CEOs' Perspective on the Pandemic
The world has completely turned over with a Coronavirus that didn’t even exist 100 days ago. There is still much we do not know about this virus, but today the WHO designated a global pandemic with its significant health, societal and economic impacts underway.
At YPO, we had to act. On 27 February, we cancelled our two largest annual events in San Diego. We implemented travel limitations, workplace changes for our global team. We cancelled or postponed other YPO global events for at least the next 60 days. These are difficult decisions with implications for the entire YPO community, but we act in balance for the health and safety of our members, our members’ families and their home communities around the world.
The fact that YPO is disrupted is just one small aspect. This is a humanitarian challenge, first and foremost. The globally expanding virus delivers its worst impact on the most medically vulnerable people in our societies. It is tracking to be 1.5-2.0 times more transmissible than the flu. There is no current medical cure or vaccination and the virus can be spread even when someone is not showing symptoms. The rates of infection are certain to overburden medical resources and support in many places.
We appear to be past the point of being able to contain the virus. Cases have already been confirmed in 118 countries. Instead, the critical focus is to slow the spread of the virus. The longer we can slow the spread, the more likely we can save lives. It reduces the surge of demand on health care and creates time for greater preparedness, research and development. After slowing this initial surge, the institutional and societal focus will move to protecting at-risk groups, such as the elderly, people in hospitals and those with immune deficiencies. In time, we all hope science makes the virus more manageable through treatments and vaccinations.
The sudden reality is that COVID-19 is changing our lives, at least for a while. Everyone has a role to play to slow the spread of the virus, including governments, business, non-governmental institutions and individuals. Our daily habits must change to prevent transmission.
Our work lives are also changing as the effects ripple through the economy. The recent volatility of the financial markets and significant shifts in demand and economic activity will continue. The only question is for how long? Our YPO members are discussing these issues and are sharing best practices to lead their companies through the disruptions.
The mutual leadership guidance I am hearing from our YPO members is reassuring:
Stay calm. Do not give in to the hysteria.
Stick to the facts and reliable data. Develop your own gut feel and actions instead of following someone else’s opinions.
Keep seeing the long term. Like every crisis, this too shall pass.
Anticipate and plan for different scenarios. There is no certain direction for any of this.
Overcommunicate. Your employees, customers and stakeholder need to hear from you, especially in times of uncertainty.
Use this crisis to innovate. Necessity does indeed drive creativity and innovation.
With leaders supporting each other through their shared guidance above, we will overcome the surge from the virus. We may also see other positives too:
Social distancing and hand washing may also reduce the incidences of influenza, which kills more than 500,000 globally each year.
Social distancing and telecommuting may move us to better utilize digital platforms to connect us and speed our transition from analog to digital in our companies and societies.
Increased telecommuting reduces carbon footprints too. The climate can use all the good news it can get!
We may see great innovations and scientific discoveries come from these disruptions.
Common cause efforts could bring our polarized societies closer together. Even a little closer would be good.
We may simply become more mindful and grateful. The world has always been uncertain and potentially dangerous. This virus has made us aware and more present.
This situation is evolving. We are aligned with the challenges and opportunities.
In the meantime, keep washing your hands!