We all encounter hardships,"Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook writes in "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy." "The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next?"
continued resilience and a call for endurance
One of my favorite books is Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s “Option B” on finding strength in the face of adversity and the steps people can take to rebound from any type of life-shattering experience. Sheryl wrote the book following the death of her late husband, but it includes great lessons for anyone overcoming tragedy or simply a tough situation. It’s centered on the belief that we are not born with a fixed amount of resilience.
On a personal level, I watched with shock and sadness the toll that COVID-19 has taken on my home state of Illinois. That these are stressful, uncertain times goes without saying. As the depth of the outbreak deepened, I witnessed many instances of resilience in a time of crisis. When I look at the actions of my colleagues all across Randstad, I see teamwork, agility and trust. We have innovated, experimented, successfully forged new models of working that have never been tried, created new processes on the fly, and as a result, we’ve restrengthened our culture and our commitment to those who depend on us.
Our teams were proactive -- and in many cases, creative -- in the ways they addressed the safety and needs of our clients and talent. Working around the clock. Internal task forces were quickly implemented to develop solutions to the new business challenges we suddenly found ourselves faced with. There was no manual. Customers were looking to us for answers. Things were moving so quickly, which required constant updates and communications…resulting in extra long days of back-to-back meetings. Excellent examples of human perseverance and resilience, yes, but also a recipe for emotional burnout.
And as I think about the next phase of recovery, I believe endurance will be key. We made it through the sprint of the crisis and we need to approach the future like a marathon. Like an actual marathon, we need to continue to dig deep and we need to keep going when sometimes we’d rather quit. Unlike a marathon, however, this pandemic was not predictable -- and we can’t see the precise finish line. This begs the question: at what point do we switch off crisis mode? When is the right time to pivot back to normal meeting and communication cadence — and how do we do it? I am trying to strike a critical balance of long-term planning and focus while finding the strength to show up for what’s needed today. And trusting that each mile of the marathon will get easier for us.
carving out time for reflection
Let's face it: It's so important to unplug, especially right now, while we've been in crisis mode for three months and while the line between work and personal life has become so blurred due to working from home. For me, managing my mental health involves separating work life from personal life. I love walking my dog, Dudley, during lunch or when I have breaks in my schedule. It's been an important daily release for me. Exercise, pet time, the great outdoors — what's not to love? I've definitely been cooking more than I used to, as well. I try to be mindful to walk away from my computer at a reasonable time in order to prepare meals. Now that the weather is finally warming up in Chicago, my husband and I enjoy going out on the boat on weekends.
In addition to nurturing our physical and mental health, it’s important for all of us to carve out time for reflection to think about how we can best position ourselves for success in the coming months and years. For some, it could be learning a new skill or trying a new hobby, reviewing their career goals, or reassessing their sales portfolio to take advantage of growing areas of opportunity. For me and likely many other business leaders, this reflection time entails strategizing for business growth, examining our company culture and new ways of working as well being a better leader in the new normal.
I’ve really pushed myself and my team to contemplate our world post-COVID. We’ve been so focused on the immediate recovery phase - and rightfully so - but we must get ahead of some of the opportunities and challenges we will soon face. What competencies do we need to strengthen or build to thrive in the new marketplace? How should our culture evolve? How can we most effectively lead in a new hybrid work environment, with a mix of remote and in-office interactions? Where should we focus for market expansion, given the long-term structural implications of the pandemic? How can we continue to differentiate and increase our value proposition to customers? These are the questions that weigh heavily on my mind right now...but in a good way!
We must remain committed to our digital transformation agenda now more than ever to meet customers where they are and to support the effectiveness of our employees. Technology is key, but we must also leverage data and analytics. This means proactively seeking out information from third party sources and combining it with our own data, so we can make more informed decisions about our business. As one example, we brought in experts from The Conference Board for a recent leadership meeting here in North America (virtual, of course). They educated us on some of the trends in consumer behavior that they are seeing and predict will have long-lasting implications on where, when and how business gets done in the future.
the importance of compassion
This pandemic has reminded us that life can be unpredictable. In the words of Charles Swindoll, “Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” In times of uncertainty, we must choose compassion toward others and resilience as we weather the storm together and continue to put humanity first.
It’s important to remember that we are all facing this together and we all make a difference in each other’s lives. I remain optimistic that we can emerge on the other side of this global pandemic stronger, better connected and more resilient than we were going in. Times of crisis are a test for us all — but as the saying goes, it takes compression to make diamonds. That means, above all, doing everything in our power to support our customers while protecting the health and safety of our employees and our talent. And that’s exactly what we will continue to do.