sitting around campfires and scratching art into cave walls.
You can’t erase that evolution and say, “You know that need for human connectivity and interaction in touch? Yeah, that’s stupid. We don’t need that anymore.”
I think we all miss the warmth of people’s presence —I miss that.
There are some things you just can’t replace digitally.
In some ways, we’ve accelerated and become more efficient. But we also need to realize that we’re all working from home and this significantly interferes with people’s work-life balance in a new way.
How are we going to balance that?
I’m not talking about the cat crossing the screen on a Zoom call — I’m talking about working parents and how it’s really hard for them to balance that.
I think about the mom or the dad that, all at the same time, are working from home, they each have their kids from home, and they still have to run the family from home.
At the same time, they have to run the dishwasher like nine times a day and never run…
There’s got to be some slack in the system.
One thing we introduced at iCIMs is this concept of quiet time.
So for 90 minutes in the afternoon, we don’t allow meetings to be booked.
“We just have to give people time back — time they could spend with their kids. I don’t want moms and dads to miss those moments.”
I’m cognizant of the fact that it’s not perfect, but I want people to take those moments.
Because, when I look back, though my kids are older now — 23 and 21 —there were so many moments that I did capture that were very special for me, and I don’t want moms and dads and whoever it is to miss those.
And the same applies when you’ve got eldercare and other things going on too.
What really matters
Steve: I’m also cognizant of the fact that there’s this envelope of work, and it’s this size, and if you say, “Well, let’s have 90 minutes after,” people may be working later.
I understand that the envelope of work, the size of it doesn’t change.
I’m very much working on this simple practice of “Stop, Start, Continue.” And, honestly, I think that we can do a better job of it at iCIMs.
There’s all this stuff going on. So, let’s build a list.
- What are we stopping?
What are the things that are just not freaking important right now?
They may have seemed really important 60 days ago, but they’re not important now.
“I think this whole pandemic situation has really framed for all of us what’s actually important.”
We need to apply that at work as well.
And this is something that’s a very simple exercise just to talk to your teams about.
- What are we starting?
Hopefully the list of what we are stopping is long.
But maybe we should have a short list of what we want to start because we don’t want to pile on too much.
- What are we continuing?
Finally, we need a strong healthy list of “continues.” And that also gives you a good sense for your business.
As leaders like we’ve got to make some calls on shrinking the size of the envelope.
Otherwise, all we’re doing is pushing work off to later times in the evening.
It’s time to step up
It’s no accident that history’s greatest leaders were forged in times of chaos, confusion and hardship.
It’s why every crisis is also an opportunity.
Hopefully, every leader out there can learn from Steve and seize the opportunity presented.
This pandemic is not the end. It’s the beginning.
It’s time to rise to the occasion and lead.