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Three Lessons from the Flu

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This post is being written from my home office, because I have been banned from the newspaper. Apparently, people aren’t too happy if you show up to work with the flu. There is no honor in “toughing it out” if that means infecting others.

I have an bout with some form of disease each year about this time. More often than not, I merely battle colds. Once in awhile, however, the flu strikes.

While in “solitary confinement,” I am learning many lessons from this disease and the process of recovery. Here are three key observations:

 

Prevention Doesn’t Always Keep Bad Things From Happening

Three months ago, I took the flu shot. I wasn’t given a choice. During a routine visit to my doctor, the question was asked, and the vaccine was administered. I boldly entered the cold and flu season thinking I was prepared and invincible.

“I can’t be positive for the flu. I had the shot,” I said.

“The flu shot didn’t prevent the flu this time, just made it less severe on those who took it,” the nurse said.

The same is true in our businesses. Just because we “count the costs” and take every measure to insure success, bad things can still happen. Failures can still occur. So why plan at all?

The company, or leader that makes those plans can prevent a failure from being fatal. Just like the shot has made the flu less severe on me, planning for the worst case helps if things go south on a project of business endeavor.

 

Bad Things Are Infectious

In my error regarding the Flu shot, I gave the flu to my wife. She was already suffering from a cold. The whole reason I found out I was positive for the flu was due to a doctor’s visit to treat her illness. They tested her (positive) and then tested me (positive.)

In business, we can take bad information and turn it into a catastrophe around the office. As leaders, how we handle setbacks and failures will ultimately rub off on others. If we see it as “the end of the world,” our teams will follow suit.

This doesn’t mean to whitewash or hide information. That is even worse. It’s like being positive for the flu, and not telling anyone.

Share the information, but do so in a constructive, problem-solving way. People on your team can handle more than you think. If times get tough, they need to know why, so they can help be a part of the solution, or at least help ride things out.

 

Life Goes On Without You

Since the first of the year, I have yet to spend an entire day at the office. Between the symptoms, the lack of energy, and now the threat of contamination, I have be gone more than I have been at work.

A funny thing happened in my absence. The job still got done.

Entrepreneurs have a hard time letting go and letting their teams run with the ball. I count myself in that. However, truly successful leaders do just that. They teach, inspire and hold accountable, but allow others to do their part.

Short-term absences won’t cause the ship to wreck — as long as leaders have done their job prior to the storm.

 

Lessons can be learned from many different experiences. Even the Flu can teach us a lesson or two.

Good thing the virus cannot be spread via the Internet. You might want to use some hand sanitizer, just in case.

 

David A. Specht is President of Specht Newspapers, Inc. and Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He can be reached at dspecht@bossierpress.com