Posted On 2020-04-04 In Covenant Solidarity in Times of Coronavirus, Something to think about

Business Challenges in the face of the Coronavirus

ARGENTINA, Carlos Barrio e Lipperheide •

We are living an unprecedented world reality, a situation in which we are all learning and looking for ways to move forward, in the midst of many uncertainties and unanswered questions. —

We are all in shock, anguish and disoriented. We do not know when or how we will overcome these circumstances, but, what we do know is that we must find a way out and overcome the pandemic.

Surely after this the world will not be the same and we will all have learned many things. In the face of this situation, questions arise that I want to share so that, from this attitude of questioning each other, we can meet. Thus, I ask myself what are the greatest challenges and opportunities that companies and their leaders face in this context? What can be contributed in these difficult circumstances to advance in the construction of a company that is productive and at the same time human and organic, alleviating and generating confidence in the face of so much fragility, fear and isolation?

Taking care of people

I find that the first of the challenges ahead of us is to take care of the people, the human capital, to protect ourselves from the disease, taking all the necessary measures to avoid contagion, both from the people who have to stay in the company, and from those who are sent home to continue working from there.

This care should include the emotional aspects, both because of the reclusion and because of the existential insecurity caused by seeing so many sick and dead people.

The care that the company has, will speak to the way in which it sees its collaborators. As Watzlawick says, “it is not possible not to communicate”[1] What we say and do, like what we do not say and do not do, communicates our values and beliefs. Let’s be more and more aware of that. It’s a good opportunity to reinforce and awaken the feeling of worth that everyone has for the company.

Let’s ask ourselves how are we communicating mutual care in the company, what messages are we sharing, what can we do to take better care of ourselves?

Let us not lose sight of what the great Catholic businessman, Enrique Shaw, used to tell us: “The company must be an instrument of human dignity. The ‘climate’ must be such that it contributes to the ascension of man and provides him with the best opportunities for his development through his work”. [2] Surely there is much to be done in this regard.

The economic effect

Secondly, there is a very strong negative economic impact on the results of many companies due to the drastic decrease in their income.

The challenge is to try to mitigate that effect by reducing costs and stimulating imagination and creativity to generate new business possibilities. The context is extremely difficult and it seems that there is not much to do and that we are at a dead end.

However, I believe that we should ask ourselves if this is not an opportunity for us to strengthen our conscience and discover that in spite of everything, “…work is a heartfelt participation in creative activity” and that it should lead us to a “…donation of ourselves, to forge and to create”, as Joseph Kentenich[3] told us many years ago.

I encourage us to ask ourselves what can we do so that we feel united to our tasks in these difficult circumstances? What can we contribute in a new way to live more awake and with the desire to forge and create, in an atmosphere of distance, fears and restrictions? What is the form that I find to participate heartily in the work? Is it possible to rediscover our creativity in this new work context? What changes do we imagine to live more fully? What can I recreate so that this will happen? These are difficult questions in very difficult times, but they seek to open doors.

I am convinced that from this perspective we will be able to live our work with more joy in these difficult moments.

I glimpse that, in spite of everything, it is a good moment to empower ourselves in our work. Enrique Shaw told us that “… the company manager must give as much freedom as possible so that each person can be master of his actions and express his personality” [4] Let us take advantage of the current and exceptional circumstances to become masters of our creative freedom and express our most authentic personality, for mutual benefit and greater productivity. I believe that these strong moments call us to deepen in these beliefs and find new paths.

If we manage to open up, even a little, this path, it will probably be possible to advance towards a better integration, avoiding a worker who “… carries out the work without considering it ‘his work’ and without feeling, as a person, linked to it and even less to the company. Lacking any possibility of ‘participation’, it is not surprising that he does not bring his intelligence and heart to the company”.[5]

The negative impact of the economy on workers

Counteracting the negative impact of the economy on workers is another challenge we face. Companies are taking wage reduction measures due to the drop in sales, which is causing difficulties for us to continue to pay our family expenses. In many cases this is the only way to avoid a closure, which would be even more harmful.

I see this as a good time for all of us to build what Kentenich called “solidarity”, that is, “the responsibility of one another and for the totality”[6], it means solidarity integrated into subsidiarity: being in solidarity with mutual needs and at the same time, encouraging mutual empowerment so that everyone can make a contribution to the enterprise. Let us be in solidarity and seek to be more attentive to the needs of our co-workers, approaching them through the means of communication provided by social networks. Let us develop at the same time our capacity for subsidiary action, with proactivity, carrying out all the tasks that we can develop for the company.

The fourth challenge I face is to strengthen the links between all of us who make up the company. The situation is affecting our mood and breaking the collective cohesion due to the loss of work proximity and the uncertainty about the future.

Will we be able to maintain unity and motivation in the midst of the storm? It is essential that we strengthen our communication, while at the same time strengthening our relationships.

Circumstances require that we live in proximity and have an empathetic mutual listening. More than gurus who point the way, we need to listen to each other, to live our feelings and concerns, to value and feel valued and taken into account.

More than ever in these days of uncertainty, in which it seems that business difficulties are accentuated, the distance to communicate and a sensation of deepening in a liquid and dismembered world, I find the model of the new man proposed by Kentenich enlightening, as an “autonomous personality of great interiority, with a will and permanent disposition for decision, responsible before his own conscience and interiorly free, who moves away from a rigid slavery to forms as well as from an arbitrariness that does not know norms. [7]

Let us walk out into the sea tonight, illuminated by this new man, to the new beaches that await us.

Carlos E. Barrio and Lipperheide
March 23rd 2020
[email protected]

Non-exclusive material. Published with the author’s permission

Photo: IStock Getty Images -ID:1212284046, © Ca-ssis, licensed for schoenstatt.org

[1]P. Watzlawick, J. Beavin Bavelas y D. D. Jackson “Teoría de la comunicación humana”. (Ed. Herder, 1997), p. 52. English: Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies and Paradoxes, 1967.
[2] Enrique Shaw “… y dominad la tierra. Mensajes de Enrique Shaw”. ACDE (2010), p. 70.  Enrique Ernesto Shaw, born in Paris on February 26th, 1921 and dies in Buenos Aires on August 27th, 1962. He was a layman, sailor and Argentinean businessman, who married Cecilia Bunge, with whom they had 9 children. Because of his exemplary life, the Church accepted that his process of canonization be initiated and since 2001 he is considered a Servant of God. He promoted and encouraged the human growth of his workers, being inspired by the Social Doctrine of the Church. He founded the Christian Association of Business Leaders (ACDE), an entity that is part of the International Union of Business Leaders (UNIAPAC), and wrote numerous books, pamphlets and conferences.
[3] Fr. Rafael Fernández: José Kentenich, “Desafíos de Nuestro Tiempo”. Editorial Patris, 1985. Textos escogidos del padre Kentenich. “Análisis de nuestro tiempo”, p. 15.
[4] Enrique Shaw “… y dominad la tierra. Mensajes de Enrique Shaw”. ACDE (2010), p. 70.
[5] Enrique Shaw. “Y dominad la tierra”. Editorial ACDE (2010), p.83
[6] José Kentenich (Herbert King). “El mundo de los vínculos personales”. Editorial Nueva Patris (2015), págs. 90 y 91.
[7] José Kentenich. “Mi filosofía de la educación”. Editorial Schoenstatt (1985), pp. 14. Original: What is my philosophy of education?, Milwaukee 1961

Original: Spanish 25.03.20 – Translated by: Maria Aragón, Monterrey, México.

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