Last Thursday evening, Amazon released this year's first-quarter results. Unsurprisingly, they revealed that Amazon is one of the few companies thriving in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Along with those results, though, came a lengthy statement from CEO Jeff Bezos. In it, Bezos outlined details regarding his company's strategy in the face of what he described as "the hardest time we've ever faced."
Bezos went on to outline the company's strategy for the next quarter:
Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we'd expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren't normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on Covid-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe. This includes investments in personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning of our facilities, less efficient process paths that better allow for effective social distancing, higher wages for hourly teams, and hundreds of millions to develop our own Covid-19 testing capabilities. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and the best investment we can make is in the safety and well-being of our hundreds of thousands of employees.
There's a lot to break down in this statement, but let's focus on just four words:
These aren't normal circumstances.
This statement may seem simple, but it actually teaches a major lesson in emotional intelligence.
What's emotional intelligence got to do with it?
First, some background. Just over a month ago, Bezos posted a four-page letter to employees on Instagram that shared a key detail into how the chief executive was spending his energy in the post-coronavirus world.
"My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on Covid-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role," wrote Bezos.
This statement spoke volumes.
Over decades, Bezos has repeatedly emphasized that Amazon's strategy is long-term, more concerned with the company's ability to evolve and diversify than achieve a short-term return on investors' cash. Although that strategy often frustrated investors, it seemed to work. Amazon has continued to grow and is currently one of the most valuable companies on the planet.
By spending his time and thinking "wholly focused on Covid-19," Bezos signaled that despite the fact that no one had heard of the coronavirus a few months ago, he believed it would majorly affect the economy, and business in general, for several years to come.
Now, we see some of the results of Bezos's focused thinking.
For example, Amazon has come under fire from critics as employees demand greater protections as they are expected to work. Bezos and the company have responded by making what they describe as "significant process changes," in addition to procuring personal protective equipment for employees (including 100 million face masks, according to the company), enhanced cleaning of facilities, higher wages for hourly teams, and even investing "hundreds of millions" of dollars to development of Amazon's own Covid-19 testing capabilities.
Bezos even said the company had incorporated "less efficient process paths that better allow for effective social distancing." That's a big deal for a company that typically prides itself on finding the most efficient processes possible.
Caring for customers and our people isn't just talk. We've invested approximately $4 billion on COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers, and keep our people and community safe. pic.twitter.com/PsObvMGL2x-- Amazon (@amazon) May 1, 2020
Of course, time will tell how serious Amazon is about these additional measures. But while it was surely tempting to pocket a $4 billion profit, reinvesting that money in its people won't kill Amazon.
Instead, it will make Amazon stronger.
The guiding principle behind Amazon's strategy is one any business owner can benefit from.
But what's emotional intelligence got to do with it?
Every day, I see examples of employers who are still in denial. As leadership teams discuss how to address problems and how their organizations should move forward, I hear statements like:
- "If it weren't for the coronavirus ... "
- "Well, normally we would ... "
- "Under normal circumstances ... "
But they're all forgetting ...
These aren't normal circumstances.
The problem is many have fallen into a trap: They refuse to acknowledge that the world has already changed. They keep hoping that one day things will magically return to normal, as if they'll wake to discover that the entire pandemic was simply a bad dream.
That's not going to happen.
Instead, you need to use emotional intelligence to face this problem. That means accepting that the world has changed, and that business won't be as usual anytime soon--no matter what you'd prefer to believe.
It means adjusting your processes, pivoting your products, or even changing your strategy or business model--even if you don't really want to.
It means learning to use new technology to help you adjust--or finding someone to help you learn.
Most important, it means treating your people with kindness and empathy. It means doing your best to empower them, and investing what resources you have to give them the pay, the equipment, and other tools they need to do their job.
So, stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop wishing you could go back to the way things used to be. It's time to wake up, to focus on what you can control, and to get to work.
If you find that difficult to do, remember: These aren't normal circumstances.
The sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can start moving forward.