“I have lived through World War II and many other extremely difficult times, but those tragic experiences were nothing compared to what we are living in today.” These words hit me like a huge wrecking ball as they had come from my tireless 77-year old mother and renowned social worker, Po-Ling Ng, who usually laughs in the face of challenge.   Widowed at the age of 32 and left with four young children to raise on a social worker’s salary, she has conquered innumerable challenges by staying focused on what matters for herself and others.  Even through this pandemic, my mother has remained steadfast in mobilizing people and resources to provide essential meals and services to the homebound elderly who rely on her senior citizen center to survive. 

We are at war.  Unlike other wars, we find ourselves hiding away from and trying to survive the invisible.  Our enemy is not a nation or any identifiable group of people; it’s an aggressive virus, that if given the chance, will attack regardless of who you are.  Likewise, we must look beyond our differences and focus on a common purpose – to defeat and survive COVID-19. We are all part of the cure. Like soldiers in an army, we must band together to survive as individuals and a society more broadly.

Many of us are feeling emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially exhausted; leaving us to feel lost, lonely, and vulnerable.  To fight effectively against this enemy, we must ensure our baseline wellness as individuals first before we can turn our attention to helping others. As flight attendants would say, be sure to put on your own oxygen masks before assisting others. Likewise though, helping others may also just be the antidote we need to fight our individual despair and become stronger.  Having purpose that extends beyond the “me” to the “we” will ensure our mutual survival.

Not all of us can be first responders and other providers (like my mother) of essential services during this crisis. For example, like many others, I am instead self-quarantining in line with recommended (and often required) social distancing measures to protect myself, others, and the already overwhelmed healthcare system. My pre-COVID-19 means of providing in-person training to help my clients build inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing culture is simply not feasible in the current environment.  With my two young children at home 24/7, I am also overwhelmed with the full-time jobs of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping (and sanitizing), doing laundry, and helping with homework. 

I have my moments of weakness.  Yet, I am finding the PO-LING POWER framework (inspired by my mother, Po-Ling) to be an effective weapon to stay focused on the interconnectedness and importance of both “me” and “we” in this war.  PO-LING POWER helps me to thoughtfully consider how I can still do my part to help my community and society more broadly, while managing what matters… even while I am self-quarantining.

For each of us, our PO-LING POWER will look different and must be self-defined.  With my limited time and energy, PO-LING POWER has personally helped me to stay focused on:

  • (P)urpose: which, for me, is to build inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing culture AND to be a present mother.  This purpose, which considers both “me” and “we”, is what gets me out of bed in the mornings and is ultimately my personal vision for which I persevere;
  • (O)thers: continuing to help organizations, educators, families, and individuals (including friends!) survive and succeed through the pandemic;
  • (L)eading: being proactive in sharing what I know and how it can help others navigate the current crisis (including this article and another I wrote on “Organizational Survival: Leveraging Diversity with Inclusion to Navigate the Current Crisis”);
  • (I)nspiring: trying to serve as a role model to others (including my own children) to figure out the best ways to survive this war together;
  • (N)etworking: continuing to establish, build, and leverage relationships/friendships to move things forward and to help promote everyone’s wellness during this trying time; and
  • (G)rowing: embracing this adverse and new environment; pushing my own and others’ re-inventions by becoming more digitally savvy with new (to us) technology; and even adding to my cooking repertoire (since I can no longer rely on my sitter and takeout!). 

As I focus on each element of PO-LING, I try to ensure that what I am doing is in alignment with my, my companies’, and my community’s POWER:

  • (P)riorities: staying mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially healthy;
  • (O)bligations: meeting obligations to clients, colleagues, and family in addition to addressing financial liabilities;
  • (W)orthwhile Activities: focusing on things that are high impact and relatively low time commitment for myself and others.  This includes taking advantage of this unusual time with less face-to-face client engagement to develop more powerful offerings for building inclusive culture (with this potentially “new norm” in mind);
  • (E)nergy: doing what energizes me and those around me.  In addition to helping others, I focus on “me” and recharge by writing, taking walks, biking, binge watching “The Office” and other shows which provide comedic relief, engaging in creative play with my family, video calls with friends and colleagues, a daily glass of wine (no judgment please), and regular showers (which force me to get out of my pajamas and refresh me for the battle ahead of me); and
  • (R)esources: creatively using and managing available resources. This means also thinking more broadly about leveraging the technology, equipment, and all other resources (including people) to which I/we have access. Researching and using different governmental programs that provide some financial relief can be very helpful.  Further, evaluating and reducing non-essential expenses, provides more breathing room with respect to resources.

I hope that PO-LING POWER and its application to my life during this crisis will somehow resonate with and help you stay focused on what matters.  I recognize though that this may be a lot to absorb with so many concerns attacking all of us from different angles.  So, here’s a visual summary of the key elements of PO-LING POWER, which you can put on your refrigerator door or any another place you check for reminders:

Check each applicable box to gain a snapshot of where you are now and where you should focus in order to propel yourself and others to success.

Please reflect upon your own PO-LING POWER and use it as a powerful weapon to help us all survive and conquer this pandemic together.  Even in this environment of social distancing and self-quarantining, we must think not just about ourselves but of others as well. We are in this together. Be well and take care.  May PO-LING POWER always be with you.

For more information on the genesis and broader application of PO-LING POWER, here’s a link to the first chapter of PO-LING POWER (co-authored by me and my mom). Feel free to also check out our other resources to build more inclusive and high-performing culture and to empower people globally to think, act, and interact inclusively.