Leading in a Pandemic – Finish Strong

For the last five years, I have gotten up at 5AM to work out during the week. On weekends, I start a little later and tend to go a little farther on the running portion. I distinctly recall a run several weeks ago that I tried to stretch out several miles farther. For me, that was a stretch. Coming back with about one mile to go, I was out of gas. I was struggling, tired, ready for it to be over and just wanted to stop.

That last sentence probably sounds a lot like the way many leaders feel right now dealing with a pandemic and trying to lead through all these new obstacles, on top of all the normal challenges.

As I approached that last mile, I saw a muscular looking guy standing on the side walk, buzz cut, and wearing a marine corps t-shirt. I spoke first, as my normal custom, but his response is what I remember. He said, “Finish strong brother”. Now, I have run that route for five years and have never seen him before. I didn’t know him, and have not seen him since then. But you know, after he said those words, I picked that pace up, lengthened those strides, and pushed through that last mile at a pretty good clip. Here I was not wanting to disappoint someone I didn’t know that merely spoke three words to me.

Encouragement to finish strong is a powerful message. I don’t know what you are finishing, but I want to encourage you to finish strong too. Whether you are trying to finish the day, the week, the month, the year, or the pandemic, finish strong!

Here are some ideas on how to do that:

1. Narrow the focus and simplify. In times of added pressure, new obstacles, or too many variables, narrow what you are focused on and simplify the messaging to the people. Safety focus, Covid focus, and taking care of customers (reliability is huge piece of taking care of customers) is the essential focus right now! These are the three basic focus areas for any business. Communicate that message, lead in that manner, and execute those areas at a high level.
2. Take time each day to stop, assess, reflect, and re-engage. Many leaders are too busy being busy and not effective. Be more intentional with your focus and more impactful. More time doesn’t make you a better leader. Rather, more impact makes you a better leader.
3. Utilize all the resources available to you when needed. Ask for help, get support, throw pride out the door, and stay focused on your team’s success and not personal agendas.
We don’t need leaders operating on an island trying to be a hero. Get a break from the action when you need it.
4. Once the basics (#1 above) are in place, identify where you can improve something each week. Maybe it’s improvement in the work environment for your people. Maybe it’s something operational that would really improve business results. Keep it simple, but don’t ever stop improving things; even in challenging times. Our people need to see us moving forward and not just surviving.
5. Be a great communicator and encourager daily! People need to hear from leaders at all levels now more than ever. Be open, transparent, honest, and always leave them with hope.

Hey, I don’t know if that dude on the side of the road was a real marine or was an angel. What I do know is that this random encounter sure impacted how I dealt with pain and fatigue. We all need to finish strong in whatever we are doing!

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