(This article was originally published on LinkedIn, on 1 May 2020.)
The past six weeks have been such a strange and difficult period for all of us that I thought I'd take stock at this point, count some of my blessings and share them with you. Here are the top 5 that I'm most grateful for.
1) Relative good health for me and my loved ones and the ability to connect.
I have family all over, locally in 3 regions of France, Malaysia, New Jersey, Tennessee, Ontario, Quebec, New York and California, not counting friends, etc. So you can imagine I was rather concerned in the first 10 days how the situation would play out with varying healthcare policies, and different sanitation and safety measures. To date it's been good and they are all safe, and I can only be thankful for that right now, conscious of the tragic circumstances faced by others.
Being able to connect instantly and virtually in a reliable way for the most part has been a relief even though we take it so much for granted these days. Although connectivity was dicey sometimes, I am grateful for the easy way I can reach people I haven't talked to for a long time and in different parts of the world.
So thank you Zoom, Facetime, Webex, WhatsApp and Skype. (Just please respect our data privacy more). And thanks to the whole ICT infrastructure that makes it possible for them to run on. It's the very reason I believe making broadband access a universal service is important (something my colleagues and I used to advocate working in Cisco).
2) More time and attention to cook and enjoy food healthily
Food has always been my thing. I love eating and eating right. I haven't touched a MacDonald's burger for almost two decades. Pizza chain delivery? For over 15 years. Quick sandwich? ONLY and very rarely when I'm doing a working lunch at a client's.
Lunch is actually my most important meal of the day, probably because I'm always rushing for breakfast, and dinner for me is really late. Even when I'm out at an office somewhere, I take time to sit in a bistro, canteen or restaurant for time out, usually with people I work or re-connect with. But I certainly don't mind eating alone if I have to. It's a liberating experience and it's still a great opportunity for time-out at mid-day for a properly cooked meal. (I'm a believer that constant and quick processed meals are toxic as much for us as it is for our environment, but that's a subject for another post).
Therefore, in this shutdown, I'm glad for the chance to do more home-cooking of balanced and simple meals, particularly at lunch. My most constant ingredient mix are spices and herbs. Each meal gives me a chance to improvise and get creative, and also to discover their healing properties.
On the weekends, because my husband has a sweet tooth, I've taken to baking although it's not my favorite past time. But having done it more than usual now, I've found it to be really therapeutic because it makes me practise mindfulness. In baking, I can't get distracted or multi-task mentally because I'm no good at it. So I pay extra attention, and the wonderful smell of baked goods is a wonderful reward.
3) Reinforced resilience in and from coaching.
I've learnt the art of productive WFH (work from home) since covering emerging markets with over a dozen different time zones during my days at Cisco. In that respect, it's been work as usual. However, I found COVID looming uncomfortably over this run-of-the-mill habit for me, unwittingly creating upheavals I didn't expect.
Little did I realize that an online certification course I had signed up for a month earlier to further develop my coaching skills, would become a life-saver in more ways than one. I had started coaching some years back because I discovered how it could be incredibly powerful, and also used its techniques in my consulting engagements.
But the COVID shutdown took coaching to a whole new level for me as the one delivering and also receiving. It helped me find renewed energy and focus during a highly distracting period. So I just want to give a shout out to AndrewNeitlich of the Center for Executive Coaching and to NiamhDee, Raina, Carmen, Robin, Allison and my clients (who I shall not name for confidentiality reasons). Thank you for renewing my purpose in coaching and in learning to be a better executive coach.
4) Re-discovered my love of writing about my own thoughts and perspective.
As a business communicator and consultant, I'm always writing - for CXOs and leaders I serve, for products and services I market and sell, for market and technology innovations that help customers and industry, for clients to build a stronger market positioning, for academic research or papers to learn, etc. As a result, writing for others became a lot easier than writing for myself. So it has become an incredible feeling and process to finally have mindful solitude to re-learn how to do it for me and no one else.
The wonderful thing is that, from there, I have started this blog for my work including a series on "Resilience Beyond COVID". And I originally wrote this on the fly as a LinkedIn article to share, my very first.
More important, writing has partly been responsible for getting me re-strategizing and creative again about my business and being productive in its revamp, which is the next "blessing".
5) Re-building my coaching and consulting business under my brand.
Two weeks ago, I did a soft roll-out of my 1st MVW (minimal viable website) version under my trademark in under 2.5 weeks of effort. Yesterday, after another two weeks of re-adjustments, incorporating the generous feedback from others, and getting innovative on some ideas, I rolled out a complete and revised version.
The biggest change to this outcome was driven by two essential questions I asked myself:
what could I do to digitalize quickly and deliver the same quality of service and value to my clients in this climate, and
what else could I offer to stand in solidarity with clients who are having a difficult time and could do with my expertise to help.
I'm basically taking the same advice I give business owners and leaders - i.e. how to re-think your role and become a digital-first CEO (Customer Excellence Officer). I wrote about it here if you want to read more.
The answers I found started taking shape within the last week and have been incorporated into my web platform: from online scheduling to cashless payment and getting personalized on-demand coaching, consulting or online lab micro workshops.
Check it out: www.ellagora.com. And as mentioned, to show "Solidarity in COVID", I've designed on-demand service offers dedicated to supporting you instantly, whether it's to re-build a comeback for a different normal or something else. Let me know what I'm missing in this 2nd MVW version.
So these 5 things kept me sane and going, even pumped up, in all the 5 to 6 weeks of incredible uncertainty, physical isolation and depleting income.