Change, Coronavirus Style

Never has my inbox been fuller with articles telling me how best to ‘connect while social distancing’ and ‘work well and productively at home [with your four kids under your feet and your husband, the doctor, pulling double shifts at the hospital]’.  OK, that last one is me just being sarcastic, but I’m sure you get my point.

After a client reached out to me to talk about how best to utilize the Kolbe strengths of their team during this unprecedented time, I realized something that has been missing from all the articles in my inbox.

Coronavirus is simply a change.  Yes, it is a really big change, perhaps even monumental.  One that came on without warning.  And moved so quickly you don’t even feel like you can breathe.  But a change nonetheless.

So what do we know about change and how to manage ourselves and others through it successfully?  Here are my top five and what to do about them.

  1. Don’t panic. Yes, as Michael Douglas says in The American President when his staff says it is important to not look like they are panicking – “the important thing is NOT TO PANIC”.  You’ve been through crazy things before, like that time you left your laptop in the cab on the way to an important presentation.  Or when the economy tanked in 2008.  Or when all your kids came down with the chickenpox at the same time.You are capable of weathering storms, as you have proven in the past.  So don’t panic.  Take a deep breath.  Take it one minute at a time if need be.  Just remember to breathe.  Make a plan if that helps you not to panic, realizing, of course, that it may change 10 times a day.  Don’t make a plan if it isn’t your way, just remember that if you thrive in a crisis, others may not be tracking with you.
  2. Ask yourself, what exactly is changing? And what isn’t?  That’s right.  Make yourself two lists.  What is changing?  What isn’t?  My “what’s not changing list” was quite long.  It had things like:  My address, My husband, my family, my car, the view from my home office window, my computer, my ability to cook healthy and delicious meals, my ability to talk on the phone, the knowledge in my head, my life experiences that I can draw on.  So you see where I’m going like this.  Of course, my what is changing list was also long, but remembering what isn’t changing about myself and my environment was very helpful to me.
  3. Remember your core values or take this opportunity to get clear on them. One thing I always like to remind my clients is that you have core values that are non-negotiable.  Things like: Honesty, fairness, excellence, service are core values that will do you well right now but that is only a small possible list.  Make your own list and post them in your home office, or on your refrigerator, or on the back of the bathroom door.  Or in all three.  Post them and remind yourself that is what you are all about, and how you make decisions.
  4. Remind yourself of your Kolbe MO or your DISC or MBTI or Print or your Clifton Strengths – whatever kinds of instruments you’ve taken in the past. This will help you take a step back and analyze how you are using all of them right now.  For example, my Kolbe MO of 7473 means that when I am trying to solve a problem, first I gather data and then I quickly move into experimenting or trying new things.  My need to gather information might be leading me to read too much about coronavirus, but since I know that about myself, I realize that knowing more isn’t going to help me solve other problems.  So I focus on gathering facts to help me solve my own problems,  like which clients might be most affected by coronavirus and how I can be of service to them.  Remember that in times of stress (like now) your strengths might not be working for you.
  5. There have been numerous studies that show that meditation changes your brain, lowers your blood pressure and results in numerous health benefits.  Now more than ever, we need to find a way to de-stress.  Personally, meditation does it for me.  But maybe a walk in nature is better for you.  Or relaxing Yoga or a good run.  If you’ve never tried meditation before, now might be a good time to start.  You can even do it with your kids, focusing on your breath.  Your kids will be able to sit for 1 minute for every year (so your five-year-old is good for five minutes, etc.) and you may need to build up to that.  Just remember to meditate sitting up.  Because otherwise it is called napping.

Whatever you do to move through this change productively, remember to be kind to yourself and learn from every experience.

No one will move through this change perfectly.  No one ever moves through any change perfectly.  But we can move through it as best we can, learning as we go and storing these experiences away in our brains.

Stay home, stay healthy, go outside and feel the sun on your face.


Beth Banks Cohn
Beth Banks Cohn
BETH is dedicated to helping individuals and companies implement business changes that actually work. Beth believes in the ripple effect – that change handled well benefits everyone in an organization, over and over again. As a recognized expert in change as well as corporate culture, Beth consults domestically and internationally with a wide range of disciplines and businesses. Beth is the author of two books: ChangeSmart™: Implementing Change Without Lowering your Bottom Line and Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (with Roz Usheroff).

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  1. The suggestions you offer are undoubtedly useful in any crisis situation and, therefore, change in habits, and there is no doubt that in the first place there is the need not to spread panic.
    I invite everyone to consider that this is an unusual change. It is an invisible, sneaky enemy who, as has been widely demonstrated by now, has only one possible and truly effective containment strategy (I have not said absolute and sure defeat over time): drastic, radical isolation.
    The lesson of China, which has adopted this strategy, must be applied everywhere because only in this way there is no risk of spending long periods of time infected and infected.
    We are experiencing it because at the beginning too many underestimated and neglected the order of isolation.
    The same fact that some countries that have postponed their drastic choices are now retracing their steps.

  2. Beth, thank you for writing and sharing an article of great importance. Your points are well put. Many of us are not strangers to panic every now and again. When mass panic leading to hysteria is precipitated by the statements made by an ignorant politician (Mayor Bill De Blasio) the feeling is magnified several times over. Stay well and stay safe. Get sunshine but do not leave your house. Do not stop to talk to anybody. Avoid life as much as possible. When you have this “hunker down” mentality whereupon you spread fear you exacerbate the situation even more.