At the InfoComm 2019 AVIXA Women’s Council breakfast, I themed my state of the council speech around the phrase “Council Culture Is Contagious.” The council had an amazing year and the meeting was filled with testimonials from members getting sought-after promotions, finding their voices and their community. I’m proud of the council culture we’ve created and emboldened.
Fast-forward to March 2020, and I made the tough decision to suspend our in-person local group events. I based that decision partly on my gut instinct and partly on what I was reading and watching as the coronavirus spread throughout the country and the world. As tough as that decision was, I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do for my members. I quickly made the pivot to promoting virtual council events and started touching base with my leaders to ask them to plan virtual happy hours, coffee dates, or lunches with their local groups. I wanted to be sure that we stayed in touch and brought as much motivation and encouragement to our members as we had been bringing to them prior to the pandemic.
I became hypersensitive that our members were losing their jobs, having a hard time coping, and juggling a lot more than normal with our new work-from-home (WFH) routines. Even though I was suffering through some of those same feelings myself, I felt an urgency to reach out and connect. I was, and still am, being pinged daily by folks who need to vent. I’m a great listener and I welcome those conversations. I can attest that I am especially adept at talking people down off the cliff. I typically end my calls by stating that if I can help, they should reach out anytime, I’m here—and I profoundly mean it.
I’ve learned during this pandemic that people react and respond very differently in crisis. By the same token, corporations and their brands do too. I’ll use my own company culture as an example. We immediately sprang into action with a very strategic marketing plan. We choose to amplify our marketing efforts and stay in touch with our customers in a very forward-facing way, focusing on creating webinars to present a solution for our clients. On the flip side, I’ve heard from AV colleagues who just held their very first team Zoom meeting in May. My jaw hit the floor! Really?! We do that daily now, and have been for some time.
I am—and always have been—a huge proponent of companies that proudly display their company mission and vision. A defined corporate culture will determine how you handle a crisis and, ultimately, how you are regarded by the public. Without having a corporate culture that everyone can adopt, it can lead to conflicts ... and leadership and teams performing inefficiently.
In today’s world, even companies with well-defined processes and emergency plans can flounder. Many corporations had no plan for this pandemic and are still trying to figure it out. Dealing with ambiguity as we move forward into “the new normal” requires us to communicate effectively, choose our words carefully, and continue to do our part. Everyone’s situation is different, and we must embrace our differences—or risk becoming very disengaged.
I’ve learned that I tend to hit a crisis running, and hit it head-on. I make a plan and execute quickly. Others don’t. They are still struggling, and will continue to struggle for some time. I saw a post on Facebook that really resonated (see sidebar). It applies to both companies and individuals. It shows how many differences we will continue to have as we open up our states, and how we should try to empathize as we forge ahead. Someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own. By seeing through someone else’s eyes and considering their perspective, you can relate and connect on a higher level, with compassion and understanding. At the end of the day, that’s what most people want.
From moments of crisis emerge great opportunities. I’m hopeful that this crisis will create many diamonds from its ashes—maybe a new job, maybe some new friends, or perhaps some new skills at the very least. Whatever that is, remember to take the time to invest in yourself. By investing in yourself, you’ll not only improve your life, but those around you, too. Be kind and stay well, my friends.