Today, the 18th May marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. The week, organised by the Mental Health Foundation, focuses on a different subject each year, with this year focusing on kindness. This MHAW is unlike any other, with millions of people at home on furlough, thousands out of employment and many unable to visit family members. For businesses, this a particularly stressful period, with a quarter of small companies expected to fold during the COVID-19 period.
Because of this, Reece Tomlinson, CEO and founder of RWT Growth, the corporate advisory firm for the global SME arena, has given his advice to business owners and leaders this MHAW2020.
Reece said, “As someone who has led a company during a period of major turmoil and advised on numerous turnarounds, I know how this feels. I was the CEO and owner of a company that had its largest customer default on millions of dollars of payments, amounting to more than 50% of the company’s annual sales. Without question, it was the most stressful time in my life. During this time, I experienced the real lows of being an entrepreneur and the mental fatigue that comes with large scale uncertainty. What I learned from that experience and have since learned after working with clients in similar situations are best practices to follow to ensure that one can remain mentally healthy and strong during times of extreme business hardship.
Here are some best practices to help with the mental challenges associated with leading or owning a business during COVID-19:
1. Separate Failure and Disappointment from oneself
Too many entrepreneurs have their self-worth tied to their companies. Their company and its success (or lack thereof) seem to define them, which is neither healthy nor admirable. And so, it is important to remember that the challenges entrepreneurs and leaders face in business do not define who they are as human beings. It may be something of great passion; however, it does not define one’s value and worth. Too many leaders and entrepreneurs forget this.
2. Act with Integrity and Compassion
Act in a manner that you would be proud of, regardless of whether the business succeeds, gets by or fails during this time. Regardless of the outcome, you will be glad that you acted with integrity and compassion to those around you, those you lead and those you deal with. With this MHAWfocusing on kindness, this should be implemented more so than ever before.
3. Show Restraint
During periods of crisis, it is quintessentially important that leaders stay calm and controlled. A calm and controlled leader will bring calm energy to the team. They will be able to remain collected when the situation proves stressful, unknown and even frightening. When a leader can remain calm and collected, it will equate to better decision making and ultimately an increased control of the situation.
Staying calm and collected as a leader is easier said than done. It requires one to change their mindset from being reactive to proactive and from being apprehensive to that of control. Here are a few things I suggest that can assist with this:
4. Develop a Clear Path Forward
When times are good, it is common for a leader to be working on several different strategic priorities simultaneously. In times of a crisis, the strategy must be narrower. One or two priorities at max. The path forward should be clear, concise and simple to follow. Now more than ever it is imperative that one knows where they are going and how they are going to get there.
Working out and staying active is quite possibly the best way to reduce stress and stay mentally sharp. This is particularly true when times are challenging and stressful. Exercise helps the body boost its levels of endorphins, which helps improve one’s mood and reduces stress. From experience, exercising is critical for managing the stress of leading a business in times of crisis.
Meditating can help reduce stress by slowing brainwaves, which assists in remaining calm, peaceful and present. Meditating can be done throughout the day and is highly effective.
7. View this as an Opportunity
COVID-19 is impacting the majority of SMEs in the same devastating manner. Whilst this is a sobering thought it is also a tremendous opportunity to outperform the general market and others in similar leadership positions.
What this means is that entrepreneurs and leaders can use this time to make strategic changes, focus on implementing lasting strategic initiatives and be the leader that they know they can be. COVID-19 will prove to be devastating for some and a time of substantial growth for others. If we compare COVID-19 to the great depression, it is important to remember that more millionaires were made during this time than any other time in history.”