This Week in Wet Cement

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by Mason Rutledge, President

“It like running in wet cement.” Working in this newly discovered environment has felt like slogging through heavy, wet concrete for business leaders and marketplace influencers.

For six weeks I have been summarizing my conversations with leaders through the week on Saturday morning. I am surprised that business leaders and marketplace influencers are still finding their stride in this strange season.

Through our lives, we have all developed patterns in our professional work through which we successfully operate and find success. We may not say we need systems or even recognize that we use them, but even the most laissez-faire leader has a “way.” Those “ways,” systems, patterns have been altered or shut down.

It’s like driving a car. You know how to drive a car. When you have a flat tire, you immediately drop your learned pattern of car driving and adapt to a new way of driving until you get to the side of the road.

We have a flat tire in the economy. We were driving on three tires for a while thinking that this may have been a bump in the road or just low tire pressure. Realizing the flat, the car is now on the side of the road.

After three to four weeks of “emergency” work life, people are recognizing that their old systems have been dropped. They dropped their learned ways and have “white-knuckled the steering wheel.”

Now, they are altering their old systems to this new reality. As they adapt to new systems, they have been slowed. They aren’t meeting their personal expectations. They don’t feel like they are getting as much done. They feel as if they should be accomplishing more. They want to move forward at their past rate.

There is also a sense that their daily schedule is wide open. Without remote meetings, we are expecting our production level to be the same as those rare clear-schedule days at the office. We forget that a Zoom call is a meeting. We don’t factor that the kids need help with their homework. We are still figuring out our office at home. Old habits are off, new habits being built and building takes energy and time.

Wet cement is also caused by the option for employees to stay home. Some operations have reopened, and business leaders are finding their employees choosing the bench over jumping back into work.

Under the new CARES Act, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Trump, 13 additional weeks of federally funded Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance has been granted. In addition, those who may have lost their jobs for reasons arising from the pandemic could be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the end of this year.

These moves have been an incredible gift by the U.S. Government. What some feared has come true. This blessing can be a curse. People are realizing that they can make more by not working. Therefore, employees are not returning.

Employers were concerned that laying off their employees and turning them over to government assistance that they may not be able to get them back. That is happening and it is alarming. This is a significant, long-term societal and psychological concern not only for those that run business but, should be, for all of us.

There are new internal challenges and external challenges. Business leaders and marketplace influencers are developing longer lists. It’s tough to get help. They are writing their little boxes. The list is long. The percentage of those boxes getting that satisfying check are less.

This leaves the business leader path filled with wet cement. They are lifting their feet, covered in soaked grey matter, and moving them forward. One soggy step at a time, often landing in a wetter and deeper route. The good news is that these business leaders are strong, proven and still moving.