C-Suite Series: Finding the Silver Lining

As we move beyond crisis control, many organizations are finding silver linings, rising to the occasion, and looking toward a future beyond COVID-19.

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails. John Maxwell

Like many leaders, I spent much of the last 3 weeks reaching out directly to each of our employees to find ways we can play our part in flattening the curve. Our vision has always been to keep our customers’ workforces safe, most of whom are providing essential energy, goods, and services to keep our civilization going during these challenging times.  You are the real heroes, and we would like to offer our sincerest thanks to each and every one of you!

Most people I speak with are fighting a war on multiple fronts: responding to a sick loved one, ensuring (sometimes stubborn) that friends and family are physically distancing, adjusting the daily routines of entire households, and reevaluating finances. We suddenly switched from a moment in our economy when nearly everyone was employed to severe levels of economic insecurity. For half a generation of younger workers who have never experienced a recession, the contrast could not have been sharper.

C-suite leaders are not immune but are white-knuckled trying to keep their organizations afloat.  Many are rising to the occasion and quickly finding ways to play their part. I’ve seen utilities take their entire workforces remote in a matter of weeks, manufacturers switch production line to essential products, and construction firms find safe ways to build essential infrastructure during the crisis. But this is only part of the picture.

Most peers I speak with struggle with communicating the clear, positive, and genuine message:

  • How do you inspire a frontline workforce right now when there are concerns about contracting the virus?
  • How do you inspire your colleagues to be at their best when their economic insecurity is at its worst?

Personally, I found the one-on-one discussions with each of our employees and customers a source of inspiration, as they highlighted so many more examples of silver linings through these tough times.

Silver Lining (def. Merriam Webster’s): a consoling or hopeful prospect

Here are some of the silver linings I heard from my colleagues:

  • I have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my children every day; when will I have this chance again?
  • I’ve become addicted to running and have never felt as fit as I do now.
  • I cut out my cable TV bill, stopped watching TV, and feel less anxious.
  • I’m using what would normally be daily commute time to learn a new language.

And our customers on the front lines, protecting nearly half a million people every day, have shared their insights, as well:

  • When someone asks what we were doing during the 2020 pandemic, I’m proud I can say our company was making a real difference.
  • I know my employees at a much deeper level than I did before the crisis.
  • Our workforce is safer out there today vs. pre-COVID because we rolled out our new safety program in a matter of weeks, not months, because the crisis accelerated the approval process with our board.

It’s more than a matter of perspective. The common theme here is not simply positivity; it is action. On the surface, a global pandemic feels uncontrollable, and phrases like force majeure come to mind. Great leaders at all levels and walks of life are finding that the opposite is true: We have so much in our control to not only #flattenthecurve in our households and communities but also find the silver linings as we reimagine what life and work could look like post-crisis.

The common theme here is not simply positivity or hope; it is action.

After all, if this isn’t an opportunity to 1) see how interconnected we are with each other and 2) show the power of individual actions overall, I don’t know what is. For many businesses, this is the time to redefine their social contract with the world around them.
As leaders, it’s time to adjust the sails, find these silver linings, and use them as a source of strength to not only overcome this challenge but also become better, faster, and stronger after it.

Our next post will showcase some perspectives on preparing our organizations for the recovery ahead.

Stay safe,


Founder, eCompliance, and President, Alcumus North America

PS, We recently launched a COVID-19 version of our mobile app in addition to online training at no cost for organizations in essential industries. Sign up here.

Check out previous C-suite blogs on topics such as mental health and creating environments for leaders to grow here.