The first 3 steps in pulling through this crisis together

 In Collaboration, Leadership, Teamwork

The Coronavirus crisis is amplifying the best and worst of human behaviours primarily due to fears about health, wealth and wellbeing.

We have a stark choice: we either try and grab as much as we can for ourselves and risk societal breakdown or work through it all together? The latter is the sensible choice that benefits all.

People across all organisation(s) and the community are struggling and you may be struggling yourself. In reaching out to others, how do you ensure the first steps are the right ones?

From fear to focus

We can’t change what’s going on around us, but we can change the way we react to it. At a conference I attended over the weekend* the mood gradually shifted from panic to planning, and from fear to focus. For a short period of time we were all in the right place at the right time to restore calm, clarify our challenges and reinforce the social bonds in our community.

Before drilling down further, I’d encourage you to think about your work context and identify which of these four levels matter most:

  1. Projects and teams – internal groups you’re attached to
  2. Organisational culture – the entire workforce
  3. Business partners – commercial arrangements with suppliers or distributors
  4. Stakeholders – customers, regulators, activists, not-for-profits and community members

Now review the following three steps and think about how it might enhance the online or in-person interactions you have with people in those areas. The steps below can be applied to your personal and professional relationships and I believe they will set you on the right path:

Listen with intent

What are people saying worries them? Keep in mind that what they aren’t saying could be just as significant – do they want a cue, a prompt or permission from you to raise something?

This is about processing events that are unfolding. These thoughts need to be exhaled and, as a leader, manager or colleague, you can help them breathe. It’s about listening to what they are saying instead of racing ahead in your mind to give them your point of view.

Are they worried about catching the virus on the way to work? Is it anxiety about food and other shortages? Is it concern for friends or relatives? Are their sales targets doomed? Listen with intent.

Display compassion

What are their fears and what is really needed? People’s fears can surface in the form of facts that are observable and the immediate consequences of them, however it is their feelings and emotions that count and need soothing.

Perhaps they have heavy financial commitments and feel a sense of shame if they or their kids can’t do the things they’d normally do? The proud owner of a family-based supplier you’ve been dealing with for decades might be at the end of his or her tether and feel depressed? Laying off loyal and long-term staff would be deeply distressing too.

You’re not a professional therapist but if you allow their feelings to surface, stronger bonds are formed and your support can be better targeted.

Be of service

How can you be of service to the people, organisations and stakeholders around you? It’s not the time to be predatory, we’ll only get through this together if we adopt the principle of reciprocity: giving without the explicit expectation of a return. Studies have found it improves our physical and mental health at the same time.

A word of warning, though, you can’t solve every problem singlehandedly. Your role might be as simple as scouring your network and making the right connections. We tend to remember people who pitch in and help us in our greatest times of need – being of service creates the potential for immense future value.

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In the good times we take the social bonds that exist between us for granted, however this is not the good times, these bonds really count and you can play an active and positive role in building them so we all pull through together.

I recall listening to archival footage from the Depression years and the people interviewed recounted how hard it was, however they also said it was the happiest time of their lives because of the sense of community they felt.

Feel free to share this with your friends, work associates or business partners, and reach out if you’d like to discuss your situation.


Phil Preston is a collaboration expert and author of the book, Connecting Profit With Purpose. He is a speaker, facilitator and troubleshooter located near Sydney, Australia, and can be contacted via or +61 408 259 633.

* Professional Speakers Australia Convention in Adelaide, see this post.

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