It goes without saying that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. After weeks of living under our new normal — whether you are an essential worker, working from home, or have lost your job — the uncertainty is maddening.

Yet now, more than ever, we have one of the rarest opportunities of our lifetime: the ability to turn this crisis into opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong. As a CEO and leader of my own company, my initial reaction was probably like everyone else’s. A bit of panic. Sleepless nights. Fear.

And then I reminded myself— I’ve navigated crises before and came out the other side better than ever. In fact, I started my non-traditional law firm right before the 2008 recession. Talk about scary. Yet, looking back I realized that there were three essential ways I was able to propel my business forward.

Embrace Change

I love my routine. I count on it. When the first stay-at-home order came in, I silently panicked. Would my staff be as productive? Would we meet our goals? Would clients want to work with us remotely?

Ready or not, things were changing. With employees and clients relying on me, I had a choice. Be stagnate or adapt. I quickly implemented a new “stay at home” process for my business and for our interaction with clients. The benefit of embracing change has enabled my business to be adaptable under any circumstance.

When you are adaptable, you can grow. You find new ways to interact with clients, to market – and even start a new business.

Demonstrate Leadership

Whether you are in a leadership position now or aspire to be, there is no better time to hone your skills during a crisis. I fall back on three principles:

Don’t overreact. I’m not advocating being a robot, in times like these emotions run hot. Practice being a reed in the wind. Stay cool when things bubble up around you, even if you feel like a volcano that’s about to erupt. Why? If you can remain calm, you buy yourself time to think. When you give yourself that opportunity, you make better decisions. In other words, you show that you are a leader.

Compartmentalize. Come up with 1-2 tasks that you know you can achieve, then finish them despite the noise around you. When I started my firm, the economy was in shambles. Firms were laying off lawyers left and right. It would have been easy to give up. Somehow, I knew that if I was going to succeed, I had to eliminate all negative voices (the news, group emails, naysayers) for just a little while. Each day, I removed all distractions for a set period of time each day. Sometimes, I only had 10 minutes and sometimes I was blessed with a few hours. It didn’t matter, it was the practice that was important. By doing this, I saw results. All because I focused on one thing at a time while keeping negativity at bay.

Practice Empathy. Not everyone is going to react the same way. Take time to check in with your work colleagues, clients, staff and really find out how they are doing. Adapt. One of my staff members was isolating alone and wasn’t doing well, so the rest of us banded around her to make her feel valued.

Be Grateful.

Know that this will pass. Things will get better. Find the smallest reasons to be grateful for and expand from there. Every morning, I write short note to myself expressing the things I’m thankful for that day. My husband finished the fence. Grateful. A a client called with a new project. Grateful. It’s a sunny, beautiful day. Grateful. The strawberry I ate for breakfast was delicious. Grateful.

Starting your day with gratitude sets you up to do great things.

Joleen Winther Hughes, CEO and Founder of HMLG in Seattle, Washington is a Lawyer Who Rocks. A pioneer in digital media, she and her team of business lawyers provide in-house level legal services to innovative companies at the intersection of technology/media/entertainment and consumer products and services.

In addition to her legal career, she’s a speaker, author and serial entrepreneur, who started a music promotion and management company at age twenty-one, has owned and sold two restaurants, and is the co-founder of a high-end stationery company. As a board member and fan, she’s an avid supporter of the arts.

You can hear Joleen’s each week on her podcast The Lawyer Who Rocks, where she chats up fellow entrepreneurs about what they do, how they do it, and what they’ve learned along the way. From founders of startups making waves in tech and media, to authors, musicians and VC’s – The Lawyer Who Rocks amplifies their badassery to the world at large.

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