Steven's Blog


Social Distancing, not Isolation

Don’t underestimate the importance of peer support, especially now. My most successful clients ensure they maintain open communication with other CEOs for advice, to learn what others are doing that works and what doesn’t, and for emotional support. Communicating only with people in your head office and your staff just isn’t enough. Interaction with your peers will help keep you grounded and focused, and your stability will help your staff with the same.

Interaction with your peers will help keep you grounded and focused, and your stability will help your staff with the same. Click To Tweet

Last week, I proposed a physical CEO roundtable meeting for later this month and sent out invitations to gauge interest, of which there was plenty. I had no difficulty getting enough people I need for an effective CEO roundtable group even though the head offices of a number of the CEO participants have issued social distancing edicts, actively discouraging “non-essential” meetings and events. To the CEOs who opted to attend, the value of the roundtable is essential enough, and they are smart to view it as such. Only handful of CEOs told me they would like to attend but guidance from their head offices precluded them from doing so.

While I agree, such corporate guidance is in my view largely around the legal implications of company-sanctioned meetings and events, and does not nor should not extend to personal social meetings such as the roundtable I proposed.

When taken to extremes, social distancing guidance while sound in principle, can lead to isolation precisely at a time when you need your peers the most, particularly if you lead a business. In any case, it is unlikely that any business you do is “essential.” In reality, the safest thing to do is to close your offices and factories, and send your people home, but no one is proposing that. In a few companies I know, some staff are still expected to show up physically to be productive at their jobs even though social distancing is in full force for everyone. Use common sense and your best judgment, and encourage your staff to do the same.

There is nothing wrong with remote options for communicating with peers, if that is what it takes. Yet there is still something to be said for physical presence that no virtual technology will ever replace, and I am not the only one to think so. The French Chamber of Commerce has scheduled an event for later this month for leaders of member businesses, albeit the numbers will be limited. The Economist Corporate Network has similarly scheduled an exclusive leader-only event for next month.

Each individual leader must make his or her own decision, but if you have the opportunity to interact with your peers in person during this period, don’t reject it out-of-hand because of some vague policy guidance from afar.

If few or no opportunities have presented themselves to you, there is nothing stopping you from creating your own by doing the following.

  1. Reach out to other CEOs to talk one-on-one.
  2. Schedule regular calls with one or more peers.
  3. Form a peer group of your own if you don’t have one and invite others to join.
  4. Offer to be available and reachable for immediate advice to CEOs you know. Most will likely reciprocate, and don’t hesitate to call on them if they do.

You’ll be better off with peer support, and so will your family and your staff.

I’m interested in your thoughts and experiences during this time. If you care to share, please drop me a line.

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