Through solidarity and reaching out to each other, each one of us plays a key leadership role in these difficult times
Lawyers freak out. It’s our job to worry … about everything. Nobody wants us at their parties because what others see as fun, we see as imprudent. But the secret to being an effective lawyer is to always keep calm, stay positive and never let the client see you worry. Just as you don’t want to see fear in your doctor’s eyes, you certainly don’t want to see your lawyer panic either. Most importantly, people are much more likely to listen to their lawyer’s advice if their lawyer is good humored, constructive and positive.
For context, I live in Madrid, Spain where we have been in almost complete lockdown for over two weeks. My children have not left the house now in seventeen days, and the shopping center across the street – where I go to the pharmacy and grocery shopping on the rare occasion that I leave the house — has been converted into a make-shift morgue.
So when all of my Madrid Legal colleagues started working from home two weeks ago, I realized that as one of the more elder senior members of the department, I needed to step up and use my best lawyer skills to help keep my colleagues inter-connected and engaged during these very unique times. Furthermore, many of my younger colleagues are single, not from Madrid, and could easily feel overwhelmed from the sense of isolation. Other colleagues have friends, family members, especially elderly ones at risk or even in the hospital. These are scary times.
As someone who is not shy of the spotlight, I decided to take the lead by setting up a Microsoft Team called “QuaranTeam MAD”. I envisioned a video-podcast a la Robin Williams’ “Good Morning Vietnam”, where I would open each day with “Good Morning, QuaranTeam” followed by a few bad jokes. A good sense of humor goes a long way, but as a senior colleague once told me, an effective leader needs at times to show vulnerability, meaning knowing how to admit, “I don’t know” or “I need help”.
I took his advice, broke my lawyer-with-a-smile facade and started QuaranTeam by recognizing that I am vulnerable. So here it goes: This is frightening like I have never been frightened before. I am worried about my parents’ health and having them so far away. When will I see them again? I am worried about my wife, children and myself. I am worried about how we’ll manage closed off indoors for so long. I am worried about my friends and colleagues. I am worried about my own finances and the global economy, and I am worried about what the future will look like for society. Will life ever be the same?
I uploaded the first video, and immediately my colleagues joined and began participating. One of them set up a daily virtual coffee break for the group, and I can’t explain how exciting it is to witness the positive vibe around the chat when people see each other’s faces. People share experiences while getting a glimpse into the sides of our lives we don’t usually see at the office, like children and pets coming in and out of the background. Suddenly it was not me, but dozens of people taking the lead. Colleagues checking in on each other to make sure we’re staying physically and mentally healthy. Instead of me thinking I was keeping other people sane, they were helping me keep my s – – t together.
By staying online, inter-connected, checking up on each other, and sharing a piece of our own daily lives – no matter how trivial — each of us is playing a leadership role to get us personally and professionally through these times.
This has made me realize a few things:
- I don’t need an engagement survey to tell me that someone at the office cares for me. I am seeing that now every day and it is incredibly moving.
- We all have the opportunity to take the lead by simply staying in touch with each other. Calling each other. Reaching out using the tools we have at our disposal. Staying connected. It makes a huge difference. Not just with colleagues but with friends and family.
- If we are not active, interconnected and focused, we will lose ourselves in the negativity of the news cycle and become isolated.
- And most importantly, we are only as strong as the relationships we have.
I want to thank my friends and colleagues for keeping me sane. I cannot promise to not run out of bad jokes. If I get repetitive, humor me!
* Note: This post is not intended to reflect the views of my current employer Amadeus. It is entirely my own viewpoint .