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Survival & Thrival: Lessons Learned, Vol. 2

September 2, 2020 by Kurt Wilkin

Way, way, way back in April—damn, that seems forever ago—I visited with my friend Craig Wiley on my very first LinkedIn Live. He warned us that the pandemic was not going to be a sprint, but a marathon, a really, really, long marathon with no end in sight. I sure didn’t want to believe him at the time. But boy, was he right! As the days and weeks have turned into months and quarters, we suddenly find ourselves almost six months in with no real end in sight!

In our CEO Forums, we’ve gone from optimistic to burned out to rejuvenated and back to burned out (I call it the “COVID Coaster!”). Luckily, we’ve had each other to lean on through everything. We’ve helped each other navigate the shifting sands of the pandemic, pivot our businesses, and just flat-out survive the stress we’re all facing on a daily basis. AND support our families and our teams as best we can. EVERYONE is feeling some level of anxiety in their personal or professional lives.

To help bring the learnings and support from our CEO Forums to a broader audience, I started hosting weekly chats on LinkedIn Live. Each week, my guests have authentically discussed their successes and struggles through the pandemic. I’ve been personally grateful to learn from such insightful and inspirational leaders. Hopefully you are getting as much out of these as I have!

Back in June, I recapped the first five sessions in What We’ve Learned So Far. Think of this one as “Volume 2,” recapping the five LinkedIn Live sessions that followed. If you want to view any of the sessions in full, simply click the links below, or head over to the Videos page of my website.

Episode 6 (June 3) with Jill Tupper, Leadership Innovator

“People were already overwhelmed before the pandemic. Now we’re dealing with this exponentially” – Jill Tupper

In her role as keynote speaker and executive coach Jill is well-positioned to help CEOs adapt to the shifting landscape of COVID-19—helping leaders overcome feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted. In her spare time, she’s a triathlete and just a general badass. She compared 2020 to “an Ultra IronMan that we didn’t sign up for, didn’t train for, and there’s no finish line in sight!” She sees a common thread among successful businesses: innovative leadership from the top. The companies leveraging adaptive ideas are the ones surviving and thriving in the pandemic.

Episode 7 (June 10) with Ryan Sanders, Co-Founder and COO of BambooHR

“The importance of onboarding well is that if the employee starts right, it is easier for them to stay right.” – Ryan Sanders

As co-founder and COO of BambooHR, Ryan is at the cutting edge of hiring practices. Under normal circumstances, onboarding is a huge part of making new hires feel welcome, understand expectations, and understand their roles. COVID-19 has obviously changed things and made onboarding more complicated—no first-day meetings or new-hire lunches. Ryan’s team has grown during the pandemic and he was worried that new employees wouldn’t feel welcomed. But his team adapted, sending notes, gift boxes and company laptops to new hires at their homes. Little things make a huge difference in an era where traditional onboarding simply isn’t possible.

Episode 8 (June 17) with Kit Rich, Founder and CEO of KICHGO

“Stress challenges you to be a better person. It asks you to rise to the occasion.” – Kit Rich

Kit is a personal trainer to CEOs and the stars, even joining famous clients on tour to help them stay healthy on the road. From Kit, I learned a number of hacks to adapt a healthier lifestyle. But my key learning was about stress and the role it plays in our lives. When you feel stress – and we all do these days – it’s important to notice it, acknowledge it, and try to understand it. “Try to understand why you’re feeling stress and adjust accordingly,” she says. Being mindful doesn’t just mean meditating periodically, it means taking time to understand the root causes of your stress.

Episode 9 (June 24) with Kelli Thomason, Director of Operations at HireBetter

“We’ve got to have grace and courteous good will. Be human! Understand the challenges others are facing—this is hard for everyone!“ – Kelli Thomason

Kelli is HireBetter’s Director of Operations, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that every team should have a Kelli! In our two-part episode, we discussed the COVID-19 job market from both the employee and employer perspectives. Candidates should remain focused on their goals, growth, and long-term fit in interviews. It is vitally important to understand a company’s culture and vice versa. When interviewing, ask questions like: “How do you celebrate successes?” and “How do you learn from failures?” These questions, and their answers, will provide a window into company culture. From both sides of the (virtual) interview table, it’s important to remember that these are unprecedented times, and people and companies are facing challenges they never expected!

Episode 10 (July 10) with Abe Paul, VP of Investor Relations at Celanese: A Conversation on Race in the Workplace

“Increasing diversity is not a quick fix, it’s a lifelong commitment. It must be part of your purpose or your values. If it is, then you can build programs and take the right steps.” – Abe Paul

My friend Abe Paul and I joined forces for a powerful conversation about race, racism, and diversity in the workplace. Candidly, it was impossible to limit the discussion to the workplace because we need to bring our whole selves to work. It was insightful, powerful, and frankly an at-times uncomfortable conversation, but one worth having. As a white man who wants to believe that racism exists “somewhere else,” it was hard to hear so many stories of racism all around us. I appreciate Abe for helping shine a light on racism in the business world so we can make changes. I encourage you to reach out to others with a learner mindset, seek to understand, and explore ways you can improve your slice of the world.

Moving Forward

As I say in every Survival & Thrival column, we’re not out of this yet. But with my own battle with COVID-19 behind me, I’m confident that we can continue to learn from and lean on each other as we move forward.

I’ve got some amazing LinkedIn Live guests coming up over the next few weeks, including Molly Hunt, CEO of world-renown coaching and communication firm Ty Boyd, and Rocket Fuel author Mark Winters. Join us every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Central.

We’re all facing upheaval and uncertainty. Please continue to reach out to others and offer support and compassion. And I encourage you to maintain an offensive mentality. After all, it’s not just about survival, it’s about thrival! (See what I did there?) Stay safe. Stay strong. Let’s Go!

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