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Like a Bridge “Under” Troubled Waters | Leading Change and Transition through the Coronavirus Wave

March 12, 2020 Diana María Gruber

“Río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores.” My grandfather, Antonio Torres, was fond of this Spanish saying, which translates to, “There’s good fishing in troubled waters.”  

He would know—he waded through plenty of troubled waters, literally and figuratively, in his 96 years. A prominent businessman in our small coastal town of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, my grandfather lived through multiple recessions, the Great Depression, and modernization and globalization trends that forced him to continually rethink and reshape his small-town retail shop, and his family’s livelihood.  

It wasn’t easy, but he succeeded, each and every time.

What was his secret? There wasn’t just one. Success is the result of many “little things”—creating healthy habits, being consistent, and following through on a vision. There’s not just one answer. Yet, I’m convinced if my grandfather were here, he’d say his success hinged on one key ability—his tendency to “go fishing” in troubled waters.

That’s the thing about change and transition. We can’t really build a bridge across the troubled waters. We can’t bypass the changes or try to keep our feet dry. Nor can we shelter ourselves from the waves of transition, as they splash and crash against our organization, industry, or even our whole sector.

The only way to navigate these waters is to go through them. As leaders, we need to face the tides, look reality in the eye, and understand that change is happening.  

While this big coronavirus “wave” washes over us, there’s no denying we are in troubled waters. Thousands of companies across the US and globally are taking proactive measures to avoid, minimize, and respond to this epidemic. As organizational leaders deal with profit drops, resource restrictions, and travel bans, the world watches with bated breath—what will they do next?  

As an organizational leader, what will you do next? How will you respond? How will you help your team not only survive but thrive? Remember, it’s not just about braving the storm, but rather about what’s on the other side—the “underside” of that turbulent river.  

“Río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores.” 

No doubt there will be losses. Amid rising fears about COVID-19, production is disrupted, supply chains are affected, deadlines are missed, deliveries are delayed, and contracts go unrenewed. Conferences are canceled, events rescheduled, and the travel industry is hard-hit. Healthcare professionals are overworked, retail establishments are understaffed, and at-risk communities are underserved. Schools are closed, community initiatives are canceled, and educational opportunities are missed. 

Or… are they? 

As a top-tier leadership development firm, Linkage believes educational opportunities are all around. Yes, we’ve also had to make adjustments in response to coronavirus. It’s the responsible thing to do, to keep our clients safe. And, in our adjustment to this changing environment, new learning continues to emerge

Linkage believes in experiential learning, and we realize there’s no better classroom than, well, life.

Coronavirus is a part of your life today. Use it to grow as a leader. Ask yourself: What’s on the other side of these “troubled waters”? Will your organization take this opportunity to rethink processes, strategies, and offerings? Will you identify new talent and recognize strong employees in times of crisis? Will you repurpose resources, and find “unexpected pockets” of time, treasure and talent? Will you use downtime to think strategically, spend time with family, or volunteer in your local community? Will you offer employees remote-learning opportunities, like webinars or virtual conferences? Will you bring local teams together, holding intact-team initiatives, on-site and closer to home?   

When you do, we’re here to serve you. 

In the meantime, let’s bring it back to purpose. Remember, a Purposeful Leader doesn’t ask, “Are the waters calm yet?” A Purposeful Leader asks, “What will I do while I am in these troubled waters? What will I fish for, now that the waters are troubled, and the fishing is good?”

The secret to my grandfather’s success is that he left no fish unturned—will you?  

“Río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores.” 

May your fishing be patient and productive.

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