Remain Upbeat

As we soldier on through the current situation, it’s interesting to contrast the attitudes I see in the different businesses I engage in. You may be surprised to hear that overall they are positive, as good people and well-run companies seek dividends from COVID-19.

I do see, in some traditional companies, a tendency to report the downside without looking for the upside. I sat in an executive video meeting last week and felt I was on the deck of the Titanic, with the ship’s officers only reporting the inexorable rate of sinking. That did nobody any good, so I’m now coaching them to look for and share positive news as well.

And there is plenty of it, coming from so many sectors that I have to conclude we should take heart. Our leadership programme (now meeting on video bi-monthly) makes a point of beginning with a good news round up. Here are the themes that emerged last week.

Family & fitness. Everyone is enjoying more home time. Families are tighter. Parents are supporting online schooling efforts. More importantly, they are enjoying playing and talking with their kids. Most are sleeping better, and taking time to exercise and eat sensibly.

Essentialism. We are making do with less. Realising what is important, and where costs can be cut. Identifying gaps in products and services; staff behaviours and procedures. Many reported that remote working seems more efficient, with more project close-offs than usual.

Business activity.  To contrast my Titanic experience, a number of sectors report business continuing at normal or slightly reduced levels. That came from manufacturing and, surprising, floriculture. The latter report that though demand is lower, prices are higher.

Future focus. Businesses that have acted to protect staff, liquidity and capacity are now moving into the ‘Plan Ahead’ phase. Much involving fast-tracking automation and digitisation – supported by customers who are now prepared to take up new initiatives. But I’m encouraged to see that the human dimension is firmly on the agenda. Tackling failings in customer experience that have been allowed to remain ‘the way we do things around here’. Adjusting to a future of remote and shift working that will improve work-life balance and (I hope) reduce future rush hour jams. Engaging staff in a more genuine way (noting how well staff have reacted to current changes, and benefits coming from open collaboration with labour unions).

Companies who discuss the ‘glass half-full, rather than half-empty’ are more likely to prosper after COVID-19. Because business is a collaborative human activity. And human beings are way more emotional than they are rational.

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