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What’s really important during the COVID-19 outbreak?

What’s really important during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Americans are facing challenging times lately dealing with the Novel CoronaVirus and its impact on our daily lives. I thought it might be helpful to write about personal leadership and decision-making in our families as we get accustomed to the new norm of daily life with the virus all around us.

During my 34-year Air Force career, I was in charge of organizations big and small, and I remember many times when I took command of a new unit, I was routinely briefed on our existing emergency response plans. During these briefings, the Director of Emergency Response would show me a current list of the “Mission Essential” personnel on the base who would likely be required to work during a crisis or in a dangerous situation. Each time I heard this update, I would wonder why the director would propose a specific list of people who were deemed ‘important’ well before an actual crisis unfolded. This discussion would inevitably lead to my comment that the more important information might be an ‘essential tasks & duties’ list during an actual crisis. To me, this is the key question all of us need to consider as we adjust our lives during the CoronaVirus outbreak.

Here are a couple more thoughts on this idea:

1. Essential ‘tasks’ versus important people.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, moms and dads - like business leaders - need to ask themselves ‘What really needs to happen over the next few weeks’ so they can minimize their exposure to the virus, and make it easier to practice social distancing. If we do this logically, in an unemotional way, it will be much easier to determine whether a trip to see friends in another state or a family outing to the movie theater is really necessary...or whether you need to have a routine meeting with clients or staff versus doing it by teleconference. Next time you’re struggling with whether to meet a seemingly important person in the weeks ahead, ask yourself what the meeting is about before you decide to meet face-to-face. If the meeting is about a routine task or discussion, you should skip the face-to-face meeting until the COVID-19 threat is no longer active in your area.

2. Remain calm and talk to people you trust.

As the crisis unfolds, try to remain calm and look for quiet times to talk things over with people you trust. A simple phone call with a friend or trusted colleague usually puts dilemmas in better perspective allowing you to make wise decisions without losing sleep or fretting about less important tasks. And consider reading the advice rather than listening to someone read it to you on TV. Taking a few extra minutes to read and comprehend the facts might be a better technique in the weeks ahead versus letting the news media insert bias into your decision-making process.

3. Make sure you’re using ‘decision quality data’.

Try to decide what events are important using quality information available from people or news organizations you trust. Avoid relying on rumors or idle chatter to inform your decisions - use the advice of qualified people before you decide to attend a large meeting. As an example, I read this article the other day and it made good sense about how to ‘flatten the virus curve’ here in the U.S. Have a look.... And consider how much time you’ll save if you successfully avoid contracting the virus during this outbreak. Measure the risk to you and your family against the value of the event or meeting.

Bottom line - make your personal and professional decisions in the next few weeks by weighing what’s important to you, your family or your business instead of deciding who is important and whether to meet them personally. During times of crisis, it's not so much about who is important, but rather what really needs to happen. If you use this simple technique, you might find it easier to adjust to the threat of the COVID-19 virus.


TBA provides executive-level services to our clients focusing on their business needs. Along with 6 other General Officers from the U.S. military, TBA specializes in strategic reviews, business plan development, leadership training and executive-level assessments & evaluations.



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