Something to be in awe of!

The last month has been an enormous challenge for too many who have been infected with the treacherous Coronavirus. Directly or indirectly we have all been affected, be it the health of someone we know, impacts on our livelihoods, or the challenges of dealing with the day-to-day necessities of life.

Lost amidst the difficulties are some of the upsides of this crisis. Personally, I have connected with friends and colleagues, some for the first time in years. Home from his abbreviated freshman year at college, my son and I have enjoyed frequent walks, cooking and even attempting to learn and play a little guitar – we’re not even up to sounding awful but we’ve had some good laughs at the expense of Johnny Cash, John Denver and The Eagles. Peaceful Easy Feeling isn’t yet peaceful or easy.

On the client front, I have been struck by uplifting stories that underscore how it is possible to dig deep into core convictions and first principles to maintain focus and differentiate an organization – especially when times are toughest.

Doug Kennedy, CEO of Peapack-Gladstone bank in New Jersey, conveyed his delight at how his team has rallied around the cause of “supporting our communities and making sure we can help everyone save jobs.” Hundreds of bank employees are involved in helping to deal with the crisis, many of whom have been repurposed from their usual positions.

Some of the observations Doug has made which resonate most with what I have seen in other organizations responding well to the crisis:

  • Working for the cause of helping other people is an infinitely better reason for coming to work than just doing your job. Yes, people always want to do good work, but this has brought out the best.
  • “Empowerment” is commonly-used in the world of work, but is often hollow and paid lip service. Not so in this crisis; so much needs to be done that micro-managing is impossible! People are stepping up and doing what needs to be done.
  • In most companies, innovation is encouraged…sort of. As long as it isn’t too costly or doesn’t take away from getting regular work done, let’s do it. But needing to process 900 SBA loans with a team that did 20 last year required new thinking, new behavior and the willingness to get very comfortable with being uncomfortable – immediately!
  • In one week, the team stood up an end-to-end Paycheck Protection Program processing solution that would likely have taken more than six months under non-crisis conditions; this was only possible because people set personal agendas aside and acted for the good of something greater than themselves.

Boundarylessness, learning from and helping each other without concern for turf, position or ego has enabled the bank to achieve – as Doug said – “Something to be in awe of.”

We should all continue to take care of each other and follow the guidelines laid out by medical professionals. Let’s also take advantage of the opportunities to reflect, connect with and respect others we care about. And let’s learn from those who are leaning into this crisis to make their teams and organizations even better by focusing on what matters most.

Leave a Reply