Now that we are at the six-month mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it would be good to reflect on leading and managing in difficult times.
Looking back on my 36-year career in leadership, this has been the second instance where I’ve had to lead during a time of uncertainty. The first was 9/11/2001 when we watched in horror as the World Trade Towers crumbled from a massive terrorist attack just a few miles from our New York office. Our office in Arlington, Virginia was a few miles from the Pentagon, also on fire. Experiencing the horror and uncertainty of that day had a profound impact on me as a person and would really impact my overall leadership.
My boss at the time was Chris Schroeder, and I was able to see how he handled this tragedy that impacted so many American lives. One of the key takeaways I observed was Chris’ display of empathy and perspective. He realized that these terrorist events on American soil impacted each of our lives, and he knew that each one of us was hurting and scared. It is important to know that your leader understands their people and what their needs are.
On that day, the world stopped. As people, and especially as employees, we needed to know that it was okay to be sad. We needed to know it was going to be okay, and we needed to come together as a group to work through our grief and find the balance to keep working.
As we find ourselves in COVID-19, I realize that I am borrowing the lessons I learned from Chris almost two decades ago. Since March 16th, myself and other business leaders have been leading through a pandemic unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. When I think of my leadership at iFrog, it does not start and end with the employees on my staff. I also consider their families; the difficulties of having their children’s schools and programs closed, their spouses at home, and I think of my staff’s family members who have lost their jobs. Ultimately, I want to keep my staff and their families safe. Some consider business to be about taking: taking money, taking time, taking resources, but I think differently. Business is about people. And nothing is more important than people.
Since March 16th, iFrog has adapted from work as a 9-to-5 grind to supporting each other and our partners 24/7. I’ll be honest – we haven’t skipped a beat! We recognized that the “business as usual” mantra does not really apply to COVID-19 and that we needed a new normal. Beyond serving clients, we have dedicated our time building out our marketing technology and national brand. We have adapted our office into a collaboration space while still placing our clients and our people first. We created an entire messaging campaign for clients prioritizing flexibility as businesses shift with the changing pandemic in order to keep their messaging relevant. Our business changed and shifted because we understood the needs of BOTH our clients and our staff. I have imparted on the leadership team that the virus and the ensuing pandemic has been hard on everyone. Part of iFrog’s foundation is taking care of each other and our clients, and we recognize this now more than ever.
For me, it is personally important that our clients and our staff are met with greater flexibility, empathy, and the knowledge that our leadership team is doing more than managing the bottom line. I am constantly texting, emailing, and calling the iFrog Pirates to ensure they and their families are okay. As we’ve moved to communicating over Zoom and over a computer, we’ve created affinity groups to maintain connections between teammates with common interests to chat about things other than work. For myself, I’ve become a big fan of the True Crime group and have really been enjoying our discussions with rigor. I can’t stress enough, business is about people. Short-term business goals may be based around monthly sales goals, but long-term business goals start and end with people.
Once, someone had the audacity to tell me that leadership is not substantive! I will never forget how incorrect that statement is and has always been. It misses the whole point of how important people are to every business. Do things for others and watch how much others do for you. The best and most important part of this is that your business will grow, and you will feel good. Not only that, the people who you are helping will feel good too.
This is a tough time, but we will get through it together. We will get through it and thrive. Life is so much more enjoyable when we are serving people. I’m incredibly proud to be serving all those around me.
If anyone needs anything or just a friend to talk to, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 24/7 @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be a pirate, have a great day and do something today that lets someone know you care! #ifrogmarketing, #ifrogtechnology, #pirates, #PiratesForChange