When I sang in the chorus in college we performed Brahms’ German Requiem. As you can deduce from the title, it’s in German. I really enjoyed singing it but I really didn’t understand much of what I was singing about since my reading comprehension of German is practically nonexistent. That didn’t stop me from singing the words, quite loudly when necessary, even if their meaning escaped me.
I see the same thing going on all the time, both in business and in life. These days, when science discussion is all around us due to the pandemic I’m fascinated by the folks who suddenly are virologists. Maybe they read a scientific paper about what’s going on or, more probably, read a link on Facebook that pointed them to something with a lot of big words. It’s nice that they read the science papers but when you have a conversation with them about it, it becomes pretty clear that they have no clue about what it means.
You can see that in business. Someone reads an article on something – the efficacy of social media or the importance of influencers in marketing – and suddenly they’re an expert. The truth is that they don’t understand the details of the topic in a way that gives them the ability to discuss them out of context. They’ve done a great job memorizing but a lousy job in grasping meaning.
I used to tell consulting clients the truth about my knowledge base. I was a mile wide but in some areas, I was only an inch deep. It didn’t embarrass me nor should it disturb you. I think a sign of both maturity and intelligence is knowing what you don’t know and not being afraid to admit it. When a client got to the limits of my understanding I would either go broaden my understanding or I’d bring in someone more expert.
You can sing in a language that you don’t understand just as you can pronounce the words on a page if you have a pronunciation guide. That doesn’t mean a thing in business. We say something is “Greek to me” when we don’t understand it. Try and speak Greek without understanding and the minute someone asks you a question, you’re sunk. Don’t try to speak a language you don’t understand, Greek, German, virology, digital media, or otherwise. Make sense?
I received a very disappointing email yesterday. I mean, in the scheme of the global crisis we’re facing, it’s a nit but it was disappointing nevertheless. It came from Ticketmaster letting me know that one of the shows to which I had tickets was being canceled. I’ve had several postponed already but this one was now completely off the board. Boo.
The show was Journey and the opening act was The Pretenders. Now before you comment on my musical taste being stuck somewhere in the late 1980s, let me say that I saw Journey a year or so ago (with Def Leppard) and it was a phenomenal show. I’ve not seen The Pretenders in probably close to 30 years and being able to hear them live again was a huge bonus. Maybe next summer.
It did get me thinking about a Journey song, however, that I think is a good reminder to us all these days. It’s called “Be Good To Yourself” and it starts out describing a situation many of us might be in as we’re staying home and trying to work (or find work) as best we can:
Running out of self-control
Getting close to an overload
Up against a no-win situation
Here’s the video – I picked one that features Steve Perry singing and check out Randy Jackson’s haircut!
The song reminds us to be good to ourselves. I forget to do that sometimes and maybe you do too. Maybe you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be as productive as you were before all of this. That’s crazy talk. No one should expect themselves to be superhuman and deliver the same 100% rate of output during a global pandemic and a lockdown.
We all have worries during this time. Maybe it’s a fear of getting sick. Maybe it’s even more real than that prospect because you’ve lost your job and are depleting your savings. Maybe your health insurance is ending because you’re unemployed. When we have issues that lie at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy, there is no question that we put pressure on ourselves to solve the problem. You feel overwhelmed by a lack of control. I get it and I’m not minimizing it.
But you still need to take some time each day and be good to yourself. You didn’t create this situation. You’re not to blame. That can be taking the time you now have to walk each day and clear your head. Maybe you make a list of the things you really enjoy and do one every day. Maybe you call a friend to whom you’ve not spoken in a while. The key is not to beat yourself up over the situation. Negative self-talk just digs a deeper hole.
So I’ll shut up and let you think about how you’ll be good to yourself today. OK?
I think it’s Foodie Friday although it’s fairly easy to lose track when most days are pretty much the same these days as we all ride out the current pandemic crisis. While many businesses have been damaged and many people hurt, the restaurant business has been particularly hard hit. Most places have ordered them not to serve anything other than take-out. Order volume is way down. Many of the staff have been laid off or fired altogether. Couple that with the fact that the food business is generally a low-margin business to begin with and you have a dire situation.
Think for a minute how other industries are affected by the restaurant situation. Suppliers now face uncertainty. Landlords might not get paid. If they own the building that’s one thing but if they owe a lender payments, they’re in trouble as well. But as Lisa points out to Homer, a crisis is also an opportunity.
One thing I’ve noticed is that there is suddenly a much great awareness of the interconnectivity of all the constituencies of every business, restaurant and otherwise. It all starts with customers, of course, but also shows how critical everyone is and how many people touch a business. Need supplies? What if the delivery person can’t work and there aren’t replacements. What if the supply chain is interrupted due to hoarding? I’m sure you’ve seen that as stores began to see hoarding they imposed limits on the numbers of what could be bought, not to limit their sales but to make sure they were serving as many people as possible. I call it equity, you can call it fairness or whatever you like.
I’ve got friends who work in the food business. Some of them have been laid off. Others continue to work, taking the risk each day that they might become ill to help their restaurant survive during the crisis. They can’t work from home. When this is over, think about that as you’re wondering whether to tip the extra 5%.
I’m hopeful that other businesses will think more about equity. Will that mean higher wages, better working conditions, and increased benefits? I don’t know but I know we won’t be going back to the world as it was. I’m sure many great people are rethinking their choice of employer if not their career choices. I’m quite sure that many employers won’t have the same staff back, resulting in the loss of institutional memory, increased hiring and training costs, and even more lost time. What are they doing about that? Using the crisis to put the “new” world in the context of equity is a start. You can’t pretend nothing has changed. How are you going to?