Monday, March 16, 2020

“Calm, Steady, & Clear-minded”…. A leadership model for challenging times

Here we are in mid-march, 2020 and the entire globe is facing enormous challenges and unknown threats from the spreading Covid-19 virus.  Governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals are struggling to come to grips with this crisis, and growth of confirmed cases and tragic deaths are growing dramatically.  In this context we are watching some political leaders struggle to stay focused on the facts, looking to edit/spin the headlines for political gain, while others are embracing the data of the situation, looking to scientific experts on the topic and are making tough, at times unpopular,  but important and required decisions to slow the spread of the virus in our communities without a single thought of political gain.  This essay IS NOT a message of political critique, but one of looking for leadership models in trying moments; and essay focused on finding a few themes that I am trying to apply myself in the leadership challenges that our company is facing today . Like so many other businesses, Bolthouse Farms is working its way through this crisis and we are trying our best to lead well in times of challenge and accelerating change.  While I know we aren’t getting it all right, I know that the leadership team is working hard to lead the company well, making good decisions quickly and decisively as issues arise.  While doing so, we are trying to remind ourselves to stay “calm, steady, & clear-minded” in the face of amazing challenges.

These three words are a kind of “mantra” for me these days, literally repeating them over in my mind whenever the tension mounts, knowing that for me to be the best leader I can be for this wonderful company, I need to keep these ideas front and center at all times.  I am sure that these three ideas could be helpful to you as well, and hopefully a quick refresher will help you stay focused on the challenges you are facing in your worlds today:

Calm: adj., not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotions.

Steady: adj., regular, even, and continuous in development, frequency, or intensity.

Clear-minded: adj., sensible and think clearly, especially in difficult situations.

Take a moment and reflect on each of these ideas, and it seems so simple.  Each idea makes sense and each adjective would be helpful in this crazy moment.  Then, imagine the idea that we as leaders need to work hard to do all three, at the same time, all the time!  These three simple concepts become superhuman aspirations…. and while certainly a challenge, I do believe it’s what our communities, our families and our businesses need now more than ever.  Here are  a couple of suggestions that I find helpful in my pursuit of “calm, steady, & clear-minded,” and maybe they will be helpful to you:

Ø Get plenty of sleep:  sacrificing sleep, and especially doing it over a few days (or a few weeks) is a recipe for disaster in this pursuit.  Work hard on your sleep patterns and remember that your sleep will not only help with the principles above, it’s also key to a healthy immune system personally.

Ø Slow-down: so much is happening so fast, we need to TRY to slow it down, take a few deep breaths, step outside to gain your composure and stay focused on the challenges and approach each issue and decision as focused and present as possible.

Ø “Aunt Lorraine’s Law”:  For those of you historic readers of my blog, you will have seen me reference a phrase of advice from my dear Aunt Lorraine from when I was a child.  She often said, “William, you can eat anything, if you take SMALL BITES, AND CHEW THOROUGHLY!” While she was probably chastising me at that moment to eat my broccoli, those famous words have never been more powerful or appropriate!

Take your time and reflect on these ideas, and as I said above NOT from a political angle but from a view of how we all can be great leaders in this moment…. leaders that can model the ability to stay “calm, steady and clear-minded” in the face of dynamic challenges!