Searching for Truth in Trying Times

We all read, watch and listen. To experts. To data. To the news.

As I write this column, there is political pressure to open the economy. And Google just announced remote working for another 12 months. How would you like to be a business that depends on any of its 120,000-plus employees coming to work? And what signal do you think it sends to other employers competing for talent?

Depending on your viewing habits, presentation of the nightly news can paint completely different pictures of our country and our world. As Mark Twain famously said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Are we in a recession? Technically, it depends on how you define it “statistically.” Some people actually argue that we are in an expansion, as jobs are being created since May, the stock market is up (depending on the day), and the NASDAQ hit an all-time high. But try telling that to your friends and family whose livelihoods come from restaurants, retail, local resorts, cruise lines—or countless other industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s like the old, sad saying about the difference between a recession and a depression: A recession is when you lose your job; a depression is when I lose mine.

Ultimately, we all have to make our own decisions regarding how to manage our lives and our businesses during this unprecedented time. And it’s not easy.

Do I really need to wear a mask to be outside in my yard to talk to some workmen from 6 feet or more away? Well, why wouldn’t I? It’s hot, I feel stupid, and they say it’s safe. My wife disagrees, and she holds sway over “they” every time.

Is it safe to open the schools? I’m in the perfect slot on that one. I can make the argument for keeping them closed or for some hybrid. But it’s not a decision I need to make: Our kids are too old, and our grandkids are too young. So many of our colleagues, however, are wrestling with that decision, and it impacts all aspects of our worlds. When the local schools closed in March, we knew our world had changed. “Family first” was and is no longer a pithy value as evidenced by a minor debate about when and how we eat dinner, support the homework or take our vacations. It means how do we truly take care of our children, and help them with social, emotional and intellectual growth? Does that development require them to be around their peers? How can we be present for them, and still be present for our work, from home?

At the end of the day, so many of us have tough decisions to make. We have to listen to our own values, honor our own beliefs, and look for ways to survive—if not thrive—in this dramatically changed world. We need to have open, honest and real conversations with our teams, our families and our schools. It’s unlikely you will change anyone’s mind, no matter what news show they watch. You can only decide—and then plan—for yourself, your team and your business. ♦

Stephen Garber is CEO of Third Level, which provides solutions to help senior-level executives, HR professionals and business owners perform at an elite level. (561.752.5505 or sgarber@thirdlevel.com).

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