PAUL RENAUD
executive coach

Coronavirus… Now what?

When I was 13 years old, I was watching TV at home in Canada and back then, Cable TV was the newest thing and we were able to watch USA channels. What a great moment because we doubled the number of TV channels from 13 to 26 overnight. Wow, imagine that!  At one point I was watching a TV commercial and here was the storyline for this 60 second spot:  A family, mom, dad and 2 kids are sitting in the living room watching TV and all of a sudden, the power goes off – total darkness. The parents scramble for candles and now what?

now what
Photo credit: Canva Photos

The mother finds the candles and they start playing a board game together. After the power comes back on, because they were having so much fun and laughing as a family, the mother gets up and turns off the lights leaving only the candles to continue playing the board game.

Then comes the tagline of what I thought was going to be an advertisement for the power company or the board game. Instead the tag line was: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. I said… what? What is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exactly I wondered? Well, as a teenager I didn’t give it much thought and went on with my life.

Much later, I heard about the Mormon church… then I made the connection:  The Church of Jesus  Christ of Latter-day Saints was the Mormon church and they were the ones behind this inspiring commercial I watched when I was much younger.

What’s my point?

Well it’s not a religious one. Rather, when the lights go out it sucks!  We don’t like it but there’s not much we can do about except wait till the power comes back on. It’s annoying and similar to that family in the TV commercial, perhaps we should also adapt and focus on what is really important to us?

Now we can’t compare random power outages with this coronavirus crisis but there are similarities because we’ve been temporarily removed of certain privileges and rights. We must adapt instead of worry ”if the power will ever come back”. Clearly this mess will blow over. One difference is that it may take longer than a typical power outage.

As a way of communicating some positive messages (and I believe there’s a clear need right now)  I was thinking about what could help us instead of the minute by minute advices we’re getting from multiple sources since we really haven’t got a lot of benchmarks for this kind of crisis.

  1. Use Common sense. When in doubt on what you should or should not do, think about what makes good, common sense.
  2. Consult reputable sources for information. My embassy sent me a few guidelines and web sites and the embassy’s job is to protect their citizens not just diffuse sensationalized messages to reinforce anxiety, confusion and negativity.  We are constantly bombarded with too many messages on Social Media. Consult reputable sources, 2 times per day and move on!  I’m not saying to “put your head in the sand” but too much info is not helping. If in doubt, see point  #1.
  3. Call a friend. I know this sounds basic and dull but in times of crises we go into self- preservation mode and we forget the important people in our lives. Get on the phone and ask them how they are doing? It’s that simple.
  4. Business should not stop. We’ve been bragging for years now about technology and teleworking, in addition to requesting our employers to work from home. Well, we’ve got the perfect opportunity now to try this mode of work, test it and optimize it. Be creative and try to import work at home not for the short term but rather for the longer term. Consider other software or training methods and tools.
  5. Call your clients and ask them how they’re coping. Can you help somehow? This will show that you care about them when no one else is calling them.
  6. Leaders and business owners! Your team has always looked up to you, this moment is no different. Tell staff how you feel, be transparent, acknowledge what you are experiencing and thinking but at the same time you need to inspire since this is what they are implicitly hoping and expecting from you. This is your moment to show that you are indeed a leader. If you’re feeling weak (which is normal) go back to step #3 and ask a buddy what he/she has done with their staff to mitigate worry and fear. Take time to seek new opportunities that you didn’t have the time to think about before.
  7. At home, engage in dialogue with your spouse.  Play with your kids. The kids are also confused about this situation and how you are dealing with it as a parent. You’ve got their full attention now. Savour the moment. Have fun with homework and other topics that you know well such as Math, Geography or history. Btw, home schooling will make you appreciate the teachers a lot more 😊. Read them a book. Having them with you all day will be exceptional.
  8. Spring clean up! This is a good time to clean up, get rid of junk and perhaps do what you’ve promised yourself you would do when you have a free minute. Clean the house, fix a few things and reduce clutter and you’ll feel good about yourself.
  9. Buy food for friends and family. One of our friends called us yesterday and asked us if we needed something. This was a gesture of immense kindness and this is worth reciprocating and propagating. It’s a nice reminder of what we can do as humans when we’re facing challenges!
  10. Fitness at home. Keep fit and stay healthy. If you haven’t begun a fitness regime, it’s now time to start. I use an app called “the 7-minute workout”. It’s free, it doesn’t require any equipment and it’s quiet since I can train when all are asleep at home. It’s a great way to get the crap out of my head. When we’re resilient and healthy, it’s easier to cope when uncertainty is happening around us.
  11. Find time for you. Read a book, meditate, listen to your favorite music, write, cook or find 30 minutes of solace of whatever makes you happy. Yes, it’s ok to be selfish for 30 minutes per day because if you take care of yourself, you’ll be able to take care of others.

I have to admit that as a fellow who loves my network, I miss my business colleagues yet I remain optimistic that this mess will end soon. We will be back to our Go, Go, Go lifestyle before you know it.

Finally, as a way of leaving this post on a funny note, I was reminded of what Jerry Seinfeld said in one of his famous “Seinfeld” sitcom episodes.

He would tell Elaine or Kramer: “Whatever mess we get ourselves into or no matter how bad things really get…it always works out”.

Yes, it’s a lame statement but deep down when you look back in your life about what went really bad…perhaps you will agree that things always do work out!

Thank you, Jerry!