The COVID lockdown period took an interesting turn in my life when I got caught quite unexpectedly in the eye of the storm, Cyclone Nisarg. My family and I had decided to move to our farmhouse slightly outside the city at the start of the lockdown, to keep ourselves safely socially distanced and away from the spread of the virus in our densely populated city.
As we desperately tried to secure our home following Google and well-wisher advisory, while minimising any damage from our property to our surroundings, I realised that there was no escaping the year 2020. And that, one way or another, we are all being forced to step out of our comfort zone and step up to the challenges we are presented with.
In the days that followed the cyclone devastation, as the region struggled to return to normal, I found my endurance tested as what I considered basic and something I had never given a second thought to, such as power, connectivity and water, remained unavailable. A number of friends suggested I leave and come back to the urban life, albeit riddled with the plight of COVID. However, my values of dedication, commitment and seeing things through, didn’t permit me to leave our property in a difficult state.
And while a number of those less fortunate still remain without the basics and have not fully recovered from the cyclone impact, I couldn’t help but reflect on this experience from my perspective to evaluate the mindset that is required to overcome a crisis.
For a number of leaders and businesses, the impact of COVID has been and continues to be significant, requiring them to dip deep and avail of those internal resources needed to survive and thrive. In a number of my conversations as a leadership and performance coach, I see my clients overcome daily battles as they try to stay relevant in an evolving environment.
As I consider my recent experience with the cyclone and align it to my understanding of leadership, I can’t help but outline some takeaways that may help you as you look to unlock your own resources to develop the crisis mindset at this time:
1. The Power of Resilience
While the word resilience has been overused during the pandemic, from what I observed in nature during the cyclone was the ability to bend not break during adversity. Being conscious of our own ability to adapt and to then support those who are perhaps finding the bend more difficult in our teams or families is crucial to be able to move forward successfully.
2. Don’t Underestimate Your Endurance
Times of crisis test us at various levels and capacities. It is important to recognise that at some point during this time you will be taken out of your comfort zone and challenged. But it is equally essential to remember that more than surviving or managing, having conviction and self-belief is more empowering. Remember, every difficulty provides the opportunity to develop ourselves further.
3. Balancing Wants and Needs
In a crisis, being realistic and present enables us to carefully determine what is a nice to have versus a need to have at this time. In a more stable global environment, where the future is predictable to an extent, it is fair to make assumptions and have expectations. However, in the world we find ourselves in currently, balancing what is most required now, letting go of goals that no longer serve us and focusing on riding through the storm with minimal damage, becomes a ‘necessity’. It is also important to keep that mental agility to be able to redefine what constitutes basic and luxury at this time.
4. Think Quick and Innovate
When I was at Columbia Business School we were told that the leadership paradigm in decision making is moving from precise and slow to fast and roughly right. Times of crisis require you to think quickly, be creative with the resources at hand and move fast to stay relevant. Since the luxury of evaluation time has been taken away, it becomes crucial to have an inclusive, non-hierarchical and open approach to leadership and decision-making. You never know where the best solution may come from!
5. The Collective over the Self
Valuing the system over the individual fuels a sense of trust, psychological safety and forces you to take a more holistic approach to problem-solving. If everyone is focused on managing the collective, the individual is then taken care of. If we look at the spread of the virus alone, if we think about the collective health and safety of everyone, we will all be protected. After all, it is your relationships and ecosystem that see you through during a period of difficulty.