This has been one of those stare-at-the-keyboard days. When there are so many things to get done, it’s hard to know where to start. Climate. COVID-19. Black Lives Matter. Each of them an impossibly enormous challenge, demanding each of us to act. But what does it mean to take meaningful action, as one individual? Even as one company?
Taken alone, any one of those challenges is so vast in scale, it’s hard to see (or perhaps even to imagine) comprehensive solutions. Look closer, and they only get more complex, because they’re so interwoven with one another. So at the very time when our personal resilience is exhausted, when there is no slack at all left in our lives or our organizations, what are we to do at least to play some small part in solutions? And how much must each of us do?
We’re seeing many of our clients wrestle with these questions, and the dialogues, discussions, and debates often erode yet further those clients’ capacity to make meaningful contributions. Following are five pieces of advice we’re offering to them (and now to you) as you consider how you and your organization can commit to change, progress, and solidarity.
Start by Showing Leadership
Start by taking personal action.
That’s right, the work ahead, long as it is, requires you to take personal action. COVID-19 has had devastating effects on countless communities and people. If you’re among those privileged to feel grateful for this ‘great pause,’ what will you change in your life as we begin the long work of recovery and renewal? Will you retain your newly found, smaller environmental footprint? Will you shop with local, community merchants who need your support now, more than ever? Will you continue to read, learn about, and act on systemic racism?
Even at this level, there’s so much to do. Nobody expects you to be perfect, but each of us can do better. Choose a place to start, an issue to support, a group to join, a difference you can make, and be that change. Every little bit really does count.
Assess Your Capacity for Impact
Some of us are in positions that provide more leverage, more space for leadership. Perhaps you lead a company or hold an elected office, or perhaps you simply occupy a privileged position in your community. It’s fair and right that more is expected of us. What’s your capacity for positive impact? Does your company have the resources to do more? How much more? Can you quantify it? You might start by looking at the Business of Wellbeing––a guide produced by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, to which we at Junxion contributed.
That can feel troublingly open-ended, so here’s a question that’s useful to consider—one we draw from our work with clients helping them articulate their purpose, vision, and mission: What’s the ceiling of your accountability? No one organization or individual is going to solve these vast challenges, though we all have roles to play. Defining the scope of that role is your starting point. Ask your staff what they expect, and to what they can commit. Ask customers and other external stakeholders what they expect.
Communicate your Commitments
Next, communicate your commitments to your staff and stakeholders. If you cannot meet their expectations or demands, explain why. These are big, important issues; you owe your stakeholders the courtesy of insight into limits they can’t see, or constraints they may not know.
For some stakeholders, your best efforts will not be viewed as enough. Some will be disappointed or frustrated—even angry. This is not a reason to back off your commitments. Ongoing learning—including or especially from critical friends—may not be easy, but it’s imperative. Your receptivity to constructive criticism and your responsiveness to feedback will make a significant contribution to your progress.
You must also report on your progress, because best intentions aren’t enough. It’s impact that matters. As you learn what’s working, share it (so others can replicate it) and do more of it. As you learn what’s not working, share that too (so others don’t bother trying it) and do less of it.
Lend Your Capacity to Bigger Efforts
Rather than duplicating efforts that may be done by others in your community, these large issues are ideal places for collaboration. Some significant, regional, national, and international campaigns have emerged of late. Join them.
The phenomenal resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, campaigns, and actions in the past few weeks has been incredible. Actions you and your company might take are easy to find online. Get involved. The COVID-19 crisis is only beginning to unfold; the economic impacts will be felt for years—and our recovery is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to renew our economies. Again, get involved.
Honour the People Involved
Be open, accessible and receptive to ideas and input.
Keep in mind that many on your team will now be well-read on these issues and hold a strong opinion on how you and your organization should act. They’ll also be variously equipped to discuss their ideas, whether due to their age, their education and training, their professional and lived experience, and many other factors. Incumbent on leadership is the need to be open, accessible and receptive.
Of course, you should not forget to honour yourself, as well. We wrote recently of how COVID-19 forced us to confront our fragility: frustration, anxiety and anger are perfectly human reactions. It’s essential that we first resource ourselves. This should not be an afterthought or a low priority. Health and wellness are rights for each of us, no matter our roles and positions. And by resourcing ourselves, we’ll do better on this important work.
One more thing…. These are not issues that can be solved with half measures. They’re existential threats to lives and livelihoods. They require urgent, massive action. The opportunity for you (and for us) is to step up as boldly as we can. What are we confident doing? Is that enough? What can we imagine doing? Might that be possible? And how can we get there from here?…
Let’s Be Audacious, Together….
Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. You can reach him via [email protected].