03/12/2020

BY BRET FARRAR, CEO & FOUNDING PARTNER

As a CEO and business owner, the recent news and potential impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has me up at night working through how to best respond in the interest of our people, our clients, and the community.

In light of this, I’ve been reflecting on a childhood memory about the impact of panic.

Have you ever been stung by a scorpion? It hurts.

As a kid (thanks to the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever), I thought it meant instant death.

Rational? No, but it’s what I saw in the movie so it’s where my young brain went.

I was 12 and barefoot. When I lifted my foot and saw a scorpion hanging on, I thought I was a goner.

Panicked, I took off running toward the stairs. I tried to scale three steps at once, misjudged, and jammed my big toe into the top step.

Talk about pain!

Luckily, my parents weren’t far away. They immediately began treating both injuries — on the same foot, by the way — and reassured me that I was not going to die.  Scorpions in Texas are not as venomous as those in other parts of the world.

Thank goodness. Within a few hours, the pain from the scorpion sting subsided and you could barely see the mark.

On the other hand, the toe I had stubbed was a different story. It throbbed all night long and hurt for weeks.

As painful as it was, that day taught me a valuable lesson — panic can sometimes be more painful and dangerous than the initial event or injury. 

As a leader, that lesson holds true again and again.

Panic eclipses the brain’s ability to think rationally. Acting on panic leads to risky behaviors and decisions. Enduring weeks of pain etched the lesson indelibly into my brain, and I have reaped the rewards from it since then.

On the flip side, being dismissive in moments of crises is just as harmful. Not acknowledging issues by burying your head in the sand doesn’t mean you’re safe. A “nothing to see here” mantra ignores very real dangers and wastes valuable time that could be used to mitigate risk.

Panic can sometimes be more painful and dangerous than the initial event or injury.

Leaders face crises every day and are called on to be calm, thoughtful, honest, and transparent.

Just as my parents did, effective leaders take time to understand the problem, stay cool-headed, and gather information from trust-worthy sources.

Leaders work to remain logical versus emotional. They value and listen to loyalists and skeptics alike, knowing healthy answers are usually somewhere in between diverse perspectives.

Moral of the story? It is tempting in the situation we are faced with today to get caught up in the panic and paranoia we see all around us. Remember my scorpion sting and don’t let your reactions cause greater damage than the initial injury.

As a leader, people will look to you to set the tone. Stay informed, take reasonable precautions, and make logical decisions based on the care and well-being of others.

Leaders work to remain logical versus emotional. They value and listen to loyalists and skeptics alike, knowing healthy answers are usually somewhere in between diverse perspectives.

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