Effective leadership

When the pandemic becomes personal

Sophia Randall
Sophia Randall
Sophia Randall

When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

—John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. president

There I was, excited about starting a new contract, being out in the field, learning how my client’s company works, traveling to partner sites, meeting new people, and envisioning all the ways Celerity can improve our new client’s business. Then about a week in, COVID-19 hits. In a matter of days, travel bans are instituted and businesses, daycares and schools close for unknown periods of time.

Our office teams are now virtual, we have home offices, shop in stores with limited items in stock, navigate our lives without services we one relied upon, and as a single parent, I have to figure out how to work in a household with a teen and toddler and no daycare options to help. In the midst of coordinating all of this, my hometown of Amityville, NY was hit hard with the virus, taking the lives of many, including my best friend of 30+ years.

My story is not unique. Most of the world is adjusting to new work and life models under the constant cloud of a deadly and highly communicable disease. The pressure is on. Life as we know it has changed. We all have to figure it out and find a way through the “danger” to the place of opportunity. Whether you’re leading a Fortune 500 organization or a household of energetic kids, the leadership decisions that I’ve seen Celerity institute during the pandemic have helped me both personally and professionally find the opportunity within the crisis.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned about leadership in the past few months.

Leaders take swift, transparent action.

Early in March, while others were still weighing their options, Ken Quaglio, Celerity’s President and CEO, along with his executive team, immediately took action to address the Celerity staff. As a company and as a team, we had to quickly adjust our approach to how we will deliver within our existing contracts—and do it quickly—to ease client concerns. Our People Care team promptly communicated our action plan, reaching out to managers and staff to ensure that we had everything needed to be able to work remotely and virtually interact with our clients. Their swift action and transparency through the transition brought a calm and focus that served our teams and clients well.

Leaders take care of their people.

Our executive leadership team is very involved in making sure that we are mentally, emotionally, and physically taking care of ourselves through the crisis and that we are aware of what benefits we have available to us. Some of the changes Celerity has made to be more conscious of our mental health include mindfulness breaks, virtual exercise sessions, expanded benefits to help with dinner and food needs, and virtual social hours. The check-ins and regular emails that I receive from our CEO offer transparency, reduce my anxiety, reassure me of my job security, and ensure we are all well informed on what is happening and what to expect.

Leaders listen actively and adapt accordingly.

Since I started working at Celerity over three years ago, I noticed that the leadership team involves you, encourages you to speak up, listens to you, gives help, and acts. I have personally offered suggestions and voiced opinions that I have seen put into action. I have also seen our leadership make positive changes, not just to attract new clients in this environment, but also to retain and attract new talent to serve them. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change how we conduct business, and the leadership at Celerity has evolved rapidly to meet the occasion. As staff members, we saw our leadership team put the attention on us and our families, as well as on the success of the business at large.

Leaders see the opportunity within the crisis.

As a company, Celerity is moving in a way to not only “get through” this period of uncertainty, but to also display our AUTHENTIC IDENTITY, whether we are setting standards with our clients, in the marketplace, or amongst our teammates. I am proud to be working for a company that values the fact that our clients, vendors, and teammates are humans, and not machines. I value being on an understanding team that allows us to be flexible in our schedules to care for our various family matters – and ourselves. Sometimes we need unconventional, customized attention to stand out and be spectacular.

This situation pushes all of us to be forthcoming, resilient, and collaborative, which is authentic to the Celerity culture. We are tapping into those talents and resources deep within and bringing more of ourselves to our jobs each day. I believe an authentic approach reflects our corporate values: it’s what adds S.P.I.C.E (Synchronicity, Perseverance, Intentional Action, Courageous Authenticity, Empathy) to Celerity.

Moving forward into the new normal.

Now, three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the project team I am on has worked together synchronizing a seamless transition plan for our client. We are supporting each other as we work through family and personal matters like the death of my good friend in NY. Personally, I mustered up the courage to be authentic in front of the whole company while speaking at the April All Hands meeting. Words cannot describe the emotions felt when the flood of empathy and support poured in from my Celerity family. It was a profound lesson in the value of vulnerability.

Yes, I am still figuring how to balance work and home with my family like any other working mom. However, having a supportive leadership team, looking for the hidden opportunities, and knowing we are all going through this together assures me that we will come out the other side of this stronger than ever!