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Skiing Through COVID-19 as a Business Leader

skiing through covid 19 as a business leader

COVID-19 signals a lot of fear. While there are many reasons for this fear, it is triggered in most of us because we have entered the unknown. We haven’t been through this before. We don’t know what to expect, and we don’t know exactly how this all turns out. But we have all been through challenges before. And, we have all charted unknown territories before.

The best thing we can do to combat fear when facing the unknown is to consider how we’ve overcame challenges (both big and small) before.

Overcoming challenges

After college, I was a professional snow skiing instructor in California’s Sierra Mountains. In that capacity, I learned many valuable lessons that have helped me build companies and help others build theirs.

The challenges we as business leaders are experiencing right now related to the Coronavirus (and the huge economic impact that’s being felt because of it) remind me a lot of an ongoing challenge I faced as a skiing instructor: How the heck do I ski down a run that is full of moguls? (For those of you who aren’t skiers: moguls are bumps on groomed slopes at downhill ski areas).

I don’t mean to diminish the challenges of a literal pandemic by comparing it with skiing moguls — to be clear, these challenges are on totally different levels. But the lessons and illustrations are very similar and therefore valuable.

Leadership in a time of crisis

Leadership is about seeing around the corners and doing what most won’t do. All while knowing challenges are imminent and inevitable. The best leaders don’t fight against the challenges — they face the challenges head on and navigate to the best outcome.

Using my skiing analogy, most team members and customers are seeing these challenges like a long run full of bumps (coronavirus, financial market meltdowns, supply chain issues, panic and fear). And like the majority of my skiing students, everyone is scared of these hills getting in the way of mapping a safe and efficient path down the mountain. Sure, most of my students could see the bumps better than we might be able to see the coronavirus and its effects, but regardless, there’s fear. There’s hesitation. There’s confusion. There’s a break in normal programming.

So how do we get people moving forward and through these challenging times?

With my skiing students, I worked to help change their perspective of the bumps. Instead of being unpassable mounds that blocked turning, I suggested that each mogul was merely a speed bump they could use to slow their speed and help guide them down the hill.

And, focus shifted.

Instead of seeing the danger or impediment of the mound, they concentrated on finding the line through the moguls that would point them to their finish line. They began using the moguls to guide them. Eventually they were able to perceive the mogul as a help instead of a hurdle, which almost instantly mitigated their fears and changed the results.

That doesn’t mean that after one lesson they were suddenly expert skiers, but they were able to move forward and even be excited about doing so.

Create a plan

People are going to be scared right now. Heck, you may be scared right now. And that’s natural. We’re staring out at something that’s unfamiliar and looks intimidating.

As a leader, your job is NOT to ignore the challenge, but to come up with a solid plan that:

  • Acknowledges the legitimate concerns
  • Alleviates any hyped or irrational fears
  • Details what we will do in light of the challenges

People want and need honesty, hope and help. People do not want or need hyperbole, hysteria and hibernation. Be the leader we all want and need right now. (By the way, if you need help creating a plan, message me. This is what we as Petra Coaches do for businesses leaders and businesses.)

For the next period of time, focus on the following:

Set your path to a closer destination

In these challenging times, your teams need to clearly see defined and reasonably achievable goals. Given the uncertain effects that coronavirus will undoubtedly have on the world and its economies, it’s time to pull our event horizons in.

Let’s look out 30 to 60 days rather than an entire quarter or year. Be sure to remind others that we can get down any mountain if we just take it in small, visible chunks. We don’t have to see all the way down the mountain right now. We just need to set our sights for a point in front of us that we can. Once we get there, we’ll reassess and adjust as needed.

Focus on just one bump at a time

Visibility, clarity and achievability will be key during this time. Tasks with these elements will give your team and your customers something to focus on that they can control. Keep our minds off of things we can’t control (coronavirus or the financial markets) by focusing on the things we can!

Communicate and execute

You need regular rhythms of communication now more than ever. This is the glue to all of your business efforts. You must create and stick to doing daily, weekly and monthly meetings with your team. During this challenging time, there’s no such thing as too much communication. Daily huddles should be no longer than 15 minutes. They are quick, stand-up meetings meant to keep the team connected and moving forward together. Weekly meetings should be 60 to 90 minutes and can be used to update the team on the progress of key initiatives, as well as incorporating some level of problem solving. Monthly meetings are meant to dig in and understand what new challenges need to be tackled.

Keep getting back on the ski lift

It’s all about consistency. As the leader of your business, you need to make sure you are vigilant and consistent. You must constantly be relaying “This is where we’re going, this is how we’ll get there, and this is how you can help us get there.”

The coronavirus and the impact it’s having on our businesses, our school systems and our families is challenging. It’s made even more challenging by the fact that it’s a run of hurdles none of us has ever seen or attempted before.

It’s our job as entrepreneurs and business leaders to step up and give our teams and customers the guidance and support we all need to navigate this slope.

This article originally appeared in StartupNation.

If you need help navigating the slopes right now, reach out to Mark. As a business coach and entrepreneur, he will help guide you down the right path.