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Never Waste A Good Crisis

“Never waste a good crisis.”

He said it, and at first, I thought it sounded insensitive, maybe even offensive. My Dad, former CEO of Simcom, a flight simulator training company, led the organization through the crisis of 911 and in mid-March he shared advice with me as the coronavirus pandemic was sweeping across our world.

This insight he shared with me has become vivid and has shifted my perspective these past few weeks, and I want to share with you as well…so here you go:

Never waste a good crisis.

There are multiple dimensions to this advice – habits, culture, innovation and future preparation.

The first dimension is related to habits. Each one of us would admit, if we were willing to be honest, that as individuals, families and businesses we have bad habits or commitments that weigh us down. Let me give you a few examples…

Perhaps as the CEO of a consulting company you have seen that what is normally offered in 5 days can be done just as effectively in 2, but the team has been resistant to try it;

You may have been wanting to change a service model or double down on delivery or digital offerings for your business, but your leaders haven’t been listening --- guess what? They are listening now!

Maybe for you, there are leadership qualities that you have been wanting to focus on, and now working from home affords you some capacity to diligently work on them.

Whatever the context for you – in a season of crisis there is major disruption. Disruption is an amplifier of growth.

Take the moment, make the decision, shift the focus – use this uncontrollable crisis as a chance to bring good and health and new focus to yourself or your organization.

The second dimension is related to culture. Crisis is a chance to develop and enhance the internal culture in your company or household. We will all remember the people who showed up for us, encouraged us, stayed connected to us and gave us grace.

As a leader, don’t underestimate the power of encouragement, appreciation and flexibility in this season.

Don’t disappear – show up and show up often for your people to ensure they feel encouraged, appreciated and understood.

The third dimension is related to innovation. If innovation was a flower, crisis is fertilizer. Crisis creates a disruption that, if we are intentional to open our eyes, will allow us to see opportunity and creativity faster and more vividly than normal.

Related or not related to your business, ask questions like

“What pain exists that would make life easier if it were removed?”

“What need do I have that is currently not being met?”

“What is a new way to meet it?”

Ask the questions, open your eyes and see the opportunity that is glimmering through the dark clouds of the challenging times.

Finally, the fourth dimension is related to future preparation.

Pay attention.

This isn’t our first crisis…and it most likely will not be our last. Pay attention to the details happening around you.

How are different industries responding?

Who will rise and who will fall because of this crisis?

What steps would you need to take if you were driving the ship of your business through crisis?

What steps have you taken that you wish you hadn’t in the past few weeks?

Write it all down. I have a “Crisis” tab in my One Note where I am keeping track of my observations and thoughts to my future self for when the next crisis comes.

I don’t think any of us would have asked for this crisis. Reality is there are many challenging and painful parts. The other reality is that there is opportunity. Opportunity lies quietly within any challenge – poised and ready to help us grow and endure if we choose to accept it.

So, let’s not waste this crisis. Instead, may we be leaders who break the bad habits and welcome the healthier versions of our companies and selves, invest in culture and show up for those around us, keeping our eyes wide open to new innovations and future thinking to prepare us for when we are in a similar season of opportunity.


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