March 23, 2020

Thoughts by Joni Fedders, President of Aileron

The past couple of weeks have been filled with ups and downs. Unfortunately, there’s no rulebook or blueprint for how to navigate a global pandemic, rapidly shift how you operate your business, and lead your team through mass, unprecedented, totally unexpected change. I’m feeling the pain. I’m struggling with whether I’m doing what I need to do to support my team and family through this, and I’m processing a wide range of emotions; in a single day, I’ve experienced as many as a dozen emotions, ranging from:

  • Disbelief: There’s no way our country could shut down like this.
  • Anger: Our business and our team have been completely interrupted.
  • Frustration: I thought we were prepared for anything – what do we do now?
  • Gratitude: I’m so thankful for an amazing team, and the way we’ve come together to get through this as a community.
  • Fear: What do I do to keep my family, my employees, and myself safe?
  • Skepticism: It can’t be as bad as they say it is.
  • Relief: I’m grateful to have the flexibility to protect my family and for our team’s grit.
  • Excitement: I’m invigorated by what we can learn from this experience and how it can advance our mission.

Add in there a mix of panic, denial, shock, gratitude, curiosity, and sadness and you get something close to the cocktail of emotions I have been navigating. And I know I’m not alone. Business leaders around the world are facing the same challenges, and we’re all asking the same question: where do we go from here?

To be honest, I don’t know.

I don’t know where we’re going. I don’t know what next quarter looks like. I hardly know what next week looks like.

But I know how we’re going to get there: consciously.

We’re leaning on conscious leadership now more than we ever have. We’re being patient with ourselves and each other, allowing this concoction of emotions to exist, and giving people space to feel them. We’re trying our hardest to not let those emotions control our lives, actions and our organization. And we’re choosing to lead with intention, patience, and love.

Here are some things I’m trying personally and we’re trying as a collective organization. Maybe they’ll help you as you practice conscious leadership in the next few weeks.

We’re meeting people where they are.

We’re focusing right now on acknowledging and empathizing. We’re not tasking ourselves with changing anyone’s energy. That’s not going to be fruitful or healthy for anyone’s emotional processing. We’re giving people space to show up as they are, and that’s where we are meeting them.

We’re being flexible, and we’re experimenting.

I don’t think I even knew what workplace flexibility meant until this week. We’ve totally shifted to a virtual workforce, and are treating this time as an experiment. By doing this, we remove the labels of “good” and “bad” from our experience, and instead focus on what feels right and where there are gaps and breaks in the system. We’re recording key learnings and observations, and logging our personal experiences in a digital group journal.

We’re scrambling, but we’re scrambling consciously.

There’s no way to go through this experience and not scramble. But we don’t have to scramble about everything. We’re scrambling over the things that matter – paying our team, shifting our operational model, and getting groceries, for example – and ignoring the rest. There’s no way to focus on everything, so we’re only focusing on what’s important and urgent.

We’re connecting as a team and as a community.

We’re launching new services to empower our community to connect, and hosting a morning internal virtual huddle. These 30-minute kickoffs have given our team a new routine to rely on. We’re not trying to analyze what makes them successful, we’re just giving people time to connect. We add in mindfulness through personal reflection, and even experimented with group meditation. These meetings have been critical; right now, people just want to be able to connect, because in human connection, we can find peace and be reminded that everything is going to be okay.

I’m going to continue to download my thoughts regularly as we go on this journey together. If you know of another leader who might feel heard or understood by reading this, we’d love for you to share this with them, and we’d love to hear from you.

As you process the past week and navigate the next one, you’re probably working through fear, mobilizing resources in new ways, managing for an uncertain future, and helping your business survive in the hopes of normalization. As you do, we want to be a thought partner, a trusted friend, or even just a listening ear. Complete this form and someone will get back to you within a day to help you develop a plan, process your thoughts, or connect to others who are leading through these changes. When you’re ready, we’re here.

Hear from more members of the Aileron team in these other journal-style posts:

  • “The Next Normal: Reopening Aileron’s Campus” by Sara Wiggershaus, Client Services Manager
  • “Creating a ‘We’ Culture During COVID-19” by Kristen Rhoads, People Engagement Manager
  • “Making Space for Gratitude” by Joni Fedders, President
  • “Redefining Flexibility” by Joni Fedders, President