In followup to our most recent post about COVID hitting our office, you’ll be glad to know we’re all past it now. Hopefully that’s the same thing going on with just about everyone in the Omicron phase of this scourge.

But we’re not past it entirely, and that’s presenting a leadership challenge. Everyone has tested negative. Everyone is healthy again. But the impact of a weeklong isolation has also left its mark, and one result is that merely returning to the office has not been such a simple matter.

Remember the onset of COVID in March 2020, when everyone was manically focused on hand-washing and Lysoling everything within reach on a constant basis? Remember how nervous it made you to touch something in a public setting, because you couldn’t be sure who else had touched it?

Time lessened those anxieties for most of us. But once you actually get COVID, and spend a week contemplating all the implications of that, you just might find yourself going right back to that mindset. And that can present some real complications when you know it’s time to rejoin the normal dynamic of an office.

That hits us at an interesting time. We’re getting rolling on some important new accounts. We’ve got a real chance to bring in another one that we’ve wanted for more than two years. And there’s an even bigger opportunity, dangling in front of us, that we’ve been after for eight years.

This is a big week for us. We need to be at our best. And the still-very-present remnants of COVID are presenting some challenges there.

For a business leader, that prompts a question: Do you put on the hat of great business leader, spurring the team to achieve at the highest of levels because the time is critical and the opportunity means everything to our present and our future?

Or do you take on the part of compassionate, understanding dude – emphasizing above all else that it’s OK to be real about struggles, and that the company will be there with an abundance of patience and empathy while you do?

We know the answer: You have to do both. At the same time, you probably have to throw out some of the established game plan. You might need to deploy time, resources and people a little differently than you had anticipated. And you might have to tell someone who needs to hear it: You can expect patience and understanding from us, and we need to expect the following performance from you even as we accommodate your needs given what you’re going through.

We’re not sure that can work with every company, or every team. It requires real trust, real respect and – dare we say it? – real love. Maybe it’s easier when you’re a family company, but that can be a sticky wicket too. It’s not always easy to tell the family member who’s having a rough go of it: OK, we’ve got your back, and by the way you still need to perform.

One thing that’s crucial: If you’ve been treating your people well all along, you’ve got a much better chance of walking this line when the moment comes and you absolutely have to. So, if you’re not in a situation like this now, it’s a good time to check your practices as a leader and make sure you’ve got them right.

We hope none of your people will ever struggle. We also doubt that’s reality. So give some thought to how you’ll pull off the dual challenge of great business leader and source of compassion, all at the same time, when there’s no option of pulling back on either one.

This is why you’re the leader. Because you can do it.

Haven’t visited our web site yet? There’s no time like the present.