You're a servant leader. Who get's to decide if you're essential?
When governments around the world declared a public health emergency, they shuttered a signifiant number of activities deemed nonessential. As a result, businesses have made massive cuts to protect their balance sheets. Core to that process is the very discomforting process of deciding which costs (and people) are essential in the short, medium and long-term, and which are not. What do you do that your employer or client must have? What value do you deliver that is indispensable in the eyes of the people you mean to serve?
How do you make the cut?
For the past six years I've been tracking the moods of the leaders and teams I coach and putting them on a series of indices. I'm looking for correlations between how people feel, how they think, what they choose to do and what results create.
At the beginning of this exercise, my Alberta clients were all struggling to deal with the bottom falling out of the oil price. Billions of dollars that once flowed into the province were no longer flowing. Almost everyone was feeling anxious, uncertain and frustrated but also very connected. People were stressed about the downturn in the market but were banding together to get through it. In this current crisis, people are once again feeling anxious, uncertain and frustrated, but now, instead of very connected, they are feeling very isolated. Money is running scared.
Stressed people are often overly reactive or inactive in the short-term.
If you are an emergency room nurse, pharmacist, food courier, a manufacturer of N95 masks (or own a liquor store), you were deemed an essential service in the time of pandemic crisis. It's a short list from a global health emergency perspective, but is that really all that is essential to run the world and assure that all citizens are enjoying a high quality of life? Obviously not.
Someone I don't know decided that my physiotherapist was not essential. As a result, I spent way too much of the last six weeks dealing with a chromic headaches from a recurrent neck spasm. But Jeff was not allowed to touch me, so I've been suffering and he's been struggling to feed his family. He did everything he was allowed to do, but if anyone were to ask me, I would have said there was a safe way for me to see my therapist. I suppose I could have gone to the liquor store and self-medicated.
All services are either must-have or nice-to-have. Which one are you?
I've been hired and fired in times of prosperity and I've been hired and fired in times of crisis. I feel grateful for more hirings than firings, but the hirings and firings have much to teach me about how my clients perceive my value or lack of value, and how they decide if I am indispensable or dispensable.
Who are you in the eyes of your customers and prospective customers? In the eyes of your team who is overworking to keep the business afloat? People don't need less support now, they need more. The old models are out now. The only thing preventing you from introducing a new model is a little bit of genius, a strong hit of gumption and shit load of grit. That's what entrepreneurs do in any time of change.
Everyone is at least some part complicit in their own irrelevance.
Your message does not have to be intrusive, tone-deaf or self-serving. But all crises do come to an end and when this one does, make sure the people who count in your life and business will remember who you are and what you are all about.
Get up high. Scan the horizon. Formulate a thesis. Build a model. Test an assumption. Keep fighting.
It's your job to make sure your people understand your value.