We all know the announcement at the beginning of a flight (remember those?): ‘In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically drop from the ceiling. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.’ 

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged many of us into a situation where we have to ‘be strong’ – for our employees, our co-workers, our clients, our spouses, our children. Business leaders have been focused on crisis management, trying to make sense of all the new regulations, cutting expenses, protecting our employees’ jobs as best we can, doing business continuity planning and communicating with clients. 

It is time to put your own oxygen mask on and take a deep breath. 

Navigating change

The pandemic has changed almost everything in our businesses and homes overnight. One of the keys to navigating change is understanding that all change involves loss. 

The human response to loss is grief. 

It may sound terribly dramatic and out of place in a business context, but we are all grieving at the moment. And it’s really uncomfortable. 

The stages of grief

Much has been written about how to get through this crisis, but we particularly like this article by the Harvard Business Review. They talked to David Kessler who wrote On Grief & Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Grief with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. We use the five stages of grief often when we guide organisations through significant change. 

Kessler’s new book, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, was published just in time. For those who need a reminder, here are the five stages of grief, plus the new sixth stage: 

Kubler-Ross change curve

In the article, David Kessler suggests these strategies to cope with the exponential changes the novel Corona virus has forced upon the world: 

  • Understand the different stages of grief. The first step is to recognise what you are feeling. 
  • Balance your thinking. What if it gets worse? Well, what if it doesn’t. Recognise that nobody knows when things will start to look more ‘normal’ or what ‘normal’ will look like. 
  • Calm yourself by coming into the present. Breathe. Focus on the moment you are in, not what might happen in the future. 
  • Let go of what you can’t control. You need to reserve your energy for the things you can control. 
  • Stock up on compassion. Everybody is in need of empathy and understanding. 
  • Just keep going. Some days will be hard, some days will be easier. Be kind to yourself. 

From survival to reinvention

Besides the fact that you should look after yourself for your own survival and sanity, this could not be more important from a business perspective. In order for your business to survive, you are going to have to get creative. Simon Sinek said it best: 

‘It is just a reality that many businesses will fail, they will go bankrupt… The ones who will survive are the ones that don’t try and double down on their old business models but attempt to reinvent their business models.’

To get inspired, we recommend that you listen to the peptalk he gave to his team, called These are not unprecedented times. He asks how will we do what we do in a different world. And what could be more relevant for businesses right now?


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