by Mason Rutledge, President
Americans are get it done people. Need to cross a continent? Light the darkness? Power? Produce in mass? Computing? We’ll get it done.
When faced with an obstacle, we overcome it.
In dozens of discussions with business leaders and marketplace influencers this last week, that was a theme and a frustration. “Let’s get this done!”
As a nation, we get stuff done by doing something…anything. We’ll cross the Rockies to get to the Pacific. We will figure out telemetry, communication and trajectory to get to the Moon. We like to do stuff.
Personally, I like to check boxes. I’m not alone in this obsession. Many find meaning in putting
an “X” in a square. At times I’ll even make a box, having already done something, just so I can check the box. It’s a sickness but there is satisfaction.
So what do we do to check the box on this pandemic?
Nothing. We do nothing. Stay home? That’s it.
The best way to help is to do nothing. That is hard on Americans. It is especially difficult on business leaders. And it is most difficult, it seems, on Baby Boomers.
It is showing a generational divide. This is one of the first times (and guaranteed, won’t be the last) where Millennials and Gen Z are actually showing Boomers and Gen X the way. I have heard from a few business leaders that they are being reprimanded by their Millennial or college-age kids about going to the office, a socially-distanced get together or traveling to visit Grandma and Grandpa. This is happening more and more as the business leader wants to get stuff done. The young are leading the way on checking the box that reads “Stay at home.”
Business leaders are doing more, week by week. Don’t tell the Governor or Millennials, but everyone is heading out this weekend because Mother’s Day. Shops are starting to open, some without permission. Folks are starting to return to their office.
With people returning to work, we have seen a small downturn in our C3 Forum attendance. This week we are holding our last C3 Leaders’ Lunch and Learn because people are getting back to work and we want to encourage folks to get back to doing what they do. If you are going to spend time with C3 Leaders, spend it in the C3 Forum. Our best work is done in the C3 Forum.
These trips to grandma, visits to the office and shops opening, has revealed a growing schism that is strengthening in our society. The camps divide not around age but government orders: One camp believes we should follow the guidance and the second believes we should get the economy back to work. This opinion is becoming strong and central in people’s psyche. In my interactions this week, I had to feel out what camp the person was in before diving into deep conversations.
In figuring out which camp a person is in, my eyes have been opened to the ineffective awkwardness of the question, “How are you doing?” It is the wrong question. “How ya doin’?” It doesn’t help. It reveals a lack of awareness. The answer to “How ya doin’?” is generally, “Fine” but today is followed with tears. The truth is that everyone is doing at best, “Not so great” to “I’m frozen in terror.” I’m working to open conversations with general statement about how “I know” we are generally feeling:
“I know this is tough.”
“I know this is an odd season.”
“I know this is a scary time.”
“I know this is like Groundhog’s Day. Is it Tuesday? Can I get out of my PJ’s?”
By pointing out the elephant in the room, it makes the elephant less large. Under stress people want to know that you understand. In stating the obvious and showing realization that this is terrible, I build a basis for a real conversation about real issues…
“Husband, kids, school at home, it’s a lot…?”
“Your parents are older, that’s got to be hard.”
Then I’m quiet. They pick it up the conversation and these kinds of statements lead into meaningful talk. It has been a game changer. When you say it or just practice it, it sounds negative, but it works. It has taken conversations to a whole new level.
Hey, this is a tactic us Boomers may want to try on the Millennials when they won’t let us go to the Anderson’s for a socially distance wine night. “We have to do something!“