Whether personal, national, or global – we all experience crisis at one time or another.
As we continue to work our way through the current crisis of Covid-19, it has caused me to reflect on how troubled times seem to amplify character. Both good and bad character highlight our morals and what we deem important.
In other words, crisis has a way of bringing us back to our core. Our values, ethics and morals are all foundational to our character and all three are magnified in our actions when times get tough.
This is true for individuals, for businesses, and for society.
Working in the retail sector has allowed me to observe human behavior from a distinct point of view. I have seen both customers and employees do wonderful things for others and I have seen others seemingly “lose their minds” over insignificant matters.
For example, a customer came into our store after going to several retailers in the area trying to find cleaning supplies for her elderly neighbors. This selfless person reacted to the crisis by serving those in need within her community.
As our store was shattering single-day customer count records, another customer lost his composure and begin shouting because we had not retrieved his online purchase as quickly as he would have liked. He was so focused on himself that he failed to see the massive number of other customers our team was working frantically to serve.
There are so many other examples of individual actions I have observed that reinforces crisis amplifying character, but it would take a book to point them all out.
In March, when it became apparent that we as a nation needed to take some drastic measures to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, many businesses leaped into action. It was apparent what companies valued most by the precautions they implemented.
For example, some major retailers announced they would close several hours earlier than normal to allow time for proper sanitization and cleaning of their stores. They also made other decisions that focused on the health and wellbeing of their employees before profit. This was proven when annual sales events were cancelled because holding them would entice more people to enter their stores.
On the other hand, some major retailers waited a couple of weeks before they began closing early. They also ran with annual sales events that drew record numbers of people into their stores. It was obvious that profit was more important than the health and wellbeing of their employees. These companies have since made efforts to protect their workforces, but crisis has shown that turning a buck outranked the importance of their employees early on.
Society has also been amplified throughout the Covid-19 era. Many businesses, for good reason, are labeled as “essential”. For example, everyone still needs to purchase food to feed their families and, therefore, grocery stores remained open.
Many customers have gone to stores by themselves to purchase genuinely essential items. They are careful to not get too close to others and they quickly gather what they need, checkout, and leave. I have noticed, however, that not everyone goes to the stores to purchase only essential items.
Many customers come in to just browse because of boredom or to purchase materials to work on non-essential projects. Ignoring the recommendations of health professionals and disregarding the safety of other customers and employees, they boldly show up with their entire families and wander around stores for hours.
Whether individuals, companies, or society, crisis has a way of bringing out and amplifying character. We have seen great acts of kindness and selfishness within all three. It will be interesting to see what defines our new normal in the weeks and months going forward and the character it will amplify.
Now more than ever, we need servant leaders who step up and let their character amplify compassion, empathy, understanding and love to employees and customers. Leaders will shape the new normal…let us make it a great one!