Leading by example
Wendy Thompson shares her thoughts on leadership during a crisis, and how it all starts by looking after yourself. Fellow business leaders, 2020 sure has been a year that tested our mettle. None of us predicted Covid-19’s global impact and the significant change it has brought to our lives. And this is really, really different […]
Wendy Thompson shares her thoughts on leadership during a crisis, and how it all starts by looking after yourself.
Fellow business leaders, 2020 sure has been a year that tested our mettle. None of us predicted Covid-19’s global impact and the significant change it has brought to our lives. And this is really, really different from the GFC which I remember, unfortunately, only too well.
Yes, GDP has plummeted, like the GFC, but it’s not a general slow tightening across the board. This was a bang, crash, hold-onto-your-seats event that had us creating office grab-bags full of cables and monitors so staff could work from home, ordering bulk hand sanitizer, and constantly changing and adapting plans day to day.
It was highly stressful and disruptive.
In a crisis people look to their leaders. So we’ve had to lead like never before. Our staff, families, suppliers and customers are all looking to us to help them through this tricky time.
It’s not easy, but I believe that as business leaders our experience gives us unique and special skills to navigate this crisis. We should recognise and celebrate this.
In a crisis you need courage; as business leaders we put ourselves out there every day. We are practiced at taking that leap into the unknown; we are brave, trust our gut and forge ahead.
In a crisis you must be pragmatic; we have excellent experience in seeing the woods for the trees. In our everyday dealings we practice the skill of stepping back and seeing the bigger picture.
In a crisis you must make hard decisions; business leaders do this constantly. We are constantly thrown unexpected situations and challenges to deal with. And the Covid crisis has really forced us to do this.
In a crisis you need resilience; business leaders are constantly questioned and almost always under attack – for being too successful, for not being successful enough, for hiring too many people, for not hiring enough, for investing in a new product, for not investing in a new product. The paper cuts hurt but also help us build a thicker skin.
In a crisis you need to be creative. Our Kiwi ‘number-8 wire’ business mentality is strong. Imagination is our best friend.
And my favourite – optimism. We all know optimism is a core strength (and sometimes failing!) of entrepreneurs and business leaders. It can get us into trouble sometimes, but in a crisis it helps us see opportunities where others cannot. There are so many wonderful stories of pivoting and creativity brought out of a “this isn’t going to get us!” attitude.
Look after yourself
I know you are a hustler-with-heart like me, so you have the strength to get through this; to lead your teams, your suppliers, your family and customers on this journey. Your unique practical education as a business leader has given you resilience, adaptability, passion and perseverance. You will beat this and lead your team into this new world. But you need to fill your cup so you have something to pour into others’.
Leadership takes a big toll. When you are spending all day giving and helping others, your own energy and resilient stores run down. So build a plan to look after yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Then you can look after others.
This can be tough, especially if you are used to putting yourself last. Self-sacrifice works in the short-term but we can all see now that surviving Covid-19 is a marathon, not a sprint, so be strong.
So how do we do this? Number one, build a support team. Just like an athlete has a coach, physio, doctor, therapist and training buddy. You need this too.
I joined Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) four years ago and weekly Zoom meetings with my business peers through the lockdowns was fundamental to my business surviving, even thriving, during lockdown. Whether it’s EO, Global Women or another community of business owners, having a group of people supporting you who REALLY understand the pressures you are under is necessary for those really bad days – those days when you need to be at your peak.
Physical movement is highly related to mental and emotional strength. It can be so tempting to keep working through when under pressure but even just a 15-minute walk resets your head and helps you make better decisions. Science proves this, and I learnt this the hard way by not leaving the house for four days whilst I hustled in lockdown No.1.
Go for that walk, trust me on this!
I’m always fascinated by what helps other business leaders de-stress and reset. What is your ‘ice-bath’? Whatever it is, schedule it in. No excuses. We owe it to ourselves, our teams, our customers and families.
In this crisis we are the most important asset in our business. We must look after ourselves. And you know your family thinks so too!
Wendy Thompson is a social media and digital marketing guru; the founder and co-CEO of Socialites Group. LinkedIn: WendyThompson Instagram: WendySocialites