Retail Observer

June 2020

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 41 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM JUNE 2020 42 A t the time of this writing, we are sheltering in place around the world, practicing social distancing and trying our best in a global pandemic. In years to come, we will have this as a marker and a point of reference: how did you deal with the pandemic? How was your work affected? Your family? We all have the opportunity to learn from this while it's actually happening so that we can use what we learn about how we want to live and to work. Friend and colleague, Andrew Hollo, in his video series "Beyond Lockdown" rightly suggests that as leaders we need to pay close attention to our language. When we are describing the time we are in and the ways we are considering how to respond. Words like emergency, crisis, lockdown, and militaristic language of war, creates a particular mindset about how we think about and then behave. Instead, he suggests, we can take the pandemic seriously (there are crisis-related, emergency-response tactics we need to use; quarantine helps flatten the curve), while also seeing the opportunity to learn from what's happening. It's been interesting to be in conversation with many of my clients in the past few months. Some have had the hard conversations for layoffs, furloughs or stand-by. Some have asked for volunteers, early retirement, a willingness to reduce work hours. Many are instituting urgent work-from-home policies and creating digital and virtual ways of doing their work. Because I have worked with healthcare organizations for a long time, the first few weeks of the U.S. response to COVID-19 felt a lot like trauma therapy: there were tears, fear, doubts, exhaustion. It was hard. But there were also surprising insights. Stories we thought were true about our work, our work processes, and our work colleagues were not necessarily true. Some teams were excited to find they could institute more flexible work hours and conditions. Some people who had romanticized what it might be like to work from home got really clear, really quickly, that that's not what they want or like! Some leaders were surprised by how their teams pulled together, and others were dismayed at how they fell apart. The truth is that your company culture exists whether you've been intentional or accidental about it. Teams who've taken the time to invest in their relationships and trust and clarity have been able to draw from that 'bank account' to utilize what they need in times of crisis or emergency when everything just seems so strange and unusual. Teams with high trust can reprioritize quickly, they give each other the benefit of the doubt, they step up and go above and beyond because they are united in their efforts to do the right thing in times of change and stress. In ordinary times (whatever that is!), it's hard to convince leaders that taking time to be intentional about their culture is as important as other business initiatives or needs, but those leaders who do are indeed reaping the benefits of that attention and work. Their teams are resilient, flexible, strong, united, and an emergency or extraordinary change brings all of this into clear relief. What are you learning about your business and team? Where have you shown up strongly? Where are the gaps that need your attention moving forward? Don't wait to build the founda- tion that will create strength and resilience. Don't wait. HOW WE LEARN ABOUT OUR COMPANY CULTURE IN TIMES OF EMERGENCY OR CRISIS Libby Wagner Culture Coach RO Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain profit cultures.

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