How One Ukrainian CEO Uses Emotion as a Catalyst for Action
These lessons from a country at war can help everyone on their entrepreneurial journey.
Throughout the war in Ukraine, I have gone through a major re-assessment of my values as an entrepreneur. It's not just worrying about the future of my country; there's concern about the security of my team members and their families, as well as clients and partners. It's not easy to deal with this kind of stress and keep moving forward.
It's important to remember one simple truth: Any decision made out of fear is poor.
Military theorist Carl von Clausewitz often talked about the significance of moral, psychological and emotional factors during war. Of course, wars are not only fought with tanks and missiles — the enemy directs its efforts towards destroying the opponent from the inside out. One of their main goals is to spread panic and force the enemy to lose control, and the first thing we lose control of is our critical thinking.
When in stress or panic, it's easy to "feed" information and make people behave how one desires. The more stress that is accumulated, the harder it is to achieve change or adapt to new developments and challenges.
How to bring stability and control back to the team
When experiencing a crisis, it is extremely important to sustain your mental stability and restore a sense of control. Evolutionarily, the human brain is programmed toward survival. That is why the uncertain and unknown future is difficult to process, as it is perceived as a potential threat that may be unsurvivable. In such circumstances, entrepreneurs and company leaders carry a double responsibility: They must know the direction to go and guide the team on the way.
It's essential to remain in contact with your team, encouraging them to share their feelings and sharing yours in response. Amid turbulence, the first thread to tear is one of human relationships since everyone feels lonely and lost. That is why on the first day of the war, our organization made a call with the C-level team. We had to deliver a signal: We are together, we know where we are going, and we will cope with any difficulties.
We also started doing weekly all-hands calls with the whole team to talk about the company's news and any strategic operational matters. As a result, the war strengthened our connection and brought the team closer to each other.
If you are the team leader during a crisis, you cannot just say, "Everything will be alright." You have to draw new and realistic liability limits for the present situation and provide a sense of stability to everyone.
To take care of others, start by taking care of yourself
It is extremely hard to balance business goals and social giving during a war or any crisis. I wanted to contribute everywhere, but I learned that dispersing in such a way can only lead to burnout.
When in crisis, an entrepreneur has to define their mission and focus on it. I realized that business is an important component of the economic frontier, and Ukraine needs it like never before. My task was to not only focus on saving my business and people's jobs, but it was to also make sure that the company supports the economy of Ukraine.
All of this requires a significant amount of resources, both physical and psychological. You cannot give to others when you are burnt out. Stress is a companion of war that can corrupt all of your inner resources. If you don't deal with it properly, stress will become chronic and annihilate you from the inside.
How do you deal with emotions? To restore a feeling of control over your life, you can set an easily achievable task such as cleaning or reading a book. Sleep, massage, aromatherapy, different mindfulness practices, yoga, anti-stress methods, any non-intensive physical activity, meditations, breathing practices, any relaxing hobby, or talking to your loved ones might also be helpful.
Chaos is a ladder
It might sound eccentric, but the war helped Ukraine walk a mental growth journey that would have taken decades to embark on otherwise. We have grown a lot psychologically, and now the whole world knows us for being brave and strong. Ukraine became a worldwide brand, and this opened up thousands of opportunities for Ukrainian businesses on the international market.
Any stressful situation can open the door to growth for an entrepreneur; it all depends on the emotion you are approaching it with. Any decision made out of fear will be a bad one, but if you restore that control over yourself and soberly assess the new reality, you can see how any crisis opens up opportunities that were never available before.
Use these opportunities not only to survive but also to prosper. If you are the first person to pull yourself together, you will win over the competition. A crisis evens out the odds among everyone, and the right bet can deliver great results in the future.
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