Coronavirus | Leadership / Management

Stay calm … and stay extraordinary

Sometimes, when you need it most, the perfect message finds you.

In the span of just three days recently, it happened twice.

I was OD'ing on coronavirus coverage and freaking myself out pretty good when, on March 17, a note from leadership guru Patrick Lencioni showed up in my inbox. It was headlined, "A few thoughts for leaders and managers."

"Regardless of your situation," Lencioni wrote, "I offer these three simple recommendations."

"First, be exceedingly human. By that, I mean that you should demonstrate your concern for the very real fears and anxieties that your people are experiencing, not only professionally and economically, but socially and personally. Even though you don’t have definitive answers to all of their questions, don’t let that keep you from listening to them and empathizing with their fears. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, you should not be hesitant to share your own concerns with your people. They want to know that they can relate to you and that they are not alone in their concerns.

"Second, be persistent. This is not a time to hold back. Send people updates and regular communication, even if there is not a lot of new information and the message is largely personal. No one will look back at this time and say, 'My manager was so annoying with all the encouraging e-mails checking in on me.' When people are isolated, over-communication is more important than ever.

"Finally, be creative. Try new things. Call semi-regular video-conference meetings that allow employees to not only talk about work, but to share their experiences dealing with this situation. Heck, you can have them share movies and games and other tools that they are finding to be helpful with their families and invite them to tell stories about what is going on in their worlds. Crises provide an opportunity for people to come to know one another and establish bonds that will endure long after the crisis is over."

Great advice. A little empathy, humanity, and transparency go a long way.

Then, two days later my boss, MACPA President and CEO Tom Hood, posted this video summary of the abbreviated 2020 Maryland General Assembly session. He ended with this:

"While we’re fighting this virus, we’re also fighting another virus, and I would call this the 'fear virus' — just as lethal and just as contagious. As humans, we’re kind of like velcro for negativity and teflon for positivity. If there’s ever been a time for us as CPAs and as a profession to exhibit strong leadership in our communities, this would be that time.

"This comes from our friend, futurist Dan Burrus: The last lesson in his Anticipatory Organization learning system is a lesson called 'Choose to be Extraordinary.' There are a whole lot of things we can’t control in the world right now. Let’s focus on the things we can control, and the things we can be certain about. You can control your attitude and your response to this fear virus. What can we be doing together to provide hope and inspiration to our community?

"There are a whole lot of things happening at the federal and state level, and we’ll continue to advocate for them. And those resources are going to have to be interpreted, in many cases, and ultimately many of them will probably flow through the tax system — which all of you are experts at. So let’s look at this and say, 'What would an extraordinary person in my situation do right now?'

"Let’s choose to be extraordinary and show Maryland how this profession can make a huge impact as experts in the language of business."

Watch Tom's video here:

Man, I needed that. I needed both of those pieces of advice.

Stay calm, folks.

Stay home.

And stay extraordinary.


Bill Sheridan