For most of us the phrase, “social distancing” didn’t exist in our vocabulary until the past month. Now it’s become, among other things, our reality. I’d like to introduce another concept to consider while building businesses in this challenging time – business distancing.
Much like social distancing is about keeping a safe distance from others to reduce the chances of infection, business distancing is about taking a step back to avoid getting swept up in all the challenges and missing the progress you are making. Some of us are in building mode, some in survival mode, but we’re all in some sort of wartime mode. It’s business unusual and progress is going to feel a little unusual too.
I’m grateful and quite fortunate to be in a business that is considered essential and is part of helping solve challenges created by COVID-19. That has kept me busy, real busy. In addition to running day-to-day operations, we find ourselves meeting more frequently to ensure solid communication while working from home, checking in with employees more frequently, and monitoring rapidly changing scenarios for our teams and customers.
Many of you are purely in survival mode – having to make extremely fast and difficult decisions, managing stress and situations that you’ve never experienced before nor thought remotely possible. You are running all day trying to take care of everyone around you – employees, customers, vendors and your family. It’s hard, emotional work that takes its toll, quickly.
It’s wartime and it’s hard. I know at the end of every day, I’m completely exhausted, and got to thinking more about why that is. Yes, it’s busy. Yes, it’s stressful. Yes, it’s hard. But we all can agree that’s really not all that different from what we are used to. So what is it?
It’s not just how hard we are working, it’s that we are too close.Tweet
When I started my first business at the age of 22, and inevitably hit my first crisis, my mentor at the time gave me some solid advice. Like many great mentors, it was not the golden nugget of wisdom I thought I needed at the time (ie., tell me how to get out of this mess) but it was the right advice. Here’s what he said:
“The next time you close your office, I want you to pull the key out of the door and step back. Look at it, like really look at it. Remind yourself that you are building something, and it’s happening even if it doesn’t feel like it. Appreciate the process and the results you have created so far.”
As many of us throw ourselves into work to distract ourselves from all that’s going on, or in many cases, as a result of what is going on, it’s easy to lose sight that you are making meaningful progress. So my advice (that I’m taking myself) is to take a step back and distance yourself from your business. To take a moment each day or at minimum at the end of the week to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made. And do the same for your teams and the entire company.
Think of it like mindfulness for your business.Tweet
I’m not sugarcoating the fact that some businesses are facing real risk. Nor am I suggesting that taking a step back magically solves real problems. The reality is that there are things out of your control, but that shouldn’t be the measurement of your progress. Even if your business is struggling, your effort is keeping you in the game. Your effort matters. It’s being noticed by your employees, customers, vendors, friends, neighbors and family. You may feel massively unproductive, but you made progress. You may feel defeated, but inside this week there were small wins, not the least of which is that you showed up to keep fighting.
So, if you are willing to distance yourself to maintain safety for others, let’s try to do the same for our businesses. Give yourself and your teams permission to take a step back and celebrate what you are doing, to appreciate what you are actually accomplishing every day in this tremendously difficult environment, and to use that as fuel for tomorrow’s next battle.
I’ll see you in the trenches.