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If I Were You

If I were you.

Four words it’s tempting to use when someone shares a problem.

Four words I’m trying to avoid using—because I am not you.

I don’t know what it’s like to sit with what you’re experiencing or feeling at this moment.

You have the wisdom of past experiences to draw on.

Ideas you haven’t yet articulated, even to yourself.

How many solutions could you generate if you reflected on what you want and what your next right step might be? Many more than if someone just told you exactly what to do.

Image by Burst

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Balancing Wants And Needs

On a normal day, our local supermarket stocks fifty different kinds of pasta. Right now they’re stocking two. On a normal day, customers would complain bitterly about the lack of choice. Today they’re grateful to leave the shop with two boxes of a brand of penne they’ve never tried.

What we’re witnessing in real-time as we work together to keep ourselves and our communities safe, is a shift in priorities, for our customers, clients and us. We’re adapting. And as we do, there’s an opportunity to pay attention to what the people we serve want and need in this moment.

These skills we’re learning today will help us to be better innovators and creators, teachers and marketers, tomorrow.

What do the people you serve need now? What will they want in the future?

Image by Soroush Karimi

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What Can You Do Now?

Julie has been running her local florist business for five years. She’s built up a reputation with the people in her suburb, who regularly pop in when they’re walking past to buy flowers and plants that brighten their homes and their lives.

While new single bunch, online flower delivery services blossomed, Julie made the decision when she started to be a neighbourhood business. She wanted to serve a community of customers she knew by name. This strategy worked well for her, until now.

All the restaurants and cafés along her street have closed, and her customers have retreated indoors to self-isolate. The streets are eerily quiet. Nobody is popping in to buy flowers anymore. Julie’s strategy didn’t account for an event like this.

But she’s not ready to shut her doors. She wants to find a way to serve her customers. So she’s employed an extra driver and begun to offer free contactless delivery. Julie’s doing what she’s always done—what’s different is how she does it. Her strategy remains the same. It’s just her tactics that have to change for the moment.

What can you do now to keep doing what you’ve always done?

Image by Ellicia

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What Did You Do?

A walk down my local café strip shows just how resourceful we can be when we’re in a tough spot. Because of world events and government guidelines around group gatherings, restaurants and cafes can no longer welcome diners into their premises. But they are quickly adapting.

Every café has come up with a solution. Many have changed to a takeaway menu, offering local delivery. Smith & Daughters partnered with their organic vegetable wholesaler to sell fresh produce. Ish, the local Indian restaurant has started a meal kit service.

And Kere Kere launched Essential Soup, to provide jobs to unemployed hospitality workers and nourishment to those in self-isolation.

Now is a time of uncertainty for many of us. A time when our plans and our usual routines have been upended and some of us have extra hours on our hands.

When this moment passes, we will look back at how we adapted. We’ll remember how we became more creative, resourceful and resilient. We’ll remind ourselves, and each other about what we did, how we pushed through and how we helped.

This time next year, how will you answer the question: What did you do?

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On Resourcefulness

When things don’t go according to plan.

Remember this isn’t the first time you’ve had to change course.

Make a list of all the other times you pushed through.

Remind yourself of the skills and strengths you previously called on in challenging times.

Tell yourself those stories today.

They will stand you in good stead as you work to change the things you can change.

Tomorrow and the day after.

Image by Neil Thomas

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Don’t Be Right, Be Early

Seven years ago, a member of the Zoom video conferencing sales team worked hard to demonstrate the value of their service to me.

She emailed, she Zoomed, she answered questions. And I didn’t sign up.

‘I will one day,’ I promised. ‘Just not now. It’s just too early for me.’

Which was true.

Few of us could have predicted the extraordinary growth trajectory of a company like Zoom seven years ago.

Nobody would have predicted that thousands of organisations, educational institutions and creatives, would now rely on Zoom to meet, teach and collaborate with colleagues and students in quarantine just seven weeks ago.

In tomorrow’s world, we will forget that Zoom built their business one call, one customer, at a time.

It’s impossible to be sure about our next move as we navigate the future.

It always has been.

Sometimes we have to take the first step without knowing whether it’s the right one.

We can’t always be right, but we can be early.

Image by Britanni Burns

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On Certainty

Nobody creates from a place of certainty.

You can’t predict the future. You never could. Nobody can.

Despite this fact, you took action in the past.

You made brave decisions without absolute proof.

You loved without knowing if your love would be rejected or returned.

You did things you were not sure would work.

You tried, knowing you might fail.

You trusted things would work out.

And if they didn’t your resilience enabled you to try again.

We are our most creative in times of uncertainty.

Image by Bob Jagendorf

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Permission To Reset

We’re used to using the reset button on our devices to reboot them. We think nothing of shutting down our technology and starting again.

We didn’t know how to do that for ourselves and humanity until this week.
We’d forgotten we could come together as communities and nations and agree to pause for the collective good. We didn’t believe it was possible for humanity to reset.

Now we do.

As each town, city and country around the world responds to halt the spread of the virus, we simultaneously see the spread of our shared understanding.

From Sydney to Stockholm, we find ourselves on a more empathetic footing. For once, we know how it feels to live through the same experience. The contagion is shifting from ubiquitous fear to universal hope.

When we witness the agency of our fellow humans across the globe as they navigate daily life during the crisis, we suddenly discover our agency.

The quarantined community in Italy, gathering on balconies in the evening to sing together, the author broadcasting virtual readings of his books and the outpouring of immense gratitude for the delivery drivers, shelf stackers and checkout operators we had come to take for granted.

All of these happenings give us the permission we thought we needed to reset, reboot and reclaim our agency and our humanity.

We get to choose how to create the future we want to see when this passes.

Image by S Alb

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Care To Lead

You don’t know Hitesh Palta. Not many people do. Mr Palta is not famous. He doesn’t have a fancy title or a massive Instagram following. He doesn’t occupy a powerful position in government, and nobody asked his opinion about how to alleviate our current global health and economic crisis.

Mr Palta is the owner of a small independent supermarket in Altona, a suburb in the south-west of Melbourne. When he saw scenes of panic-buying across Australia on the news, he feared for the elderly in the community. He decided to do something to help.

Last weekend, Mr Palta extended his store’s opening hours, by an hour in the morning, exclusively to serve the elderly. He was the first retailer in Australia to do so. The next day, Australia’s two biggest supermarket chains announced they would follow suit.

As fear changes our behaviour and social contagion takes hold. It’s our quiet leaders, those with the least authority who are making the most difference.

To our grocery store managers, checkout operators, shelf stackers, warehouse supervisors, logistics co-ordinators and delivery drivers, thank you for caring to lead.

Image by Paul Townsend

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On Safety

We know, as Maslow described, that our most basic needs are physiological and safety.

If these needs aren’t met we stumble, we stall and we stop being caring and creative.

Safety is a state, but it’s also a feeling.
We can be perfectly safe yet feel fearful.

Fear is more contagious than any virus.
And once it gets hold it’s hard to eradicate.

Great leaders don’t just ensure our safety, they also to make us feel safe.

That’s the challenge we face today and every day, to lead with empathy for the people who look to us.

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