The pandemic has brought us to a dead stop. Some have seen it as a Dead End, closing their doors for good. Others are turning around and finding a different way to make money. Still others are ignoring the sign and forging their own road.
Which option are you taking?
In this post, we will be examining five options in reaction to this pandemic. This post is valuable for leaders but also managers, Human Resources professionals, sales, entrepreneurs, staff, and all employees. In this post, we discuss options for making good strategic choices instead of reacting to a seemingly impossible situation.
“When you’re facing in the wrong direction, progress means walking backward.”Nigel Goldenfeld inThis Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking. (2008)
Those that follow MurfieldCoaching.com know that I focus on breakthrough opportunities. I write, speak, and work to solve significant problems with compassion, communication, and collaboration.
Dead End Roads
Growing up on a South Dakota farm, we had roads that were blocked by snow in the winter or flooded in the spring. We also had many that came to a dead end. There was no sense trying to go forward because, as the old saying goes, “you can’t get there from here.” To get to where we needed to go, we often had to back up, turn around and retrace our path until we could find another route to our ultimate destination.
With this COVID19 pandemic, you might find yourself at a ‘DEAD END.” Obstacles block our path. We care forced to reconsider, re-evaluate and strategically change our approach to go forward. We might have ignored the warning signs and now have no other choice.
What do we do?
Option #1: Quit
This was never a very good option for traveling. If we want to go farther, we cannot just quit. To quit is to stop the car, get out and leave it there. Even more troubling, quitting is stopping the car, shutting off the engine, and just sit, looking at the sign, wondering what to do.
That is what my podcast partner calls a “Snow Day.” Believing they cannot change anything, some people just sit waiting. Given that the sign isn’t going to change and the road won’t be extended anytime soon, this is a stupid choice.
I understand those who have had to close their businesses because they were no longer viable. That doesn’t mean they have to give up on their dreams, visions, or ideas. To give up is to leave the car sitting in front of the Dead End sign.
There are other options.
Unfortunately, too many are choosing this option. They are sitting and waiting for the pandemic to pass so they can continue. That is like sitting and waiting for the sign to magically change into a Yield sign. (Since there are no Go signs on those gravel, country roads.)
Let’s be honest. That sign isn’t changing.
The pandemic isn’t just going to subside. It will change who we are and what our customers desire. We cannot simply expect things are magically going to return to normal. Treat the past as a road that is permanently closed. Choose another option.
- In what ways have you quit?
- Are you waiting for something to change that never will?
Option #2: Ignore the Sign
Some are denying the sign and trying to keep going. They believe someone has lied to them to gain some advantage. Not to be duped, they tear down the sign and continue driving. Some believe they have a rugged off road vehicle and superior driving skills so they can navigate their way.
While that would be nice and could result in one of the later options, this is not the case.
Denying the facts is simply stupid. Sorry if that sounds harsh but ignoring the signs and assuming misinformation based on your own arrogance rarely leads to anything good. Actually, it almost always results in disaster.
- In what ways are you denying the facts?
- In what ways are you arrogantly assuming misinformation?
Option #3: Turn Around and Find Alternate Route
The logical answer is to stop, turn around, and find an alternative route. Unfortunately, we don’t have a business pandemic GPS that gives us several options and then tells us which one will get us to our destination quickest. Had such an invention existed, we likely would have avoided this pandemic shutdown before we hit the dead end.
Turning around often means pivoting. Back on those narrow, South Dakota country roads, the roads were not wide enough for a U turn so we used a Y turn. Turn sharply while backing up til we hit the edge of the road, straighten the wheel and pull forward to the other edge, then turn the wheel to the opposite direction and back up to the edge again. Then turn the wheels and you were turned around.
If you didn’t know the road, you retraced your steps and found another way. Business is like that. When something doesn’t work, turn around and go back to what was familiar and then try again.
- Are you turning around?
- Are you willing to try again?
Option #4: Ask for Directions
Yet too often as leaders, convention and popular opinion tells us that changing our mind or asking for directions is a sign of weakness. That conventional thinking is flawed and, I will use the word again, STUPID. “They” (those famous unnamed experts) say that as leaders, we must be the ones who come up with the answer. Well, if you don’t know the terrain and are unwilling to ask those that know, how long will it take you to finally figure it out?
Lose the ego and ask.
First, ask your team. One of them may have been here before or seen something that you didn’t. Wouldn’t asking them be better than the trial and error method?
Second, stop and ask the locals. They know the area and can quickly tell you what route to take to get you there the quickest. They may even draw you a map. You might even find one who will tell you, “Follow me. I know the way.”
Back on the farm, this happened all the time. When we drove east one half mile, there was a dead end sign because there was a big slough ahead. If you turned north, you would encounter another Dead End sign after two miles. For those new to the area, it was confusing. So we learned early how to direct people to town – if they bothered to ask.
Remember, in those days, there was no GPS. In the same way, there is no GPS for this pandemic.
Refusing to ask is foolishness. The intelligent and pragmatic leader is driven by inside-out thinking that is compassionate and wise, strategic and and measured. Knowing there is little sense is wasting time, energy or resources on “Dead End” projects, the smart leader quickly assesses the situation, surveys the team (including customers), changes perspectives, and alters behavior. They know there will be obstacles and that the quickest success comes in asking for help.
- How willing are you to ask for help?
- Who do you ask?
Option #5: Forge a New Road
Earlier I said that forging ahead by denying the Dead End sign was STUPID. It still is but there is a caveat. You can ignore the sign if you are prepared to build the road. The difference is that in Option #2, you were denying facts and arrogantly assuming someone kept that road closed for their benefit. This option is different.
Disruptive leaders succeed by exceeding the limitations of others. They see the Dead End sign as a place where others could not see any farther. They look at the Dead End with a new perspective and set of skills. What used to be impossible is now possible with new resources. So they see the sign and figure out how to extend the road so everyone can get there quicker. Once they are done, everyone appreciates the shortcut.
- What Dead Ends do you see as opportunities?
- How can you turn this pandemic into your opportunity to help yourself?
- How can you use this pandemic as an opportunity to help others?
Dead Ends seem to give us no choice. But that’s not correct. We have at least 5 options.
- Which one did you choose these last four months?
- Which choice will you make going forward?
(c) 2020 Murfield International, Inc. All rights reserved.
DO the IMPOSSIBLE!!!
Loren Murfield, Ph.D.
Dr. Murfield holds a PhD in Communication and works with leaders and organizations to solve significant problems with innovative thinking. What problem is frustrating you? Contact us today.
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