Coronavirus: Become the hero of your own story
Blaire Palmer follows the story of accountants during the alternate reality presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how their stories make them heroes in their own right.
This is not the ordinary world any more. Looking back over the last few weeks it seems incredible that we were able to go out for a coffee, pop to the shops, hug a friend and drop our kids at school.
We are seeing healthy, viable businesses going under, hard working clients unable to pay their commercial rents or their fees to accountants, and, of course, a few money grabbers who want you to drum up a cash payout they don’t need and don’t deserve.
As a coach, I specialize in working with leaders through change and this is change on steroids. But the journey of change is actually very predictable and understanding that journey might help you reassure yourself, your team and your clients that, as the old Persian saying goes, “This too shall pass”.
The call to adventure
Every story has a hero. And that hero is called to adventure. They are living their normal, ordinary life when an opportunity to go on a journey is thrust upon them. At the start of these movies, life is recognizable, mundane, predictable. But once our hero accepts the call to adventure, everything changes. COVID-19 was our call to adventure and we find ourselves in a new reality, like it or not.
Tests and trials
This journey of change, known as the 'Hero’s Journey' – developed in the early part of the 20th Century by Joseph Campbell, tests us from the start. Foes get in the way – perhaps clients who are only interested in what they can claim, or the virus itself; and our hero is tested – considerable drops in billable hours, working with children and a partner at home. But our hero also discovers friends, sometimes in unusual places. Who has appeared in your business or personal life over the last month as a source of support and assistance?
The belly of the whale
In every story, there is a moment of despair where our hero finds themselves in a dark and desperate place wishing the world would return to normal. I’ve been working with many parents working from home with kids at home over the last few weeks and they describe the current situation as catastrophic for their work and their family, saying that they are drowning under the pressure. And it’s not just parents. Business owners, employees in SMEs, start-up clients and you, of course, have had moments of sadness if not mourning for your own firm and the clients you serve.
The way out of the belly of the whale is your friends and allies. Don’t hide away, pretending that you feel fine. Ask for help, talk to trusted colleagues about your fears, the pressures you’re under and what’s triggering you today. And encourage your clients and staff to do the same. You can isolate without being isolated.
The final fight
The journey doesn’t end until the hero’s final test. Winning that final fight isn’t just about physical strength or technical skill. It’s an internal battle, a change in thinking that has to occur.
We might not be here yet. The lessons we need to learn to get our firms through it and get our clients through it might not yet be clear. And staying strong for your clients and your staff right now might mean there isn’t much opportunity for reflection and taking onboard the longer term implications of the journey you’re on.
But there are lessons to come and they could change your business and the way you work with clients for the long term. In fact, if things don’t change, what was all of this for? Making meaning of the journey will help you heal.
At the end of the movie, life returns to something familiar. But the hero has been changed by the adventure and will never be the same again.
You are the hero in your version of the Hero’s Journey.
This model shows us where we are. It normalises the way we are feeling and reassures us that we’ve done this before, we’ve navigated change, we’ve grown and learnt as a result. Where we are today is due to the hero’s journeys we’ve undertaken in the past and our future destination is determined by the journey we are on now.
None of this is to belittle the very real challenges our firms and our clients are experiencing. We aren’t in a movie. But there is a reason so many films follow this tried and tested model. The Hero’s Journey is the story of every major change, big decision or life event you’ve ever experienced. When we go to the cinema the films we watch resonate with us because we recognize ourselves and our own lives, the challenges we’ve had to overcome and the mental shifts we’ve needed to make to come through the other side.
I for one find it reassuring. And I hope you do too.
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Blaire Palmer is a leadership coach, author and conference speaker. As CEO of That People Thing she works with senior executives to help them rethink how to lead in these fast-changing times. Blaire is a judge in the Investing in People category of the 2020 Accounting Excellence Awards...