As I entered my second year of leading the sales team at Arpco Valves & Controls I was feeling pretty excited. I was still washing the champagne out of my hair from having the best year the company had ever had in 2019. This new year had nothing but prospects and promise written all over it. I felt like I had my footing as a manager, like I finally had the right team, and I was ready to hit the ground running.
I still remember what it was like sitting in the safety meeting that morning. I was listening to Gary talk about what kind of impact this Corona Virus could possible have on us. As I scanned the room I was reading several faces and represented was a range of emotions. I saw some people who didn’t appear to be affected at all. Some looked concerned that this may be a sign of times. Then there was me. At the moment I didn’t realize that if life were an airplane this would be the moment that you would hear over the loud speaker, “Looks like we may be experiencing some turbulence.” Still on that plane a few weeks later and it would have sounded less like calm voice overhead and more like panic of everyone on the plane screaming WE’RE GOING DOWN. I know that seems dramatic, but everyone who has been shopping for toilet paper in the past month or two can sympathize with how quickly things escalated. On top of a global pandemic, we had a devastating blow to the oil and gas market. One that was not easily understood by the waves of people watching as their jobs evaporated overnight.
So what’s on the agenda? Go home, get same amount of work done, to a non existent market & DON’T PANIC… DON’T PANIC… DON’T PANIC!
Doesn’t sound too hard, right? Pft! Yeah, right! I was trying to keep it together. I really wanted to hide somewhere and cry. Or quit. Not going to lie, that crossed my mind. I arrogantly mused to myself that I could find another job that maybe had only 1 of the 2 disasters stacked against it. Seems like a smart idea, go job hunting while the world as we know it is imploding So here we are… week WHATEVER of the “shelter in place” and we as a company are staying afloat. I know, I think I am surprised as you are. So what did we do? We didn’t panic. We made plans quickly and had every person in the room (6ft apart) that needed to be there to make the smartest and fastest decisions that needed to be made.
I was online reading linked-in, facebook, basically anywhere else people could post. I watched as panic began to really take over. It didn’t happen until about week 3 after Arpco was already working from home. By that time I was already settled and getting into the swing of things at home. We put into place rotating start times & kept the bare minimum working in office. This may seem like I am simply recounting the steps, but take a moment to really think about how Arpco took action. Arpco was working from home almost 3-weeks before anyone else. Can you imagine being a small business owner and making the decision ahead of all surrounding business’? Would you say my company was acting out of fear? I would say it was a place of courage. What would happen if you had a pilot anticipate turbulence ahead. Instead of asking everyone to sit down & buckle up they came over the loud speaker and stated, “Expect our flight to be delayed. I’m rerouting to avoid turbulence.” How many angry passengers would you see reviews from if the pilot cowered in the face of turbulence? I am not discounting the few passengers that will grumble either way, or a handful more that might freeze in fear of the impending bumpy ride. Truth be told though, enduring the turbulence and staying the course is the most effective route. I know I am getting a little deep into the metaphor, but I really feel strongly that I would rather have the pilot who knows they can safely navigate the turbulence more safely for me than a pilot who doesn’t even have the confidence in themselves to stay the course. I’m realizing I have the confident pilots leading me. Thank God for leadership that has the sense to remove fear from decision making.
I encourage each and every person to look around at the way companies are currently handling themselves. Watch how well their employees are being cared for and respected. Watch how each leader navigates the UNCHARTED territories that we are living in today. Look for FAITH over FEAR as they lead. As for myself, I am safely buckled with my seat in the upright position and my tray top up. I’m prepared for the turbulence ahead. I’m confident in who is at the helm. I expect to land safely and on time. I have faith in my pilot not fear of the turbulence ahead.