One of the challenges of the COVID virus is convincing people that it is real. There are people who have been voluntarily sheltering in place for a month now, others who are still running around as if nothing is different and many somewhere in between. Part of the variance is because the virus is intangible – unlike Pearl Harbor or 9-11 or other tragedies where everyone could see an immediate impact.
Learn from this experience and remember it the next time you need to make a change in your organization. Business guru John Kotter wrote a whole book on creating “a sense of urgency” and describes it as the first step in a change effort. How can you, as a leader, create a sense of urgency among your staff when the threat is invisible?
Remember what has worked to convince you now – and understand how scientific facts, emotional stories or the growing chorus of voices sounding the alarm can be used to accelerate a change in behavior. You’ve likely received dozens of COVID-themed emails lately – pay attention to which ones stood out for you and what made others annoying. Be consciously aware of what gestures were meaningful and what tactics helped you become ready to radically change your behavior. Make notes on the kinds of information you wish you had and that which was most useful – in the beginning, middle and once again when you return to your workplace.
Hopefully, you won’t be going through another pandemic and quarantine anytime soon, but the principles apply to most change efforts. You can’t wait to build a fire station until the building is on fire and it’s best for people to change before they see flames. Be astute to the lessons you’re learning now so that you can more effectively both prep and respond to the next change that is inevitably heading your way.