Carpe Covid!

Covid-era stories regarding employees setting aside personal agendas and pulling together to deliver heroically are numerous. Increased teamwork and feelings of being more connected to colleagues – albeit through video conferencing – have been frequently expressed.

Another phenomenon encountered is more subtle, but may ultimately be of far greater consequence: numerous senior executives asking some version of, “What is the meaning of all this work I am doing?” Making good money, yes. Feeling they are making a contribution to their company, to their people and to their customers – also yes.

But this pandemic has shaken things up inside; something deeper, more far-reaching and more fundamentally connected to the Why of getting up in the morning and going to the office – or to the keyboard and camera down the hall.

Perhaps it is the nature of facing our mortality. Of seeing first- or second-hand that life can be disrupted in a relative instant. Nicole Kidman said it perfectly to Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder “Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac…nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Not on the freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies… Nobody knows and nobody controls anything.”

Not controlling anything is frightening. How can that be? Surely I must be able to control something, especially given the position of responsibility and authority I have achieved. And plenty of people still rely on me to set direction and make decisions.

But this Covid is an insidious creature – biologically, physiologically and perhaps psychologically as well. Without question it messes with our cells, and apparently it also messes with our heads. Maybe not with you personally, but I’ve spoken with enough executives to know many have been stirred to consider deeper questions.

Rather than struggling to ignore or suppress these questions, the better tack may be facing this challenge head on by digging into the issues they present. Here’s a short list that captures the essence of what I have heard people grappling with:

  1. If I am doing this job (or even promoted) within the next couple of years, will I really be satisfied?
  2. Are the things I have been putting up with or trying to change deal-breakers or stuff I am willing to tolerate?
  3. Is there a job, position or alternative occupation that lights me up every time I think about it?
  4. Should I seriously consider doing something very different? Or is this simply idle daydreaming I should ignore.

Be honest – there’s always some amount of nonsense you will need to put up with so long as someone else is signing your check, but that’s very different than waking up every morning with fatigue and frustration connected with a mood of resignation. And setting out on your own – as romantic a notion as that may seem – presents enormous challenges to someone accustomed to the relative comfort (or at least familiarity) of a larger organization.

Do the 1- (one minus) exercise: Without what one thing would this job feel very different? Mentally eliminate what appear to be the major irritants and you will know very quickly which are material versus merely annoying.

Based on these questions and personal reflection, the answer will likely not be crystal clear. But you will have a sense of whether or not you are simply worn out or need to consider doing something different. Now is not yet the time to act. Before doing anything else, speak with at least three people whose advice and guidance you trust. Take your time…you may discover the real issue is an isolated issue between you and another executive that needs addressing. You may discover something else in the process that surprises you, allowing it to be easily resolved if not dissolved.

Alternatively, you may find yourself resolved to make a significant move and be energized about doing so. The aim is to be in a place where you are invigorated and have a “seize the day” outlook and posture with respect to whatever is next.

Circumstances may not determine our mood and demeanor, but they are not irrelevant. If you’re genuinely fed up with your current situation, there’s nothing wrong with exploring another path. Take the chance to face head-on whatever this crisis is provoking.

Leave a Reply