Today’s marketplace leaders are facing incredible challenges, with multiple issues colliding as new ones appear on the horizon. We were blessed recently to hear from Dr. Chip Roper of VOCA Center and Chuck Proudfit of At Work On Purpose®, who discussed four major forces threatening marketplace leaders and four ways city leaders can support them. Marketplace leaders are not somehow insulated from these factors but are facing them simultaneously:
- Physical health. COVID is real and the effects are many
- Economic instability. Major disruptions are causing short-term and long-term changes
- Social unrest. Systemic racial injustices are intrinsic to the marketplace, not outside of it
- Political polarization. The politics of the virus plus the upcoming national election are brewing a perfect storm of division
As writer Damian Barr noted, “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” When it comes to employment, some people have transitioned smoothly to the work-from-home model and managed to catch up on some family time in the process. Others have been furloughed or lost their jobs entirely and face a loss of income. Still others are working more than ever, or figuring out how to keep jobs that can’t be done from home while somehow taking care of their children. For business owners and managers whose decisions greatly impact the people in each scenario, the stress can be overwhelming.
The Coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly transforming how we work, worship, learn and socialize. But as Proudfit noted, “COVID is as much an amplifier as it is a transformer.” Existing concerns about the political divide, social justice and economic disparities are amplified by the virus and resulting cultural shifts.
The response for marketplace leaders revolves around protection (trying to secure adequate cash flow), pivoting (creatively navigating around the latest obstacle) and pioneering (finding innovative ways to adapt and restructure). Enormous amounts of effort will be required to develop and implement these changes, but the opportunities for building a more resilient organization are promising.
As city leaders and ministers of the Gospel, we are called to support and encourage those in business, education and government as they deal with these realities. We can do so by offering the following:
- Empathy. Understanding the reality of the situation. Most of us are mourning the death of normal and dreading the birth of a new normal
- Practicality. Finding immediate and practical ways to help and get help
- Creativity. Serving as a sounding board for leaders who often don’t have anyone with whom to share their vulnerabilities and ideas
- Spirituality. What does God say about each situation? What does God’s word say
When we remind marketplace leaders how their work matters to God as a vital part of the Kingdom, we are breathing life into an often lonely existence. Through the work they are doing, God can provide for others – jobs, goods, services, community. Sometimes that extra affirmation of their calling will be just enough encouragement to help them see through the clouds until the storm has passed.