“That all of them may be one.” – John 17:21
Day 126. Even though I held out hope the governor would grant Kitsap County the opportunity to move into Phase 3, it became apparent that Phase 3 guidelines had been adjusted downward, even prior to his proclamation that no county would move forward until July 28 at the earliest. I do recognize this will make it more challenging for us to operate and, at the very least, balance our expenses with the revenue we might be able to generate; however, Harold Shea has done a great job of proposing a design that still might make it worthwhile, even under these new guidelines (a testament to the continuous effort our team puts forth to find solutions during these challenging times). The rollercoaster ride continues and with each passing week, it intensifies, challenging each of us to remain focused and hopeful. Jim Collins was right, the Stockdale Paradox – striking a balance between hope and the brutal truth of the circumstances – is a critical element in leading through a crisis and persevering as a business or organization (as well as in our own life’s journey).
I realize I am constantly harping on the importance of the mental aspects of coping and thriving through these circumstances, but I feel I cannot emphasize it enough. Angela Lee Duckworth defines grit as the most vital ingredient to success. She breaks down grit into two components: passion and perseverance. I see a lot of both in all of you, but we need to continuously remind ourselves that we are in the middle of a marathon, and the road is filled with holes that can swallow us up if we allow ourselves to fall into them. Last week, Brian Flattum reported from his West Coast operations peer group that the Los Angeles YMCA had to close 22 of their 26 branches after just reopening them. This past weekend, I met with the CEOs from the West Coast group where the CEO of the Los Angeles YMCA described how devastating the process was, sharing how hard it was on his leaders to go through the furlough process again. He also shared that his board of directors is requiring him to build the financial model around a reopening date of January 1, 2021! The look on his face was one of demoralization. I have enjoyed being in that group, and I witnessed the power the group’s support gave Alan that day. It is a great reminder how critical peer and team support is, particularly through adversity; it is also a reminder how critical the strength of any team is in order to withstand the strain we are all facing.
On a number of occasions over these past 18 weeks, I have referenced an article or a TED Talk I have seen on LinkedIn. I have found this platform extremely valuable, finding wisdom and support by hearing from other leaders who share their experiences. It is so powerful to learn what others are doing that may have impact on their business, or the emotional well-being of their team and themselves. This is a great example of how a network can be effective in real time. Information sharing has never been so important. There have been a few takeaways that consistently stand out:
Transparency: In my opinion, this has always been critical for any leader; people see through anyone who is not being authentic. It means you need to take a risk and be vulnerable; you need to share that you do not know some things, that you need input, and that you are not always right. Too often, leaders draw their circle tighter, thinking they want greater control. As many successful leaders point out, though, broadening the circle can often generate more creative thinking, as well as creating opportunities for new leaders to step up.
Team First: Most businesses and organizations have reduced their workforce dramatically. The emotional impact has been hard on the entire organization – both on those who were furloughed as well as those who were asked to continue working. The employees who continue working often experience significant anxiety, feeling guilt or the stress to overachieve. It is so important for everyone who is working to draw closer together, to support one another. It is not uncommon for the team to exhibit factions, because people will gravitate to those who they find support more readily. The team must work hard to avoid this from happening and continue to pull together.
Communication: Leaders have shared that with everyone working remotely, teams have to work harder at staying connected and keeping informed. It is imperative each person on the team carries the responsibility to share information as well as to ask for information if they need it. Teams must share ownership to make communication a top priority. Kris Jensen has done a great job facilitating the use of a new platform for our team – the use of Microsoft Teams has been a good step to keep us connected. Kris has highlighted the many features, including chat, the ability to develop topic-specific channels for each team, and the ability for people to work collaboratively on documents together real time. In addition, Michelle LaRue and the marketing team have worked hard to keep everyone informed with the weekly email updates. Lee Ann Jansen has done a great job utilizing town hall sessions to keep stakeholders connected to our Y during this period, and we have also used videos and online group sessions to keep the members engaged with our Y. I have been proud of our team’s work in this area to keep our Y relevant in our community.
Clarify Vision: Once the majority of our operations shut down, we quickly scrambled to adjust. Child Care continued operating throughout, providing vital services to the families of first responders and healthcare workers. The financial development team did yeoman’s work to keep our mission in front of our members, telling the story how the Y is still delivering critical services in the community, and raising money to support the Y’s work. The operations team focused on preparing us to reopen, adapting our facilities so we could operate under the new safety guidelines. When it became clear we would not be reopening, we shifted to exploring new ways of implementing our core mission. We have continued to provide services for vulnerable populations, and will continue to invest in the virtual experience. It has been very impressive how the team has responded quickly in order to meet the needs presented to us. Under Toko Thompson’s guidance, we have remained vigilant in our efforts to be sustainable. It has been a period of great adjustment, but a testament to the team’s resiliency. We remain focused in our efforts to enable all people to thrive in each season of their lives.
There have been many words used to describe this period, such as challenging, unprecedented, and grueling, but one I hear most often is uncertainty. This past weekend, I watched a TED Talk entitled, “The courage to live with radical uncertainty,” by Shekinah Elmore, an incredible person who has been a cancer patient and is now a cancer doctor. I would highly recommend you watch this TED Talk because it will offer you a great perspective about navigating the challenges we face. For Dr. Elmore, learning she had metastatic breast cancer, that her prognosis was dismal at best, and that she would not be able to pursue her dream of going to med school was, at first, paralyzing. Coming out the other end, though, taught her a great deal about how to navigate such uncertain circumstances. Though we do not face the dire circumstances she faced, we do face daunting times with an uncertain future, which presents tremendous anxiety and stress. Dr. Elmore shares her experience to help others navigate through the dark passage of prognosis and treatment, and it is a message for us as a team: we will get through this, and the way through this is by finding strength from one another.
We are a strong team and we need to understand we need each other to get through this. Stay close and connected. Believe in the strength of the team. Together we are able to accomplish so much more. I know I believe in each of you.