t has been a hectic month, watching the traverse of the coronavirus across the globe, and it‘s migration to North America. Many of us worried that the impact of the virus was overblown, especially with the “run” on toilet paper. I was embarrassed for some of my friends who posted photos of their overflowing shopping carts at Costco and mounds of delivery boxes from Amazon. I felt good that I held off stocking up on disappearing items that were precious to those who don’t have access or the means to acquire them. I considered my weekly business trips a study in human behavior. I watched these travelers’ transition from carefree boarding to careful disinfection of their personal space, to N95 masks and hazmat suits in the terminal. I know that the air exchanges on airplanes are quite safe, so it was the surfaces I needed to be hypervigilant about. I now carry a travel pack of Wet Ones and a bottle of hand sanitizer to wipe down my personal area, including my seat belt, armrests, tray table, and light/vent controls. More and more flight neighbors began doing the same thing, and I was always happy to offer a seatmate their own wipe from my stash. Almost all are grateful to accept and repeat the efforts in their own space!
So much has changed in the span of a few weeks and few of us are flying now. My husband, a real estate agent, says that home closings often bring out the “uglies” in people – home sellers and buyers are usually stressed, sometimes angry and not always at their best. I think the coronavirus has brought out the same “uglies” in many of us. I’ve seen young folks make fun of their elders for being so careful about germs (including masks and gloves in the concourse). I’ve witnessed disrespect to others, a lack of empathy to those who are fearful. I’ve also observed the adrenaline of leaders in times of excitement and their reactions to fear of the unknown. Calls with other health care leaders now last for hours. Comparison of best practices, keeping our healthcare teammates safe, working on getting test results faster and brainstorming about visitor restrictions all leave less time for our core business, the care of patients.
Managing in times of chaos can be addicting. Our priorities often change from hour to hour. It can become hard to mentor other leaders when our focus is fractured, and what we need are deliverables and deadlines met. Hopefully, these mentees can see how decisions are made quickly, while priorities shift.