Letters from CEOs rarely move me. They’re often full of corporate-speak and half-truths. The CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, changed that with his letter to employees.
The global economy is having a sudden cardiac arrest and despite Brian’s social media following and celebrity status amongst the startup community, he too has been forced to act. His beloved company will axe 1900 out of their 7500 employees.
Leading through and out of a crisis is not easy. The uncertainty a crisis brings can leave people feeling disorientated, overwhelmed and unable to act. Intentional leadership is key in these times and those leaders who are able to slow down, step back and challenge their perspectives and exercise their mindset muscles are the ones most likely to succeed and thrive. The question is how?
I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to lead a nation, to make decisions on which the lives of tens of thousands, or millions, of other people depend. If you get things wrong, or delay deciding, they could die. You’d have to make hundreds of daily decisions that affect the livelihoods of your entire country. You’d have to act quickly, without having any real certainty your decisions will achieve what you hope.
For a masterclass in crisis leadership, look no further than Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. They have had the ‘most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world’ and it’s the only Western country that’s got an ‘elimination goal’ for COVID-19.
From AD166 to around AD180, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, faced one of the worst plagues in European history. The Antonine Plague, named after him, was probably caused by a strain of the smallpox virus. It’s estimated to have killed up to 5 million people, possibly including Marcus himself.
Repeated outbreaks of the virus occurred throughout the known world. Roman historians describe entire towns and villages being depopulated and going to ruin. Rome itself was particularly badly affected, carts leaving the city each day piled high with dead bodies.
In the middle of this plague, Marcus wrote a book, The Meditations, which records the moral and psychological advice he gave himself at this time. He frequently applies Stoic philosophy to the challenges of coping with pain, illness, anxiety and loss. It’s no stretch of the imagination to view The Meditations as a manual for developing precisely the mental resilience skills required to cope with a pandemic.
First of all, because Stoics believe that our true good resides in our own character and actions, they would frequently remind themselves to distinguish between what’s “up to us” and what isn’t.
Your people may be feeling stressed or anxious, and could be struggling to cope. As an employer, you have a duty of care to protect the mental and physical well-being of your employees, but what can you actually do to help?
Think back to your childhood…every time you started something new you were excited. The possibilities were endless. When you were young, you didn’t know what you didn’t know. Everything was easy, and it was all fun. That is, until you decided that you wanted to be good at it.
Not asking for help when you needed it
Trying to make bad relationships work
Dwelling on your mistakes and shortcomings
Worrying too much about other people
Regret is another big waste of time. Most of us are probably guilty of all of these at some point, and really, they’re human nature., so there’s no point in beating yourself up. The sooner you learn from them, the sooner you can free up your time and energy to live the life you want.
Watch, read, or listen to the news, and you’re likely to believe that the world is rapidly descending into disaster and chaos.
Research shows us that what we see on the news can significantly impact our mental health. While negative news may influence our thinking through multiple mechanisms, one important consideration is how it interfaces with our cognitive biases, keeping our focus on everything that’s going wrong while blinding us to all the good things around us.
It’s not easy interviewing Denise because every time I ask her a question, she talks about someone else. She defaults to others, continually. She is more interested in everyone else, than herself. She is one of those selfless people that can choke you up in an instant, because she is so kind and so giving. I am beginning to get it. Nurses don’t feel very comfortable talking about themselves. It’s all about other people. All the time.
Victoria in one of nearly 2 million healthcare professional is the UK who are driven by a passion, mission, purpose – call it what you will – to help and care for people. It’s a driving force that is almost palpable when she speaks. Their purpose is so clear, and so strong, that finding the mental toughness (confidence, commitment, determination, courage, focus) they need to do their jobs – to do the work they do, day in and day out – comes easily and naturally.
Are you putting off tasks at the moment, despite the extraordinary amount of unexpected, spare time of some of us are getting right now?
In 1992, Dan survived a plane crash that killed 16 people, including one member of his skydiving team. He spent six weeks in a coma, with major injuries including a broken neck. Dan went on to win 6 world sky diving world championships.