There is a meme going around social media that really hits home: “I now know time travel is real. Someone keeps trying to time travel back to 2020 and fix it by changing something, but every time they do, they unwittingly make today even worse.”
It’s funny because it’s true. I was coping fairly well with things getting worse with the mantra of “focus on what you can change” until the recent rulings of the Supreme Court went beyond the meme into the downright surreal. Until now, I had thought a land war in Europe was unimaginable.
If you know me, you know where I stand on some of these issues. This is not the forum to express those opinions, nor do I think sharing them will change anyone’s mind. I want to talk about how all of this is impacting people and what business leaders can do about it.
The erosion of facts and expertise
I’ve complained before about the shift from fact-based decision-making and trust in experts. I could go on some more about how dangerous this is and how I think it is destroying our country’s competitive edge and threatening democracy. But I bring it up here because we need to realize the erosion of trust is where much of that background stress comes from. People are filled with fear by conspiracy theories or the reality of so many people falling for the con.
What business leaders can do is be a source of trust. We can help provide stability with clear communication and verifiable facts. And yes, some people will not like what you communicate or the facts you present because they disagree with their worldview. But you need to focus on those who are actually looking for a port in this constant parade of storms and learn to ignore those who are making the noise.
One thing I’ve noticed in myself is that I’m constantly on edge these days. I’ve also see it in almost everyone else I deal with. Minor things set me off. For example, recently I was visiting our Denver office and planned to meet someone at my favorite brewery at 3. I showed up as agreed and found the place locked. It didn’t open till six. I was disappointed, even outraged. Oh, and my second favorite brewery in town was less than 50 feet away and open. It wasn’t about the closed door. It was about the cascade of bad stuff going on in the world.
Time for business leaders to lead
The real question is, what can we do? I’ve got a better chance of getting Putin to listen to me than changing the mind of someone that thinks there are tiny robots in the Covid-19 vaccine. Telling people they are wrong, or worse, just raises that stress level. If business leaders want to make a difference, we need to lead by example. We need to seek valid information and share it without attacking or arguing.
And most important, we need to listen and show empathy. We must try to be stable, open, honest, and worthy of people’s trust. We also need to move past those who won’t listen.
When you really think about it, all these trials and tribulations in the world are alarming because they are unstable – things not being the way we expect them to be. So maybe something we can do is be right side up in this upside-down world.