In the face of the coronavirus, the 2020 Forum theme, “The Big Stretch,” seems to be more relevant now than ever. Many of you in the Forum community have asked for advice. We tapped our fabulous Forum speakers for their expert insights on two questions:
1. What are you seeing today?
2. What is your #1 piece of advice for women in the Forum community?
Below is a sampling of their responses. We will share additional replies in the weeks to come.
What are you seeing today?
What I am seeing today is that people are busier than ever, solving problems they’ve not had to solve before and challenged by very new realities. It requires managing into ambiguity as never before and most are trying to solve for the little known.
I am seeing people on Wall St working from home and around the clock given the market behavior, striving to stay connected in new ways (Skype, Zoom, What’s App, cell phone, etc). Things are operating pretty well given all of this.
Those more junior may be feeling more isolated, and senior people should be reaching out and connecting with them.
From a career perspective, this can be the time to step up and be proactive. Roles have fewer boundaries, and people should be contributing where they see the need. Firms are not necessarily equipped and familiar with dealing with this type of crisis, and need people to take leadership and help steer.
I am seeing a much more human touch in how we are reaching out and connecting with our networks. My hope is that this trend lingers far longer than the coronavirus and self-isolating.
This is a disruption to our modern society that we have never witnessed before in such rapid fashion. It will forever change us. My sense is it leads to radical and profound change, much for the better and some for the worse.
What we are seeing is people and businesses being remarkably quick to be innovative and creative generating new ways of addressing problems and creating solutions. I am seeing the best in people, doing the right thing, companies supporting employees and clients putting health first. Markets will settle down – they always do – and pent up demand will be huge when we emerge from this.
High-level Wall Street woman
What I am seeing in these first few weeks of a “new normal” is a number of people being thoroughly overwhelmed in business and personal lives —- from adjusting to working remotely, to re-doing business plans, to determining how to tap into government assistance programs for business, to worrying about health of friends/family, to home-schooling children while trying to conduct business, to dealing with emotions around not being able to see family, parents/spouses in nursing homes — the list goes on and on. I have been advising a couple of women who are starting new businesses — one of them continues to forge full-steam ahead, pursuing her passion and dream – it is inspiring to see. Perhaps as we adjust better physically and emotionally to our new routines in the next months, we all will be able to take some time to absorb how the world has changed not just in the short-term, but fundamentally in a number of ways — and think about what that means for us, our careers and family.
“When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
In this time of crisis, it is critical for companies and leaders to maintain calm. But those that lead with empathy will separate themselves from the rest and reap the rewards when this crisis is resolved. Leaders that show empathy will build connection and trust. Sending the message that the team’s pain and fears are seen and heard, and that the leaders are committed to navigating the team through this difficult time, will leave you better positioned for the journey ahead.
What I have seen is that we are now realizing that our families are most important, that having the next Gucci bag is irrelevant since we are not out and about and if we go outside it is usually in gym clothes with a small wallet and our phone. We are also realizing that being home and working from home is not a bad thing at all. Technology is so much more valuable in times of crisis than we realized. But on the sad side I already know two friends who are in the hospital…This all became much more real to me.
Times of crisis often demonstrate essential truths about both companies and organizations as well as leaders and individuals. The executives I coach are both reacting to what they see their organizations doing as well as demonstrating who they are to the teams underneath them. It is easier to do the right thing when times are less hard, and it is hard to be your best self when you have anxiety for the life you have built and the people that you love. I’ve already been highly impressed (and sometimes shocked) with the positive values and character I have seen from some of my clients, and been disappointed and concerned with others. We are all being watched, and what we do will inevitably be remembered for both good and for ill.
Women business owners are still finding ways to thrive in this #newnormal as we are calling it in the Million Dollar Women community but only if they
– pivot (start offering new products and services online)
– plan (plan for a recession and protect their cash)
– problem solve (figure out the new problems their customers and clients have and how to solve them)
What is your #1 piece of advice for women in the Forum community?
My main piece of advice is to be empathetic. Each person is experiencing their own personal and professional circumstances which are not always fully known and appreciated. This is a very trying time – physically, mentally and financially and we haven’t lived through a global pandemic before. So be a little bit more thoughtful and kind and take the time to ask people how they are and whether they need any help. We will all hopefully get through this and be safe on the other side.
