How is your company performing right now? How is your team handling challenges? How are you doing?
Are you hitting a slump?
Do you know you are not alone?
Aisha Ahmad, the highly acclaimed Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto and global crisis expert, recently tweeted about something called the “six-month wall.” She gave a name to a phenomenon many individuals and businesses have been experiencing and a face to what we can expect moving forward. In case you missed the thread, here it is:
The 6 month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal,” but might now feel like we're running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?
First, in my experience, this is a very normal time to struggle or slump. I always hit a wall 6 months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone. The desire to "get away" or "make it stop" is intense. I've done this many times, and at 6 months, it's like clockwork.
This time, our crisis is global and there is nowhere to run. That's OK. I've had to power through that 6 month hump before and there is life on the other side. Right now, it feels like we[‘re] looking ahead at [a] long, dark wintery tunnel. But it's not going to be like that.
Rather, this is our next major adaptation phase. We've already re-learned how to do groceries, host meetings, and even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get shorter and colder, we need to be ready to innovate again.
This is my first pandemic, but not my first 6 month wall. So, what can I share to help you? First, the wall is real and normal. And frankly, it's not productive to try to ram your head through it. It will break naturally in about 4-6 weeks if you ride it out.
Of course, there are things we have to do. Work. Teach. Cook. Exercise. But just don't expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet you[r] obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+.
Also, don't be afraid that your happiness [and] creativity are gone for the rest of this marathon. Not true. I assure you that it will soon break [and] you will hit a new stride. But today, roll with it. Clear away less challenging projects. Read a novel. Download that meditation app.
Frankly, even though we cannot physically leave this disaster zone, try to give yourself a mental or figurative "shore leave". Short mental escapes can offer respite and distance from the everyday struggle. Take more mental "leave" until you clear the wall.
In my experience, this 6 month wall both arrives and dissipates like clockwork. So I don't fight it anymore. I don't beat myself up over it. I just know that it will happen [and] trust that the dip will pass. In the meantime, I try to support my mental [and] emotional health.
Take heart. We have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months, with resourcefulness [and] courage. We have already found new ways to live, love, and be happy under these rough conditions. A miracle [and] a marvel. This is hard proof that we have what it takes to keep going.
So, dear friends, do not despair of the 6 month wall. It's not permanent, nor will it define you in this period of adversity. Trust that the magic that helped you through the first phase is still there. Take a breath [and] a pause. You'll be on the other side in no time.
She gives great advice on how an individual can cope and adapt during this trying period, but how does your organization get through this time?
Prioritize mental wellness within your organization, using company policies to foster a healthy work-life balance. Show employees the same grace you should be giving yourself right now. Go easy on them if they take a little longer to complete tasks (or need more direction when doing so) and ensure they are setting aside time for rest to avoid burnout.
Try not to compare employees or teams. Understand that they will each have unique challenges and barriers. Taking the time to understand and work through these challenges will yield better results than trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach or pitting them against each other.
Remember, you will not need to let off the gas permanently. The goal is just to get through this very temporary slump over the next month or so by slowing down enough right now to do greater things soon, like an athlete resting up for a major competition.
Honestly evaluate how your teams are doing and where the company stands overall. There is no shame in admitting that sales or revenue numbers are shy of where they should be for the year. Remember Aisha Ahmad’s words when she says, “We have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months, with resourcefulness [and] courage.” Understand that everyone is doing their best – business leadership included.
Adjust short-term and long-term goals as needed based on current metrics. Get buy-in from multiple levels across various teams when resetting goals to ensure everyone is on board. Set achievable milestones companywide to increase your chances of staying on track with these new objectives and goals.
Celebrating together may be more difficult with employees working remotely but recognizing progress and rewarding achievements is still important. Celebrate wins, even the “small” ones, as a team. Look for ways to encourage employees and reignite their passion if it feels like it is waning. Ask them what they need and really listen. The company may not be able to give employees everything they are looking for right now, but sometimes just asking and engaging in an ongoing conversation is enough to make them feel supported.
Talk to the Experts
In the same way that professionals use mentors to educate and guide them, you can consult with someone who has been here before. Consider bringing in a fractional CRO, fractional CFO, or a business coach to provide the big picture perspective needed for your organization to push through this slump and poise the company for success afterward. Remember, bringing in an expert now can help defend your business against the next disruption and lead future strategy shifts as well. An investment in your business now will continue to be an investment moving forward.
Embrace an Antifragile Mindset
For those not familiar with the concept, “antifragility” allows systems and organizations to thrive from disruptions, failures, stressors, attacks, shocks, volatility, and distractions. Antifragile businesses will think differently now to look for opportunities for growth on the other side of this wall. They embrace uncertainty and nonlinear progress, learn from suffering, are not afraid of making mistakes, resist the allure of streamlining everything, and confidently believe in their future – and your company can too!
Unsure how to get started? Lean on experts who know how to turn market disruptions into strategic growth to get out of this pandemic stronger.