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Handshake

Kindergarten Lessons are Valuable Now

March 11, 2020
In very short order, the global coronavirus crisis has changed how we interact on a fundamental level.

These are extraordinary days. I don’t think that is an understatement. The global coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live, work and gather together. Conferences and events throughout the world have been cancelled, borders have been closed and even casual meetings now take place at a distance—or floating on a sea of hand sanitizer.

What comes next will be a test of ourselves and our resolve to find new ways to approach each other and our world. One lesson that we should take away is the understanding that if a virus can travel around the world, we are all connected in ways that transcend the traditional national boundaries. Perhaps this has been a lesson that isolation doesn’t work because we are bound together. We require interaction and relationships; we’re only human.

How we choose to interact certainly will change. The handshake is the most fundamental business and social interaction. It is a sign of greeting, of kinship and of agreement—and its future is in jeopardy. The trade shows and other gatherings we saw in March are conducted under a “no handshake” policy. We are forced to regard each other at arm’s length.

That doesn’t mean our relationships should come to an end, however. I think this is time to assess what we truly want and need from each other in business relationships and among our co-workers. If a handshake always has been a formality, maybe our first greeting is with words of understanding. We have talked via email and video conferences for years, and those tools have become more useful and more sophisticated. We can use them to our mutual advantage.

This is a time to be cautious, but not fearful. There still is work to be done: We have customers to help, families to support and a business to run. The near-term future is hazy, but as we have seen in every global crisis of my lifetime, there is clarity ahead. We just have to fight through the fog to find it. And if it needs to be a slightly different world, history shows we have adapted to that difference when required.

We need to keep reaching out to our partners. In this shared experience, each of the people in our personal and our business lives have something to offer us, and we have much to offer in return. It’s not a simple, straight-line path. But in those situations, it’s good to have someone along as you set out on the journey.

At some point, we will get back together in the same place at the same time. We will overcome the coronavirus, and we will repair the damage we have done to our economy and our world. Perhaps this shared crisis will remind us how much we have in common and how much we truly rely on one another—not just for business success or personal glory, but for our mutual existence on this planet. Maybe we will realize again that we are all in this together.

In the meantime, it’s time to start behaving like a 5-year-old: Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and use a little common sense. And be kind to one another. It’s all the same things we learned in kindergarten.

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