05/04/2020

BY BRANDON DOWNS | SENIOR MANAGER

In December of 2002, I was 19-years old and living in Marcos Juarez, Argentina.

The economy imploded abruptly overnight, inflation went through the roof, and whole livelihoods were lost. These events stemmed from the over inflation of the Argentine peso while a false picture of “everything is great” had been painted all along.

To say I had the emotional maturity to truly comprehend what was going on around me, would be a falsehood.

People lost their jobs and there were raids on grocery stores and banks. The government closed the banks as citizens made a run on them to withdraw their money. Riots became an everyday scenario as desperate individuals looted groceries and others protested in the streets. The government was in turmoil as they went through five presidents in about a two week period.  The value of the Argentine peso was so destitute that the provinces (U.S. equivalent of states) started to print its own currency.

I watched fathers weeping because they could not feed their kids. Families lost their homes, moved out into fields and constructed homes from cinder blocks with a common spicket for water in the area. What I saw were individuals overwhelmed by the challenge, not knowing how to escape.

Until today’s COVID-19 pandemic, I never thought I would experience something quite as grave as that.

The situation in Argentina may have been completely preventable had transparency and authenticity been its way of dealing with underlying issues. Eventually, reality caught up to the country and they were not prepared for the fallout.

Until today’s Covid-19 pandemic, I never thought I would experience something quite as grave as that.

As leaders today, we are seeing challenges in not just today’s global environment, but in all aspects of companies, governments, and even personal lives. While no situation or challenge is the exact same, I have learned valuable lessons over time. These include possible preventative measures and ways to persevere through unprecedented times:

Invest in Human Capital

“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” – Stephen R. Covey

Gaining intelligence and experience is the best investment we can make in both ourselves and our companies.  As an individual gains experiences and skills, they are more valuable than they were before.  In turn, as all individuals in a company gain experiences and skills, the company is more valuable and durable than before.

Investing in this form of capital, just as we do with financial capital, can help hedge risks and provide ways to overcome challenges quicker and with more efficiency.

Implement a Collaborative Approach

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan

I have always been amazed at how the collaborative approach to problem solving and solutioning is faster and more effective. In leveraging human capital investment, rarely has there been one person I have met that is as intelligent or as capable as a group of intelligent individuals. We are better when we are united together in both effort and trust.

Be Vulnerable

My first boss and mentor would repeatedly say, “you only know what you know” when I made mistakes early in my career.

The truth is that we have perspectives that have developed over time. Our opinions, thoughts and approach to things have been influenced by the life we have lived. Yet when challenges arise, we may not have the complete toolbox to address them by ourselves. That is when we can either hide it and pretend we are strong, like Argentina did with its currency, or be open with the challenges we face and willingness to listen to others with outside perspectives, opinions, thoughts, and approaches that have evolved through life experiences.

It is important to understand that we can’t expect others to know the challenges that are being faced if we aren’t willing to be vulnerable and ask for input and be willing to receive it. Little did I know that that the experience I witnessed and lived through years ago in Argentina would make such an impact on me. As I looked beyond the despair and devastation, I saw families finish building their cinder block house only to then take their tools and help someone else with theirs. I saw a coming together of skills and the willingness to not just give help to others, but just as importantly, ask for help.  There may be a sense of failure in asking for “help.” Seeking help or acknowledging shortcomings does not have to be an admission of failure, but rather a runway to growth and prosperity.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

Seeking help or acknowledging shortcomings does not have to be an admission of failure, but rather a runway to growth and prosperity.

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