Reinstall Yourself During the Lockdown Here are a few experiential learnings from social distancing and self-isolation

By Ramnath Iyer

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I could never imagine that social distancing and self-isolation would be widely feared by the masses until it was imposed by the government as the most reliable approach to contain Covid-19. It is said that international passengers are now using paracetamol to suppress fever and avoid quarantines, then there is the infamous singer who socialized extensively despite returning from abroad and being told to self-isolate.

In November 2018, a professional US poker player Rich Alati bet $100,000 that he could survive 30 days alone and in total darkness. Even with all the resources he needed to survive given to him in the dark room, Alati couldn't last the month. After 20 days he negotiated his release, taking a payout of $62,400. Alati was no exception to the side effects of self-isolation, reporting that he experienced a range of adverse effects, including hallucinations.

Reading about such instances makes me wonder how more social beings will cope with this new paradigm? Surprisingly, so far it is going well. Some introspection leads me to three experiential learnings that I would like to share with you.

Use Social distancing to nourish leaders

When we mulled over the weekend on how will we cope with work from home, each of us had a catalyst who made it happen. I can say without exaggeration that almost every corporate has successfully adapted to the new paradigm overcoming challenges on a real-time basis. The important takeaway was how our teams managed with reduced levels of supervision. Interestingly, self-directed and empowered teams were usually great at delivering their daily activities and targets with little or no supervision. However, even super-charged teams needed help in solving complex problems, tackling people issues, influencing senior stakeholders, overcoming unforeseen hurdles and closing deals. So, let's use this crisis to not just empower teams but also make them self-reliant. Leaders, create more leaders! Give rapid exposure, re-build teams around potential not seniority and most importantly, establish a sense of security. If the team feels "no good deed will go unpunished', they will perpetually depend on their leaders to ratify every decision and action, leading to over-reliance on leadership and pushing teams to borderline sycophancy. This crisis, leaders will have to ensure that the performers are adequately recognised and rewarded now and not when the crisis is over.

Go back to the drawing board

Often, solutions to most complex issues are extremely simple, take for instance, the way we are battling the virus. However, most times we do the reverse by adding complexity because we are all intellectuals. Let's learn from the pandemic where the precautions are as simple as washing hands regularly, social distancing and self-isolation of suspected positives. Reflect on past crises and evaluate what could have been different. Going back to the drawing board and creating simple and effective solutions is the key. We all applauded the Prime Minister's nine-point message for curbing the pandemic; next time we communicate to our teams let's measure ourselves on the same yard-stick, viz is it simple enough to be implemented by the masses and effective enough to yield the desired results?

Use self-Isolation for self-improvement

As we move up the ladder in our professional journey, we miss the days when we had all the me-time we needed. While it is lonely at the top, leaders are really not alone. The crisis has given each of us time to reflect on everything that matters whether it is about taking out time to exercise and stay healthy, connecting with those long-lost friends, learning a new skill or tackling strategic issues pushed to the back burner, we can find time now. It will be futile to fritter away this time cursing our fate and trying to stay busy instead of using this time for personal and professional betterment. This lockdown has given me time to lend a helping hand, re-connect with my children, understand the burdens my wife carries, experience how my parents are spending their twilight years and re-connect with myself, all of which invaluable and did not figure in my list of priorities till the lockdown.

As Winston Churchill said, never waste a good crisis, for most of us this is once in a lifetime opportunity and it will be a shame if we don't emerge as better human beings and better leaders.

Ramnath Iyer

Head - Data Management Operations, MSCI India

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