Yesterday, Tom Hanks shared with the world that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Of course, people started paying attention, because while most Americans don't yet personally know anyone affected by the global pandemic, everyone knows Tom Hanks. As an icon of Hollywood, Hanks is not only one of the most likable movie stars, he's also considered a role model for millions of Americans.
Hanks's measured response to his diagnosis is also a model for businesses of every size trying to keep going during this crisis.
Specifically, Hanks mentions his approach to what happens next. "Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no?" Hanks shared on social media. That's a brilliant reminder that in a world where there are far more circumstances than what you can control, the best thing you can do is slow down the panic and focus on the next thing you need to do for yourself, your family, and your colleagues.
Binge-buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer do nothing except point out the fact that, as Americans, we're probably not as good at washing our hands as we should be. Panicking about circumstances you can't control does nothing except create more panic.
Instead, create a plan. And when I say plan, I mean focus on what you need to do today for your team and your business. Set them up for success so that they're able to be productive tomorrow. Then, tomorrow, do the same thing. Anything more than that isn't realistic when you have no idea what your business will face in three days or weeks or months.
Your goal is to keep things moving in the right direction even as the world feels like its lost its way. Things won't be the same, and your business might not be the same, but there is another side. Don't freak out. Make a plan.
That plan should include how to keep your team productive if they can't come to the office. Sending everyone home to work remotely might be an option, in which case set them up for success by providing them the tools and structure they need.
Or, in the event that remote work isn't an option, determine how you will communicate what you expect of them directly and transparently. Even when you can't plan far into the future, a little honesty and humility go a long way. By the way, figuring out how to keep your team on your payroll might be costly, but if you're able, there are few better investments you can make than people. Fortunately, it looks like there will soon be help on this front as well.
As the wise man Solomon once said, Gam zeh ya'avor, or "This, too, shall pass." Your job, as a leader, is--one day at a time--to be sure you're in the best position possible when it does.