Silver Linings: Success Stories During COVID-19

Posted on September 18, 2020


In the Last Jedi, Yoda reminded Luke Skywalker, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” This statement was so profound that I was left dumbstruck. This wisdom extends into all facets of our life and is utterly true – failure and missed goals teach better lessons than any class or academic writing can hope to achieve.

Failure, in and of itself, has many forms. Failure means different things to different people. For a perfectionist, anything less than perfect is failure. For the average person, it could be missing a personal goal or milestone achievement. For a team or a boss, missing a target for the year is failure. We have heard this word thrown around a lot this year. Failure in our leadership. Failure in our response. Failure in our ability to flatten the curve.

By Megan Pfeifle, Firm Administrator at Cook Craig & Francuzenko, PLLC

What about our wins?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were companies ready for a crisis. There were those with business continuity plans, emergency response plans, and succession plans. There were those that were quick on their feet, large enough to respond rapidly because these very scenarios were written into their 165-page comprehensive employee manual. If you were one of those companies, or one of those management teams – congratulations! Truly. That is a success story in and of itself. You fared well, and that is awesome.

What about those who weren’t ready?

This year, many business owners and those in managerial positions found themselves at a critical moment. It was time to put leadership skills to the test and take action during an unprecedented time. Many responded poorly. We have heard about them in the news. Scores of employees infected. Unethical or dangerous working conditions. Management who seemed more focused on survival of the business than the survival of the people who keep the lights on.

But this article is not about those companies. This article is about the ones we do not hear about. This article is about the unsung heroes. It is about the companies whose rock star management and leadership teams weathered this storm, learned from their mistakes, and emerged stronger.

Raise your hand if any of these apply to you. How many of you had to:

  • Make a business continuity plan this year out of thin air?
  • Build a teleworking policy within one day and implement immediately?
  • Create a succession plan in case your company’s leaders caught COVID-19?
  • Work together with your IT to ensure everyone had what they needed for technology and upgrade what you needed, right away?
  • Figure out new ways to service your employees from home?
  • Rush to sign your company up for an EAP or telemedicine plan?

I bet most of you raised your hand for at least one.

Let’s do another. Raise your hand if any of these apply to you. How many of you:

  • Worked countless hours of overtime?
  • Lost sleep, worried about your employees and others on your leadership team?
  • Felt like it was an effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other?
  • Had to restructure or downsize, or were concerned about having to do so?
  • Had days that seemed like the fires to put out were endless?
  • Felt conflicted with your own fear and emotions about the pandemic due to your role in leadership?
  • Just really needed to take mental health days?

I feel confident every single one of you raised your hand to something in that list.

You are not alone.

When I first began researching for this piece, I reached out to colleagues asking if anyone had a story they felt comfortable sharing. From the top of our leadership down to our interns, no one has been left unaffected and the past few months have been sewn with hardship. Many have had very personal experiences they are not yet ready to share. I did however find a few who were, and I hope you find their stories as inspiring as I did.

As others have stepped forward to share their experiences in this trying time, I too have a story to tell of success from my own office:

Every decision matters.

As leaders within an organization, we are at a crucial junction where every decision we make has never been more important. It is no exaggeration to say that lives, quite literally, hang in the balance of decisions we make every day. Without our business’ successful continuity, our employees lose their jobs. Their livelihood. Their health insurance. In that same vein, it is more important than ever that our employees are happy. Healthy. Safe. One of the most amazing things about Americans is our resilience to come together during trying times, and so many employers have done exactly that, for the better of all.

So, let us stop for a minute. Take a deep breath. Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a round of applause. You did it.

Let us stop thinking about COVID as something negative.

As children, we learn so much so rapidly that our teachers often taught us acronyms to help us learn the information we needed to learn. As we read and watch the news, we talk to our colleagues, we are absorbing enormous amounts of information about COVID-19 – much of it incredibly upsetting. The word itself has such an ugly connotation and is connected so closely to death, destruction, and the ruin of lives. However, it does not need to be that way. The next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed about COVID-19, remember this acronym:

It is not over – but you got this.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and we are not out of this – not by a long shot – we made it this far. Every day you told yourself, “it can’t get worse than this,” and then it did; you survived. It made you stronger. Every day you made a mistake, mopped up a mess, or put out a fire (even one of your own doing, through procrastination, poor communication, or other means), is a day failure taught you another lesson.

That, in and of itself, is a success story.

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay 

Published on September 10, 2020

Published by

Megan Pfeifle, PHR, SHRM-CP

Firm Administrator at Cook Craig & Francuzenko