Jen Meister, Wellness and Lifestyle Coach
If you would like more information on Jennifer Meister, visit Jennifermeister.com and listen to her Sunday Share episodes on Instagram LIVE @Jennifer_Meister_ every Sunday at 12pm EST. This is where she will share more insight on Creating your Narrative during times of Uncertainty. email@example.com
My #1 piece of advice is to allow this time of change to be a time to look deeper into your values, integrity and personal growth. This is not a time to focus on what “we don’t have.” This is a perfect time to focus on “what we do have.”
My advice for women in the Forum is to “put on your oxygen mask first”… stealing a directive from the airline industry. This is an incredibly trying time emotionally and physically with elevated stress across both our personal and professional lives. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of devoting some time in your disrupted day and lives for self-care. You won’t effectively be able to take care of your family and business unless you are in a healthy state of mind. How we respond in these trying times can define us!
Take time while sheltered in place to engage in serious introspection about where you stand in your career journey — and what you want to do next as we rejoin a radically altered business world.
One of my favorite quotes is from Bill Gates that people often overestimate what can happen in 5 years and underestimate what can happen in 10 years. Do not underestimate what is happening now. I think we just compressed 5-10 years of innovation into one crisis. Think about how everything has changed and been upended. We instantly digitalized the world of business in ways that otherwise would have taken years. We just proved that people can work from home and think what that means for our workforce satisfaction and our climate. We have all seen how clean the air is and what life is like with less congestion. We are all figuring out how to live and do virtually everything online.
Stay alert now as everything is changing so quickly that it is hard to see. Take care of the young and old ones in this time. We have all learned how human we are and that we need human contact. We all need each other.
Control your calendar. Not the other way around. It’s up to you to differentiate between what’s important and what’s urgent, and to be selective! Be honest with yourself about what you can accomplish in a given day. It’s OK to put off things that are not important – in both your professional and personal life. Find a way to separate your work space from your living space – so you feel like you can “leave work” for a few hours. If all else fails, simply get up and go outside to stretch, do jumping jacks or to play freeze tag with the kids. The work will be there when you go back inside and you’ll be more focused and engaged for it.
I don’t think that women need different advice than men. While there are definitely areas where women are less accepted and respected the gains achieved so far are well deserved and well overdue. It is our loss as a society that we allow bias and stupidity to hold anyone down. My “advice” then would be to keep moving forward; overcome the hurdles others try to put in front of you and strive to live your life with no regrets and achieve all you want. I think that is true for all of us.
Susan Sobbott, Board Member, WEX Inc.; Former President, Global Commercial Services, American Express
Don’t let this crisis go by without finding your own clarity. Note what is important to you. What guides your decisions. What inspires you and what frightens you.
All rules and norms are bent in a time like this. Take advantage of an opening to be bold. Make suggestions, take actions, jump in and just do what you think is right. Leaders emerge in times of crisis and others fade into fear or caution. Use your voice and advocate for your customers, your teams, your community and most importantly, your values.
My #1 piece of advice is to be aware of blind spots and burnout both in ourselves and in the teams around us – from leadership on down. Never-before-seen or imagined problems are flowing in at an accelerating rate and demanding one urgent decision after another. No one person, no matter how dedicated, can process it all well. We need to rely on others, provide support to decision makers who may be reaching critical levels of stress and understand this is more likely to last longer than anticipated.
You are wearing all the hats you always wear but now, at the same time. Create some boundaries and sections to your day and do NOT neglect self-care – find 20 mins – nap, exercises, meditate, walk outside with proper distances. We maintain machines in this way, YOU are the machine now.
Advice in this stressful time is to stay in touch with your network and especially any advocates/mentors to hear different perspectives about this event vs. the financial crisis and what opportunities may come up as a result of this either in your company or other industries.
Think about the skills you have that can help you adapt psychologically and emotionally and use these to help you adapt to your new responsibilities at your current job or one you would like to reach for.
Lawton W. Fitt, Chairperson of the Board, The Progressive Corporation; Lead Independent Director, The Carlyle Group; Independent Director, Ciena Corporation and Micro Focus International PLC
This is a moment when great leaders shine. Be present, be kind, be flexible and communicate as much as you can. Create a positive vision of the future. Build upon the strengths and insights of your team.
Deborah Jackson, Founder and CEO, Plum Alley
My advice is to stick to your core- who you are, what you value and how you contribute to make the world better. This is a time when we are reminded how interconnected we are. We need one another to survive and thrive. We all have something to give and find what that is for you and give that today and everyday. The world needs us women to do that to heal and prosper.