“Ask for help and be there for others,” said Simon Sinek, author and motivational speaker, in his first blog post for 2021, which listed the silver linings and lessons that came out of 2020. “No one has the emotional strength to avoid the pain of trauma, and the way COVID-19 turned lives upside down is a trauma,” Mr. Sinek’s post continued.
The sentiment was a throwback to a talk in which Mr. Sinek—a person described as an unshakeable optimist—shared that he was not impervious to the trauma caused by the pandemic.
At the Adobe Experience Makers 2020 event, he recounted that he began feeling off his game four months into the pandemic: His sleep pattern was disrupted, he didn’t want to get out of bed, and he started having one unproductive day after another.
“I had to come to the realization that I was depressed,” Mr. Sinek said. “I was very uncomfortable with that word because it sounds like a diagnosis with a capital D.” He followed the advice of his friend in the military and faced his trauma by asking for help instead of avoiding it. “Though you may not be feeling it now, 100% of us have gone through trauma—which means that 100% of us are going to have to deal with the emotional cost of this trauma at some point.”
It is important for everyone, he added, especially for leaders, to recognize when they are suffering through trauma and to be open about it. Being seen as a perpetual optimist can backfire, said Mr. Sinek, because other team members may feel like they’re doing something wrong.
Recognizing that everyone is going to go through trauma also leads to greater empathy across the board, which in turn makes it easier to offer help when needed.
PLAYING THE INFINITE GAME
At an organizational level, adopting an infinite mindset that also realizes that people are at the center of business will help leaders get through the other side of COVID-19. The mindset is based on theologian James Carse’s idea of finite versus infinite games.
According to Mr. Carse, a finite game has known players, fixed rules, and is played for the purpose of winning. An infinite game, on the other hand, has both known and unknown players, changeable rules, and is played for the purpose of continuing the play.
From education to career, life is a series of infinite games, said Mr. Carse. A business likewise isn’t about beating the competition or being number one. It’s about staying in the game as long as you can, recognizing that your one true competitor is yourself, and improving year after year.
“We have ahead moments and behind moments, but we’ll never win or lose unless we fall out of the game,” said Mr. Sinek. “When the crisis hit, a total of zero companies woke up in the morning with an attempt to beat their competition. It literally didn’t matter anymore. Everybody woke up trying to stay in the game.”
HAVING A JUST CAUSE
A crisis reveals the strengths and weaknesses of certain facets such as culture and leadership. It also reveals which mindset a company has. Those with a finite mindset, according to Mr. Sinek, tend to panic because all thinking happens in the past. These companies put themselves at the center of the equation and ask, “How are we going to survive? How are we going to make money?”
Infinite-minded companies, meanwhile, are those that embrace uncertainty and pivot to address present challenges. They are customer-focused and say, “We have something valuable that people want. We have to find new ways to deliver.”
The motivational speaker added that having a just cause gives people a North Star, something to look towards and innovate against. Having a sense of purpose will allow a company to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, a.k.a. the direction that matters. “That’s essential for driving innovation. We don’t want to innovate in every direction.” — Patricia B. Mirasol