Leading in Crisis: Learning to Adapt
In May of 2019, I released my first book at the age of 51 after dreaming of being a published author for my entire life. My consulting business was headed for its best year ever and as I entered 2020 the book was beginning to really take off having gone to number one on Amazon’s bestseller list in three separate categories. In March, I had my first national speaking engagement for the book at the University of Texas at El Paso which was extremely well received. I was looking forward to being able to continue speaking on college campuses nationwide as my message of how to become a changemaking leader has been embraced by a younger generation of leaders. Then, the world changed.
Early on, I realized that the live speaking engagements I was booked for were no longer an option in the new reality of living in the midst of a global pandemic. The revenue sources for my small business, like a multitude of others around the world, had been completely disrupted. I thought of the irony of having just published a book on creating and embracing change in the midst of a worldwide societal shift of tectonic proportions. Like my fellow global citizens, I felt disoriented and confused by the gravity and uncertainty of the situation. After a few weeks in a bit of a haze, reality set in; I needed to accept that things would be different for the foreseeable future and adapt to a situation that none of us has control over.
In assessing how to move forward, I took into account that, although my finances had been significantly impacted, many of the platforms for getting my book and its message out there were still intact. Blogging was still an option and I’ve welcomed the opportunity to provide a substantial amount of content for Forbes and ForbesBooks regarding leading through crisis based on my personal experiences. This has led to a tremendous number of radio interviews and podcasts with the help of the team at News and Experts I’ve been working with who have been wonderfully supportive during these challenging times. When Kerry Grace, a friend in Australia who used my book as a reference while dealing with the bushfires, told me she felt like my book needed to be in every classroom, I dropped the Amazon download price to 99 cents in an effort to make it more widely available as for other leaders who might benefit from it. Coming to grips with the fact that there were things I could do to continue to market my book while also sharing a message of hope and some insight with a wide audience helped me to realize that as dire as our circumstances may be, none of us are ever powerless.
One thing I’ve come to deeply appreciate during this time is the team I have to work with. Last December I partnered with Jane Ubell-Meyer and Bedside Reading to distribute my book in five-star hotels nationwide. As her business model has been completely disrupted, Jane has found innovative ways to still support her authors and has simply been an inspiration to work with. Corie Luzon, my Account Manager at Advantage|ForbesBooks, has been tireless in her efforts on my behalf helping me move forward with creating my audiobook as well as getting me connected with an international rights agreement. Corie has done this while at the same time homeschooling her young daughter. During this time, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with inspirational leaders like Lou Diamond, Bill Woodich, and Dov Barron who I look forward to collaborating with for many years to come. To me, life is all about developing good relationships, and during this period of adapting to a new reality, I’ve come to value those relationships now more than ever.
Throughout the past several months, I’ve been inspired to see how leaders everywhere have pivoted and adapted to the constant fluidity facing their families, their communities, and their businesses. Parents have become teachers and new supply chains to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline medical workers are being established. Maker communities worldwide have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, using 3D printers to create PPE supplies for their local communities. In a recent conversation with my sister Paula, she shared with me that her 10-year-old grandson Michael, our great-nephew, had been inspired by a news report and printed a substantial number of face mask straps on the printer she and our brother-in-law Larry had given him for Christmas. He and his father donated the straps to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and just hearing this brought a huge smile to my face.
One of the primary focuses I’ve had throughout this season in history is to remind people that we truly are all in this together. We all may be impacted in different ways by this pandemic, but we are all impacted just the same and each one of us is having to adapt to the shifting sands around us in a variety of ways. I’ve often written on the difference between empathy and sympathy. Whereas being able to feel sympathy for another person’s plight can be an effective tool in helping to deal with difficult situations, having empathy through a shared experience is a connection point between people which creates a bond of understanding. As we get through this together, it is my great hope that this globally shared experience will help to create a much more empathetic and compassionate world with a heightened value for our fellow man. Ultimately, that would be a new reality to which I believe most of us would welcome the opportunity to adapt.