What COVID Should Teach People About Beating the Unexpected

My readers will recall that I believe success comes from the ability to react to a body blow, an unexpected threat that rocks you to your very soul.

It’s easy to achieve your objectives when things are playing out the way you expected them to, but that rarely happens.

It’s not that you don’t have the intellect to put together a good plan, it’s about the fact that the universe intercedes with random unexpected forces rendering your original plan irrelevant.

Recovery is the ability to not only respond to a body blow, but also to absorb its energy to do something remarkable in its face.

Making use of the energy of a random chaotic event to reach even greater heights is a bizarre notion, but a truism for those who understand it and who know how to use the force.

COVID is an unexpected event and it’s chaotic to say the least. It kills if it isn’t responded to in the right way. But on the other side of the coin, because of its extreme outcomes, it’s an incredible teacher for those who want to survive in the face of such pressure.

For organizations and individuals alike, here are 5 recovery tactics to be learned from this pandemic.

Deal with the next 30 days

When a crisis hits, trying to develop a long term strategy to deal with it is a futile exercise. You have immediate things to do, and it you don’t, the longer term never shows up.

Survival tactics require that you do what is necessary NOW to get you through today, then repeat for tomorrow, then again for the next day…

Priority setting is important for your 30-day calendar, but I wouldn’t go over board on it. Let your feelings, emotions and your gut lead you in terms of what’s really important to get on with in the moment.

And keep a journal of what you’ve done and the results you’ve achieved so you can learn from this recovery event the next time you have to do it again. And you will be in the recovery mode at some point in the future. Perhaps (hopefully) not a coronavirus response but something else unexpected will rock you eventually.

Speed is the essence

Effective recovery needs speed not perfection. First of all, perfection doesn’t exist anyways, and even if it did, you don’t have the time to seek it. The clock is ticking when you’re in recovery mode, and every second you spend trying to discover the perfect response you’re survival is in jeopardy — btw, something is characterized as “perfect” only in retrospect when you look back on what you did and results. In the moment action is what it is, and can have no attribute characterization.

Pondering and tinkering are not your friends when you’re trying to stay alive, so forget about the grand plan intellectualizing that we’ve been taught in school.

Act NOW and learn as you go.

Focus on the frontline

Survival demands that you figure out a way to keep delivering your products or services to people. Whether you’re in health provision, telecommunications, retail or food services it’s life-saving for you that customers continue to be served in one way or another. If you can’t figure out how to continue in a different way, government support will eventually run out and your business will die.

Your frontline people are the key to your survival. THEY are the connection between what you aspire to do and whether or not you’re able to do it. Frontline healthcare workers have proven the point in the most extreme sense, but the same principle is at play in every other type of organization.

When the body blow strikes, you don’t need employees with an impressive set of academic credentials, you need people who are able to effectively engage with others to carry your business forward.

The ONLY employees who carry survival on their shoulders are the frontline, so keep them safe and double their pay.

Listen and learn

Surviving on the run requires a healthy dose of learning along the way. Spontaneity will result in mistakes or suboptimal results, that’s just the way it is when you’re focussed on speed and driven by what “feels” like the right thing to do.

So make sure your spider senses are fully activated to see the results of every action you take. And, as I mentioned earlier, record in a journal what’s working and what’s not with a view to making real time adjustments to what your doing.

Use the frontline as the primary source of learning and use THEM to decide on what needs to be changed.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate

When smitten by a pandemic-type event, it’s extremely important to communicate — no, over communicate — with everyone affected on what’s being done and the results achieved.

Reaction tactics need continuous feedback on actions taken TODAY in order to make the best decisions on the adjustments and tweaks that will be required TOMORROW.

On-the-run planning can only work if performance in the moment is clearly understood. And it can’t be a vague “things are going well but there are a few things we need to do differently”. It needs to be as specific as possible, pointing to the precise mechanisms that are working and those that are not.

This is a leadership issue. Leaders must hyper-communicate with employees on actions being taken and must be open and welcoming to honest opinions on whether they’re on the right track.

The COVID journey is an amazing teacher. Quite apart from the sad outcomes for many of our family and friends, COVID is instructive in painting a picture of what responding to an unanticipated event should look like.

We should take notice of how the pandemic emphasizes the criticality of communications, caring for the frontline, listening and learning, speed and a 30-day tactical plan.

Take all the good you can from the unfortunate set of circumstances we find ourselves in because we don’t have to look very far for the downside.

Related: You Should Benchmark Only Insanely Delirious People