Unexpected Gifts in the Ugliest Giftwrap

by Madeleine MacRae

Over the past 20 months, small business owners and entrepreneurs have been on an ever-changing roller coaster ride of emotions, obstacles, victories and defeats. Some business owners’ tracks have run in parallel while others have sharply turned in a completely contrasting direction, but one factor remains true: As we continue to deal with all of the aspects of the Coronavirus, the pandemic has forced us to up our game.

From businesses that saw their primary revenue streams evaporate overnight, to those who had the ability and agility to pivot, and even to those who faced an overwhelming surge in demand, the coronavirus — despite all its hardships and sorrows and challenges — had made each and every one of us dig deep and tap into resilience and acceptance and excellence.

As I’ve seen as I coach business owners around the country, these are challenging times to navigate. For those who were able to weather the first hard hit during the early stages of the pandemic, that initial onslaught with its fear and uncertainty wasn’t even the hardest part.

The disruption in business and in the lives of business owners is ongoing with long-lingering impacts that are taking their toll.

Midway through the year, as reconnection and the closure of this year were feeling within sight, the Delta variant swept in with a new wave of loss and limitations that took the already stressed and frayed nerves of so many business owners, employees and their customers into hyperdrive.

And women are among the hardest hit. Not only are business owners dealing with a dramatic shift in the ecosystems of their home lives, but they are also having to interphase with team members who are fatigued and frustrated and to serve consumers who are increasingly hostile and controlling.

Who would have ever imagined that in the developed, privileged age of 2020 and 2021, grocery store sprawls would become a commonality?

What is it that is bringing out all of these difficult-to-manage emotions and situations in our private lives, our public spaces and our businesses?

The higher the level of uncertainty that people face, the more they look for and cling to what they believe they can control, in healthy or unhealthy ways. Their goal is not to seek an outcome; their goal is to create a predictable next action to counterbalance the lack of control they feel in their world at large. The longer uncertainty lingers, the more controlling people become. As they look for an outlet where they can find certainty in some way, shape or form, people start to extend their sphere of control beyond themselves into the spaces and the places occupied by others. They look to quell their inner angst by forcing exterior conformity to what they believe should happen next.

What this has meant for business owners is that, as the hope of reprieve from the pandemic restrictions and fears was dashed, they had a surge in employee issues and angry customers. Men and women who would, under usual circumstances, be easy to work with became intolerant of even the slightest disappointments or delays. It forced our hands to up our management game — the management of our inner game, the management of our teams, and the management of the expectations of our customers.

It also forced us not to give in to our weaker inclinations and devolve into micromanagement. We, too, are stressed and fatigued and are ready to be able to celebrate the formal end of pandemic status but, as business owners, we have been called to more. We have the privilege of setting the tone in our team, of being a good example of keeping your cool and digging deeper. It has forced any of us who used to allow ourselves the latitude to not take the higher road every now and then to get up there and to stay up there, to be the bigger person and to become the more resilient soul.

For those who are open to finding the good even in the worst and most stressful situations, there has been the gift of growth available to us in this COVID-19 era.

Let’s embrace the challenge. Let’s, as a community of women business owners, continue to step forward and live congruently to how we would want to be remembered in this moment, as the ones who responded to the stress, and loss and fear, with poise and gratitude and hope. Let’s continue to rise up from this as the Phoenix that’s within each and every one of us! 

Madeleine MacRae is a business and leadership coach who focuses on bringing her clients thought-provoking, practical, usable content that accelerates their implementation and secures their long- and short-term results. She loves the grit and determination of small to mid-sized business owners and has dedicated her career to helping them and their teams.

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