Volcano and virus
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Once in a while, failures or mistakes we experience are equivalent to a kick in the teeth and is useful in bringing a person or even an organization back to their senses.

Success breeds arrogance and complacency. A kick in the teeth jolts them back to reality. Those who humbly accept can learn lessons from it and enable them to become wiser and tougher. While some may not recover, those who do would regain their losses and even allow them to take on more significant challenges and level up in many ways.

Consider our latest rounds of challenges. With the virus and volcano issues, the predictable growth trajectory of many business companies has been interrupted while others are disrupted. Those who are in the hospitality business can tell you a better story.

Imagine you have a well-oiled successful, resort-resto-hotel in Tagaytay. Then you get hit by the volcano ashes, and as if that was all you can bear, the second blow comes from the virus? That’s a classic double whammy. I have had a lot of engagement cancelations, especially the international conferences that were scheduled to take place here in our country. But I know this too will pass. Recovery has come. New invites found a way to occupy the open spaces in my calendars. Many of the canceled events have been moved to the middle of the second quarter. Tough times will pass, and things would return to normal.

I have been in conversations with many business owners and executives. Most of these highly successful people in their 50’s or 60’s would look at these challenges contemplatively. They understand that these are circumstances beyond their control.

Try plugging a volcano or stopping a virus? You “ain’t” no superhero. Even the fictional super-heroes have challenges. But what you can do is to deal with things that are within your sphere of control.

As a leader, you encourage the team. Remind everyone to be fiscally prudent. Keep your eyes open to opportunities. Every time there is a disruption or interruption, new opportunities arise. Maintain a positive outlook and disposition. You may not be able to increase revenues, but you can still increase operational efficiencies. Take the opportunity to train and develop your people. Other programs and incentives may have to be adjusted. In times like these, stability and health should be the priorities not growth. Do not sugarcoat the message in your regular town hall meetings and communication. Offer hope. Winston Churchill says, “Leaders are merchants of hope.” Be patient and understand that the young do not have enough battle experiences. Provide help and proper guidance.

Why do these senior executives and owners maintain a perspective of hope and exude wisdom? Because they have been there before. They remember the political turmoil of the ‘80s. They cannot forget the Asian financial crises of the ‘90s. They understand the digital disruption of recent times. They have adapted to a series of “New Normal.” These old-timers are tough and wise because they have been battle-scarred.

Not so, the young. The millennials may not have the tenacity to take the hits. Many missed the blessings of a difficult life experienced by their parents and the generation before that. The young grew up under the protective covering of an improved economy and secured by over-protective parents. Social media has empowered them to feed on their ego in a certain way can be labeled “personal branding.” They have lived under the tutelage of cheap “motivational” slogans persuading them that they can do anything they want to do and be anyone they want to be if they have the “passion” to go for it. And now you have interruptions and disruptions, which can be a good kick in the teeth that can offer real life lessons. This is the time when the collective wisdom and knowledge of the business war veterans come in handy to guide and mentor the young.

To the young, I encourage you not to quit. Don’t give up. Learn the lessons. All those dumb and unoriginal “motivational cliches” are unoriginal at best and damaging at worst. You need to toughen up and face the realities of life. Today it’s the virus and the volcano, and who knows what will be in the offering tomorrow?

On my end, I realize the need to include a segment on “Tough Times Leadership” in my public leadership seminar-workshops. No sugarcoating. No dumb motivational slogans and clichés but to present real-life lessons and applications. Why? Because when it comes to tough times leadership, I have been a practitioner and have tons of stories to tell. I need to share these learnings and experiences.

Volcanoes and Viruses today. What will it be tomorrow? We’ll never know. One thing I know is that I may not know what the future holds, but I certainly know who holds the future. Now this line may sound like a cliché, but it is not unrealistic and dumb. With many decades of experiences behind it, I can vouch that this line is a fact.

(Attend two inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong. His highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop runs this March 11-12 at Makati Diamond Residences Hotel (Greenbelt 1). For further inquiries or reservations contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

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