4 min read

How to Find Your Leadership Zen in a Pandemic

Mar 31, 2020 9:15:00 AM

Last week Botkeeper sat down with strategic development consultant and pLink Leadership CEO, Gretchen Pisano. Pisano is uniquely qualified to assist us through this moment of uncertainty because she pairs her leadership acumen with a master’s degree in applied psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Here are some of her tips for leading and advising through COVID-19. 

Here, we address some prescient concerns:

  • How do you center yourself before getting on the phone with clients?
  • How do you be a strong leader for your organization?
  • How can you turn off at the end of the day and be present for your home life?

Let's jump right in.


How can our advisors and CPAs provide stability to our clients?

Gretchen points out that just as CPAs have adopted technology as a point of advancement in their field, it’s now time for  the application of “human sciences.” In the past there was an emphasis on CPAs needing to be the smartest people in the room, masters of all esoteric financial advice. This has shifted somewhat in the current climate. The CPA has to pivot and remain the trusted advisor with good judgment, but now they also must provide “steady energy, and—oh by the way—a great empathetic connection with your client.”

Gretchen gave a few tips for grounding into your strengths as an advisor:

  1. Give yourself that pep talk. No, you don't know what’s going to happen in the next 24, 48, 72 hours. Epidemics are outside your wheelhouse, but financials are not! 
  2. Ask your clients how they are, and listen to their concerns and fears. Make space for them. 
  3. Take a moment before calls to work out nervous energy and give yourself permission to work through your own fears.


How best can we lead our teams in this environment?

Here’s Gretchen’s playbook:

  1. Be Consistent. 
  2. Be Accurate.
  3. Be Forthcoming with Vital Information. 

Consistency according to Gretchen: “It doesn’t mean saying the same thing over and over and over again. Being consistent means being consistent with the frequency with which you communicate, and the tone you bring to those communications, which we totally undervalue from a leadership point of view.”

Accuracy according to Gretchen: “Paying attention to what's changing in your external environment,” both locally and globally and communicating the most important changes to your organization. 

 “You can't just watch the environment change and either not acknowledge it or watch it change and have a big story about why you don't have to change.”

Forthcoming according to Gretchen: It’s key that you are communicating with your team in a way that is forthright and “that you’re rapidly adapting the way your firm is addressing that changing reality. That's the deal. You can't just watch the environment change and either not acknowledge it or watch it change and have a big story about why you don't have to change.”


How can we set a standard for our employees?

Gretchen encourages us to “take this opportunity to remind everybody that this is a time for holding people accountable for behavior and not just results. So, you as leaders are going to do what you need to do so you can show up to your staff clear and grounded. And you need to hold your directs to the same. So, if you see your directs taking out their fear and anxiety on some staff, then that's a conversation. That's a conversation with clear boundaries.” It’s ok for us as leaders to feel afraid, uncertain, and stressed. But It’s not ok for anyone to take that out on staff.


How do I leave it all at the (home) office?

pLink Leadership stresses self-regulation as a finite resource. “You burn it up during the day, which is why we save our worst behavior for the people we love most.” It’s a bummer, but it’s true. Here are some practical suggestions to mitigate the home-bound monster version of yourself: 

  1. “Anticipate that during the day your attention is going to get fragmented, it's going to get pulled in lots of different directions.” What you need to do is place a time gap between work and not-work. That’s your time to reintegrate your mind-tentacles that have been pulled in a million directions. Turn off your screens and go exercise, meditate, journal, reflect. Anything that calms the system down and settles your mind. 
  2. Teach yourself and your family how to manage uncertainty. Key Human Psychology Tip: schedules really help us stay calm and focussed. There's a few ready-made schedules floating around that can help you build a steady cadence for the day.
  3. Let's talk coping skills. A lot of interpersonal communications are going to be fear- and anxiety-based. Practice listening to what the people you love are trying to tell you without needing to solve it! Acknowledge and validate what you hear. Share and practice these techniques with your loved ones.
If you need more of Gretchen’s wisdom in your life, she's launching on the pLink Leadership site 5 free workshops on the most relevant COVID/leadership topics. Check out: plinkleadership.com 

We want to hear from you! Comment and subscribe below!


Jody Padar

Written by Jody Padar

VP Strategy at Botkeeper, and the Radical CPA