Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 2 April 2020

Tags: , , , , , ,


D I  S  C  O  N  N  E  C  T  E  D N  E  S  S – APART. NOT ALONE


 We are in a complex and confusing time; the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on our regular routine. For the unforeseeable future, we are being counseled by politicians and friends to “shelter-at-home,” “self-quarantine,” and adhere to “social distancing.” If you are not “essential” or a “first responder,” you are likely working remotely using new technology platforms like Zoom, WebEx, or Google Hangouts.

Simultaneously, people are experiencing emotional emptiness, anxiety, and fear about the unknown. How will this virus affect the economy? Who will lose their jobs? Who will get sick? Who will die? How will we pay rent or make mortgage payments? What if someone we know succumbs to this illness and needs to get to a hospital? What if the hospital is full and has no more available ventilators? Should we let people into our homes?

I have pondered these questions for the last several days, and I’ve settled on a broad description that I’m calling “D I S C O N N E C T E D N E S S”. Recently, I’ve also read a lot about “APART. NOT ALONE,” which is the idea of being distant from one another, while simultaneously having connectedness. We are apart, but not alone. It’s all about thinking and acting in unison to bring us together. We all have seen scenes of people on TV (in Italy, Spain, Israel, and now in New York) cheering and clapping from their balcony, isolated from each other, and applauding and appreciating the heroic efforts by the medical community and first responders. I find it odd that, while this virus has caused us to be physically apart, it has also brought us closer. We are “socially distant,” but emotionally we are together.

Our remoteness and videoconferencing allow us to express independent ideas and thoughts, which collectively and collaboratively build abundant mentality that raises the bar on fresh innovation and ideas. Our social distancing, indeed, is forcing us to work harder to achieve new heights that we could not have achieved alone.

We all feel connected by conforming to the practice of “social distancing” and adhering to a new set of rules that encroach on our freedoms, such as being able to congregate in churches, synagogues, and mosques; to go to playgrounds; and to attend celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries, and funerals. We are being responsible, collectively, and obeying new rules like not going to restaurants and walking 6 feet apart from each other.

What are the ramifications of “D I S C O N N E C T E D N E S S” or “APART. NOT ALONE” in our current business environment? Here are some thoughts that leaders should consider for establishing strong bonds of “disconnectedness.”

Clarity of brand purpose. When everybody in the organization understands what the company stands for and what is expected of them, individuals can be inspired and motivated to become united in support of that brand purpose. When the purpose is not clear, it creates confusion and disconnection. Without clarity of purpose, employees feel detached and irregular; separate, and not a part of the greater team effort. There is a greater likelihood of being identified with unrelated components of the organization.

Purpose will accelerate performance, and will allow the company to rise from mediocrity to greatness. Purpose will strengthen togetherness.

Communicating team unity and empathy while sharing the unknown. Leadership must demonstrate its cohesion and “connectedness” as a team. The leadership team, through their actions, communication style, and transparency, should demonstrate how the organization needs to perform during times of crisis and uncertainty. Empathy, honesty, and clarity should be the priorities in all communications to employees, customers, and shareholders. Don’t be evasive. If you don’t know the answers to questions and concerns, say so. Find answers, find solutions, and get back to the staff when you have them, even if they are answers that your staff does not want to hear.

STOP sending email with the subject line COVOD-19. Literally everyone, in the United States and globally, is being inundated with COVID- 19 emails and information. Too much information is confusing and stimulates more fear and anxiety. Only send one clarifying email with simple information that conveys what your company is doing with regular brief updates. Ask your employees to rely on other sources such as the CDC or WHO for fact-based information about the virus. Your employees want to know what you’re doing within your company, not what they need to do to be good citizens.

Ask employees to get engaged, as best they can, and be involved with people less fortunate by supporting community efforts of support and empathy.

For instance, Converse invited the world and their employees to create progress together with #CreateAtHome — a new way that Converse is bringing together the creative, basketball and skateboarding communities to co-create content for their social channels, with a focus on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Walmart associates have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to serving customers during challenging times. Part of that commitment includes rigid measures to minimize health risks - for themselves and our customers. Today, Walmart announced additional steps they were taking to promote a safe and healthy workplace. They are giving all associates masks, taking their temperatures when they report for work, if associate have a fever, they will be sent home with pay until their fever goes away. I have also heard from my sources there that associates are reaching out to local communities to provide needed protective equipment for front line and first responders.

Be clever and enhance your brand positioning during this crisis. Communicate with your employees and stakeholders in such a way that they understand what is expected of them and how to promote the ideas of “disconnectedness” and “APART. NOT ALONE.” Be united in purpose, though you are apart physically. Recently, I saw two brilliant examples of how brands can promote social distancing and concern simultaneously. Coca-Cola has a spectacular outdoor billboard in Times Square with its name spaced out to portray social distance from one another. It also suggested closeness and unity of purpose.


McDonald’s Brazil, on the other hand, has promoted how their golden arches (their sacred brand logo) can illustrate the social responsibly of social distancing. Advertising agency DPZ&T teamed with McDonald’s Brazil to remake the Golden Arches in pulled-apart form to encourage consumers to keep each other safe through social distancing. According to the agency, the move is meant to convey the idea that we are "separated for a moment so that we can always be together."


In summary, these are trying and difficult times for employees, owners, customers, and shareholders. Let’s not fuel the fear and anxiety with unnecessary, self-promoting messages suggesting that the company is an outstanding corporate citizen. If you have clarity of purpose, unity, empathy, and honest communications, and realize the potential of your brand promise, you will be at a competitive advantage to surpass your competition faster when things start to settle down again. Convey thoughtfulness and calmness. Don’t contribute to the hysteria and fear. Be calculated, honest, and sincere in the company; management and employees will get through this together.

If you would like to learn more about the idea of “APART. NOT ALONE” I highly recommend the special issue of TIME magazine which you can find here.

From all of us at Inward we wish you safety and health. 

Give us a call at 617-308-3017 or reach out –  at asteinmetz@inwardconsulting.com.

Allan Steinmetz CEO