In this time of Coronavirus…let goodness prevail, instead of fear. Let kindness and grace be our first instinct. Let trust and respect become translated now into our business lives. These will lead to every kind of prosperity on the other side of this pandemic. Growth through admirable acts will define companies and people now.
I was struck by this beautiful gesture of humanity in the Italian city of Siena. Isolated individuals sequestered in their homes, lifted their voices in song outside together through open windows. Their action reminds us that we are alone, but not alone. We are united in our humanity and in how we respond in this moment.
We not alone in our instinct toward acting with goodness. And, we have a moment here to translate what we know is right into how we practice business right now. This can simply be thought of as how we show our kindness, deliver grace and build mutual trust and respect.
Here are 3 areas of leadership and humanity to consider for your business now:
1. Show Your Kindness
Kindness right now translates to enabling people to have peace. It means providing peace of mind by eliminating fear and worry for people.
For your employees, this means removing the fear of leaving their home for work. Helping them reduce their fear of payment for care. Helping stave the fear of losing the ability to care for loved ones. Or the inadvertent caste system that might emerge during this time between people who do or do not have paid vacations, or enough insurance to cover health care.
Knowing and understanding that these are the worrisome issues for the people of your company, even if you cannot address all of them financially…address them emotionally and in communication. Find creative solutions. People want to know that their lives matter.
Communication and gestures of support = kindness. They matter.
For example, many tech companies are stepping up to address the swiftly changing lifestyle and financial impacts of a sequestered life. Zoom is addressing the need that kids have to keep on learning in creative and engaging ways – even when sequestered at home. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan is giving K-12 schools his video-conferencing tools for free. Salesforce has addressed the worry of maintaining pay not only for their employees but also to partners who are an essential part of the service chain to customers. During this time, they are continuing to pay their vendor hourly service providers; considering them part of the family. Microsoft leaders insisted swiftly that workers work from home, decided to pay for 4,500 workers who in normal times, support their now-evacuated campus, and most recently, gave parents an additional two weeks of paid time off if they can’t work from home because they need to watch their children.
In service industries where people have to show up, such as healthcare, retail, and hospitality, delivering peace of mind that you are elevating care for their physical well-being is the highest message of “we care.” Know and address their fear of being out there in the world, exposed to potential harm. Make sure they know how you are keeping their environment safe. Brainstorm with them about solutions.
For example, Canlis restaurant, a fine dining restaurant in Seattle Washington (and where my husband and I were married, incidentally), huddled with their employees and decided on two things: our people need to work, and people need to eat – but not fine dining. So, Canlis completely reworked their business for now with their employees into three relevant offerings: a donut business, a drive-through burger business, and a packaged family meal business. Their home page says “Times are changing, and so are we. For now.” Think of the prideful ownership not only their employees, but a grateful community must be feeling now for them for their humanity and bravery.
To earn your place in people’s hearts, minds and memory, deliver grace. This means understanding that rules and policies and standard agreements in normal times need to be reviewed with a new lens in this time of uncertainty and fear, and the inability to manage work, finances, and commitments as usual.
Grace right now is crucial. This means evaluating your business practices for exceptions that people will be wanting and asking for. Every industry has conditions for doing business. Take a look at your contract conditions, fee conditions, penalties, cancellation policies through the lens of knowing that how you act now will impact the future of your relationships with the people behind these contracts. Yes, you may require them to pay you now if you stick to the letter of the outlined policy, but it will drive people to walk away from you when they have the choice. And make no mistake, people will be vocal about those who did and did not show their humanity during this pandemic. Captive loyalty now is not long-term advocacy and admiration later.
For example, the elderly community is particularly at risk, making grocery shopping a concern. This has challenged grocery stores, to rethink their hours of operation. The H-E-B grocery store chain considered the idea of extending special hours for the elderly but have been guided by healthcare officials that this could create even more risk as large groups congregate. Instead, they are solving the core problems of exposure, supply, and cost. They have donated over $3million to date, to support food banks throughout Texas; delivering truckloads of food and household supplies to food banks; assistance in mobilizing home feeding for seniors, and funds for research and nonprofit partners supporting this community.
Grace right now is essential for your employee’s spirit and their confidence in you. All of your employees are looking to you right now for your responses. They don’t want to uphold practices and policies and debate with people on things that they feel are not the right thing to do. Give them the opportunity to not only brainstorm solutions with you on the opportunities and ways to deliver grace…then make them the heroes who deliver it.
For example, look at the airlines, one of the hardest-hit industries, and how they are reacting and actually constantly adapting to the situation. Their people are the flag bearers for these decisions. And some have made it easier to carry that flag, while others still have conditions for the grace extended, how and when…which their people need to uphold, navigate and feel good about.
3. Practice Mutual Trust and Respect
Have the foundation of these actions that most people are trustworthy and honest. Make this be the instinct that guides your actions.
People don’t want to disassemble vacations, contracts, business commitments or their weddings. Rethink how you word your messaging, and how you speak to your employees, and the community to be about the “we” – the community that we are all in together.
Look at this as an opportunity to show up as an elevated company whose foundation for decision-making is trust and respect for lives – for honoring the humans at the end of your decisions. Your attitude will become your people’s attitude …and that is how you will show up in the marketplace. It is how you will be remembered.
You have an opportunity in this moment to become unforgettable.
In our lives, we remember the companies, the people and the times when we were honored…as a friend, as a partner, as a customer. Two-way trust, open and honest communication and fearless sharing are cornerstones of the relationships that come to mean the most to us. These feelings hold just as true in the relationships we have with the people we hold dear in our lives, as the people that we do business with.
This is your moment to improve lives. To be remembered with admiration. It’s your moment to choose prosperity of the human spirit.
I’d bet my Grandma’s lasagna…that it will also lead to financial prosperity as the world recovers and people remember how companies acted in this moment.