I headed to Meijer on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. I wasn’t prepared for the chaos that greeted me inside the store. People were buying up everything! The pasta aisle was empty; the frozen chicken was gone; there was no toilet paper. People’s carts were overflowing with food. People were panic buying. By the time I reached the back of the grocery section I was almost in a panic myself. The butter was almost gone. I thought to myself, “Everyone is buying butter! Should I buy butter? Do I need butter?”

Anxiety makes people stupid. It’s something I learned when I went through LEAD 24/7. And as I shopped at Meijer that day amidst a crowd of anxious people, I kept repeating to myself “stay calm, stay connected.”

And you know what? It really helped.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Janet Wielenga. I work at Leading by DESIGN and have the privilege of working with alumni. My role includes helping to coordinate alumni events and alumni small groups. The small groups are facilitated by LEAD 24/7 alumni. Groups are made up of 8 to 10 alumni who meet monthly for 90 minutes to review the chapters of LEAD 24/7. We’ve discovered that not only has it been a great review for alumni, it also is a great way to connect with others in West Michigan who have the same leadership challenges. As an alumni myself, I always leave my small group encouraged and challenged to be a better leader.

Here’s some of what alumni have been saying during this quarantine time:

  • “Quarantine has created space for reading and personal growth.”
  • “Managers have been forced to trust that people will work and are working from home.”
  • “Be the water. Be the water.”
  • “Anxiety makes people stupid. Being listened to well helps people think clearly.”
  • “Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.”
  • “Be a person worth following.”
  • “I got my notes out and reviewed the slides. So much great information to help during this time.”
  • “What am I doing now that’s different than what I was doing? What do I want to keep doing once things open up again?”
  • “Our work culture is committed to teamwork. Some of the younger staff have wanted more flexibility working from home. That didn’t really fit our culture, but now we’re beginning to see that maybe it does.”
  • “Leaders are carrying a heavy load right now. As leaders we need someone safe to vent to as well as put stress relievers into place in our lives.”
  • “My family life was busy—running from this practice to these lessons. This downtime has really impacted the family. It’s given my wife and I time to look at what our schedule has been. What are we willing to say yes to after this? What family culture do we want to create?”
  • “Leading by DESIGN’s Healthy Conflict model doesn’t fail!”

As I spent time reviewing the chapters I was reminded of the Andy Stanley video that we watched in the first session of LEAD 24/7. If interested, you can find the Andy Stanley video on beliefs here: http://northpoint.org/messages/starting-point-series/dont-stop/. We watched the video starting at about 5:32. I found it helpful as I begin to spend time processing what reopening looks like. What beliefs will people have as they return to work? What is my response going to be? What practices will need to be put into place? How will our culture at work change? 

If you would like to be involved in a free three-month COVID-19 edition of a LEAD 24/7 alumni small group that will begin in June, please contact me at janet.wielenga@gmail.com. We plan to review Living Systems, Shaping Culture, and Leading Change.

And, yes, I bought the butter, but also stayed calm and connected at the checkout lane!

Lead on,

Image by XoMEoX. Used under CC by 2.0 license.