Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

I know.  This is a leadership blog and I’m no doctor.  Yet, I think an important quality in a leader is having a “believe people have good intent” mindset.

Now this is not for the extreme cases of people who think this is just a conspiracy or actively believe that this is no big deal or actively believe they don’t care who is impacted.  This is for the rest of the majority.  Please please please be careful with the “cancel everything and stay inside your home…if not, you should be shamed”.  Aside from this building off my last post about public shaming (which was written a while ago before this all went down), let me highlight scenarios:

  • Work From Home:  Yes, if you have this option, please use it.  However, I think of people that work at food establishments, the grocery store, the bank, the gas station, etc.  There is no work from home.  Sure, those with financial privilege can say, just don’t go to work.  Not if you are someone that is living pay check to pay check – which is a huge portion of our country.  I support social distancing…let’s just not actively shame people who can’t make the same choices despite their desire.
  • Conference/Event/5K/Gala/etc not cancelled yet.  I know many organizers that are hurting badly right now.  Often, these are a fundraising events.  Sure, certain companies have the financial ability to cancel one year and not be significantly impacted.  For others, the deposit on the hotel/food might be majority of their funds. Many hotel contracts do not let organizations out easily – this is often a sunk cost the minute the contract is signed.  Organizers are having to understand their ability to financially cancel – what is possible in the contracts given a national disaster – and possibly risk closing based on this decision.  This may seem extreme but many non-profits are not sitting on a pile of reserves – they may not live pay check to pay check but they may live event to next event.  I am really proud of how many organizations I see offering a full refund and putting people first.  The timeline might not be fast enough for you – but this is changing so quickly, I believe they have the best of intent and trying to do what’s right for as many as possible.
  • These “kids” don’t get it:   Someone highlighted this as health privilege (people not caring what happens to those in the more concerning segments) and while I can understand that viewpoint…and may even fall into it occasionally as well. I want to highlight another angle.  Today my 15 year old son asked me “if you can’t work mom, will we become homeless?”.  Now we have discussions constantly (I have really tried to keep this the norm in his teenage years) but I realized in that moment he doesn’t get it.  Nor would I have at that age.  I knew we were not wealthy growing up – but I didn’t understand how much savings should be in the bank for emergencies.  I didn’t understand the crushing weight of having others need you to financially support them.  And I don’t think I want him to fully understand this at 15.  So we talked about the general rules of 3 months of salary in savings but how some people do not get paid enough to do that.  We talked about how long our family could go without a salary before things would significantly change (sell a house, etc).  My son and daughter are 15 & 13 – they are sad about sports and friends but they don’t have a “missing out” feeling. I read a post written by a MSU faculty member about how sad they felt for the graduating class – high school kids are going to miss their senior prom, high school kids are missing their final sports events, high school kids are missing their final spring break, college kids are trying to interview for jobs, college kids are going to miss their shot at march madness, all kids might miss their graduation ceremonies, etc.  I would have been rebellious, angry and sad as a kid.  Obviously, there is a bigger lesson here and priorities, but cut them some slack.
  • Now the one that has me most triggered and in tears: “you are going to feel like shit when you kill your …”.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that my first son’s anniversary of his death is this week on March 17th.  First, I understand the desire for a false sense of security – If I do this (not travel, stay home, etc), I’ll be safe.  There is too much we don’t know about this virus to assume that.  I tried desperately in 2004-2006 (while pregnant three times) to find a false sense of security – to guarantee a result. You can improve odds, but at the end of the day, you are not in control.  I didn’t cause my son to die – even when I want to blame myself every single day.  I think about the people that do try to just survive and support feeding their children, what they will live with if/when someone they love dies.  Trust me, no one else needs to lay guilt or shame on people, we are really good at doing that to ourselves.  The testing is not available – and the symptoms are not always obvious – so any one of us could easily infect someone else that dies.  Whether you travel or not, whether you go to the gym, whether you go to the grocery store, whether you order an amazon package, etc…now if you know you are infected and doing these things anyway; well, I’ll refrain from saying what I think further.

So what am I doing during this time, lots of things:

    • As much as possible, we will stay in the house.  We did not hoard toilet paper or food, so we will have to leave occasionally.
    • When we do leave, we wipe/wash our hands constantly with each interaction and minimize touching anything as much as possible.
    • We are creating a list of home projects (hanging things, cleaning out the pantry, etc) to do something each day.
    • Focus on eating and working out to stay healthy
    • Rescheduling most doctor appts that were not urgent
    • Feeling grateful my school district is going to attempt online learning this next week for kids (if not, we will create book clubs, etc).  Yes, they will still have gaming time too.
    • I’m cancelling upcoming courses (how far out is still to be determined).  I’ll be offering rescheduled dates later or full refunds.
    • I’m cancelling all speaking events (which most are being cancelled anyway) and offering to assist them as they figure out how to proceed forward.
    • I’m offering to my clients remote coaching/mentoring (or rescheduling or refund).
    • I’m accepting “can we reschedule our private course with TBD?” requests
    • I’m cancelling vacations – including one which was for the full family (my mom, brother, sister, etc).
    • I’m canceling significant projects we were considering (deck and bar area).
    • I’m canceling events such as 5ks and refusing a refund (any bit to help them).
    • I’m checking in with friends (especially in airline, hotel and event industries) as layoffs begin to be announced
    • I’m calculating how many months can I go with no work (most of my work is tied to travel – onsite trainings and coaching). So I can start to figure out what my alternative options are if this lasts a while.
    • I’m going to use the time to update facilitation course and a few other misc work tasks that never got time
    • I’m going to setup some zoom/skype calls.  I need social interaction!!!!
    • And I’m going to leverage my new domestic skill of crocheting 🙂

This time is not easy for anyone but as with everything in life – some have more privilege than others.  Let’s not just shame but be curious why that person might be making a different choice, that may just lead to finding a way you could help.

We will get through this.

Always.

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