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Survival & Thrival: Lessons Learned, Vol. 3

September 17, 2020 by Kurt Wilkin

As we’ve continued along this journey I call the “COVID coaster,” I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues in my CEO Forums. In these sessions, we strategize, brainstorm, celebrate, and support each other through these crazy times. While those forums are held “behind closed doors,” I try to bring some of our learnings to a broader audience through my Surivival & Thrival articles and weekly conversations on LinkedIn Live.

Recently, I wrote about the second set of LinkedIn Live sessions in Survival & Thrival: Lessons Learned, Vol. 2. This week, I’ll cover five more takeaways from our five most recent sessions! As July turned into August, and the numbers of new infections shot up, the business world was dominated again by uncertainty. Hell, I even caught COVID myself in early August and had to conduct two of the sessions on Zoom!

If you want to view any of the sessions in full, click the links below or head over to the Videos page on my personal website.
 


Episode 11 (July 15) — Alicyn Yarbrough, CEO of A Glimmer of Hope

“The pandemic is a crystallizer—it lets us focus on what is important to us and cut out what is superfluous.”
Alicyn Yarbrough

As the new CEO of A Glimmer of Hope—in that role for just 10 months—Alicyn has been put through the ringer in 2020. Luckily, the Austin-based nonprofit’s team is used to curveballs! With a mission as critical as eradicating poverty in Ethiopia, the team is used to handling crises. Nonprofits face similar challenges to those we discuss every week, and they are driven to succeed. “Our mission is our mission. We relentlessly pursue our goals,” she says. Even with the challenges of fundraising and providing vital services, Alicyn views the pandemic as an opportunity: “Our goal is not to get back to pre-COVID. Our goal is to build on the good and improve; reimagining what we can be.”
 


Episode 12 (July 22) — Chris Watters, CEO of Watters International Realty

“If you had asked me two weeks ago, I’d have said ‘Everything’s amazing!’ But today I’m waking up on two hours of sleep and it’s pretty rough.”
Chris Watters

Chris shared great insight into real-estate markets in Austin and beyond. He had some good info on the process for deferring mortgage payments, which I hope will help a lot of people. But I walked away thinking more about what Chris had to say about team dynamics. Early in the pandemic, Chris’s rock star team doubled down and got shit done. But it’s hard to sprint a marathon. Six months later Chris says, “People are spread incredibly thin; and in chaos, the cracks reveal themselves.” The leadership team is normally united, but is starting to have tense moments. This is understandable given this “COVID coaster”—and I know many others are facing similar issues.
 


Episode 13 (July 29) — Craig Wiley, CEO of Transcend

“COVID will not define executives. Executives will use COVID to define themselves.”
Craig Wiley

As my first guest way back in April and my first repeat guest, Craig’s been a guinea pig for me several times. The first time we talked, Craig said we’re in a “psychological pandemic as much as an economic or health crisis.” Boy, was he right! This time around, his theme was resiliency. In his work with executives across the globe, he started seeing burnout about six weeks in. “The pace they were keeping and the things they were trying to influence were unsustainable,” he says. His work has focused on resiliency and shifting to a longer-term mindset. This includes ensuring executives “rejuvenate themselves, maximize their talent, delegate, and strive for alignment and engagement around strategy. Many hands can move mountains.” Indeed they can!
 


Episode 14 (August 12) — Erik Qualman, Bestselling Author & Motivational Speaker

“Focus can be a habit. You can train yourself to focus better, but it’s not easy.”
Erik Qualman

Erik is a five-time No. 1 bestselling author, digital marketing guru, and motivational speaker. In our conversation, we discussed his previous bestsellers, including Socialnomics and What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube. But the main focus of our conversation was on his new book, The Focus Project, which is hot off the presses. In it, Erik explores the number one trait that successful people share, regardless of industry or title: focus. Having focus is something that we can all work towards, by training ourselves, establishing systems, and giving ourselves a break. “It’s not about going for perfection, it’s about going for progress,” he says. Words to live by!
 


Episode 15 (August 19) — Karla Brandau, CEO of Brandau Power Institute

“We’ve got to revisit the basics of how we relate to people”
Karla Brandau

Karla shared some key insights from her work mentoring millennial managers. During the pandemic, she’s seen shifts in ideas about productivity, and encourages her clients to avoid micromanaging their employees from home. “The best way to encourage productivity and to relate to your team is to trust them! Give assignments and deadlines, then trust them to get it done!” Rather than checking in constantly to make sure they’re working during “work” hours, focus on holding them accountable for getting their work done—whatever the “schedule” may look like. “They may work at 6 a.m. or 10 p.m.” but it shouldn’t matter as long as there’s accountability!
 


Moving Forward

I hope you enjoyed some of my personal COVID “F-up” stories and a few from my CEO forums. The pandemic isn’t just affecting our businesses, it’s causing us to all go a little crazy. Please share your stories—I want to publish more in the coming weeks! I’m also VERY excited about our upcoming guests on LinkedIn Live. Join us on the HireBetter LinkedIn page on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Central!

As I said last week (and many times before that!), this COVID coaster isn’t over yet. You may recall that, back in April, I said the pandemic will end when we are ready for it to end. Meaning that it will end when we are no longer afraid. Maybe there’s a vaccine or maybe we’re simply ready to get back to some form of normalcy. And, right or wrong, in increasing swaths across our country, more and more people are ready for it to be over.

Don’t get me wrong, the COVID coaster is barreling ahead—and we’re in for many more ups, downs, and loop-de-loops in the coming weeks and months. But we will get through it. Keep your head up, and LET’S GO!

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