In early 2020, Wafels & Dinges, the popular Belgian waffle truck fleet, was in major expansion mode. It was planning to add brick-and-mortar restaurants in some markets, including in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and American Dream in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, where it would peddle espressos and cranberry-rosemary waffles. But when the COVID-19 national emergency was declared on March 13, owners Thomas de Geest and Rossanna Figuera realized they had exactly enough cash on hand to give their workers two weeks’ severance pay. Tearfully, they said goodbye and emptied their bank account.
Once they made the painful decision to let their employees go, the couple made arrangements with creditors and landlords. Then they focused on what they could do to help others. They found the answer in their mission: to give people the happiest moment of their day.
“In crises, we’re always solving problems, but suddenly it hit me that there was nothing we could solve. There was nothing we could do. That’s when the acceptance began,” said Figuera, the Venezuelan-born cofounder of the company she and her Belgian-born husband left corporate careers to build in 2007. “That’s not something you learn: It’s something you are supposed to fight. But on the other side of surrendering, there was peace, very contrary to what you would expect. In that peace, we found clarity.”
They pivoted to online ordering, which until then had been a very small side business, and moved operations from New York City to Denver, Colo., where they already had one store. Their option to donate waffles to frontline healthcare workers was enthusiastically embraced by customers, enabling the company to bring back some employees. Wafels & Dinges is now shipping nationwide, not only to its customers but also to hospitals.
As it brutally disrupts life and business as we know it, COVID-19 has brought into sharp relief a crucial business skill: the ability to navigate uncertainty. That means knowing what you can control and what you cannot, aligning your company and employees with a shared purpose, holding to a clear vision of where you want the company to be, and trusting your team to help get there.
Today’s economy is a real-life laboratory, an environment that supports the conclusion of a 2019 study of dozens of global leaders that identified the top leadership skill needed today as comfort with risk and with ambiguity — that is, the absence of certainty or clarity.
“The best CEOs are able to live with ambiguity in a way that others can’t,” said Christa Lynne Gyori, CEO and cofounder of the research organization Leaders on Purpose, which carried out the study. They do so by staying centered around a strong sense of shared purpose — the ambition to create value by contributing to the welfare of society — just as Wafels & Dinges did.
The business leaders who are best at managing in uncertain worlds also rely on systems thinking that allows them to sort out complex problems, the report concluded. They prioritize diverse inputs, teamwork, and partnerships. These leaders assemble the best team they can, and trust that team to find the information the organization needs to get through a crisis.
“These CEOs understand they don’t need to know it all themselves,” said Tatjana Kazakova, chief strategy officer and cofounder of Leaders on Purpose. “But they do need to be ready to see an opportunity in uncertainty and to have a logical understanding of how to get to where they need to be. They have the ability to go into a dark room and know how to bring light — but [aren’t] afraid to go into the dark room.”
We are all in the “dark room.” The pandemic has created an enormous uncertainty shock, which a team of economists recently described asPDF “larger than the one associated with the financial crisis of 2008–09 and more similar in magnitude to the rise in uncertainty during the Great Depression of 1929–1933.” The measurement tool they created based on stock market volatility, media, and business expectation surveys, the U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty Index, hit an all-time high of 861.16. on May 17, more than four times where it stood on New Year’s Day, before the novel coronavirus hit global headlines.
The pandemic has created an enormous uncertainty shock, which a team of economists recently described as ‘larger than the one associated with the financial crisis of 2008–09.’
The group expects the U.S. economy to contract by 11 percent by the end of the year. Significantly, it estimated that 60 percent of that contraction will be the direct consequence of uncertainty: that is, a condition in which important information is unknowable.
Because nobody knows what is next, no CEO reasonably can be taken to task for not knowing everything. That provides an opening for leaders who have deployed top-down, command-and-control leadership styles to switch to a mind-set that helps them and their teams better navigate uncertain conditions.
Leaders don’t have to like dealing with uncertainty in order to master it. “You can be uncomfortable with uncertainty. We don’t grow if we don’t feel uncomfortable,” said Lori Michele Leavitt, a business coach, consultant, and author of The Pivot: Orchestrating Extraordinary Business Momentum. That’s why the same skills that CEOs need to navigate crises are useful in normal times, when the sense that everything is “fine” can lead to stagnation. “You have to continuously be in that spot where you are progressing and learning and changing,” Leavitt said.
The biggest challenge for many business leaders, in Leavitt’s view, is to see their role as orchestrating, not commanding. That means making sure your employees are in touch with their own desires and potential just as much as your business is aligned with its sense of purpose.
The point isn’t for CEOs to be the hero, Leavitt said, but for them be able to say, once they are past the crisis: “Look at how the team was built up during this time! Look at what they did! Look how they stepped up!”
That behavior makes all the difference between whether employees respond to uncertainty by becoming more creative and proactive, or overstressed and paralyzed. The ability to cope with uncertainty and keep pursuing your mission will be the difference between success and failure.
In mid-March, COVID-19 locked down most of Europe and Asia. For Sterimed, a 900-employee maker of high-end sterile medical packaging, this development brought mixed news. The sudden 40 percent increase in demand for its products was welcome, but ramping up production within its French plants posed a real challenge. One element was particularly thorny: Procuring protective masks for workers was impossible in France.
Because it refused to endanger its employees, Sterimed needed masks. Having sold its products to China for years, it quickly realized that one of its Chinese clients was indeed producing protective masks and could send several boxes of free samples, which didn’t infringe on China’s ban on the commercial export of masks. Sterimed ended up with more masks than it needed, and CEO Thibaut Hyvernat immediately thought he could pass them on. “I started calling my friends who run businesses and began sharing some of the spare masks,” he told us. Then, something struck him: “Instead of helping several dozen friends, I could help 20 million friends!”
Hyvernat found out that more than one of Sterimed’s Chinese clients were manufacturing protective masks and that China was lifting its export ban. Working from his home in suburban Paris, he called an executive team meeting, and in 10 minutes the group decided to launch a totally new activity: importing medical supplies. The company leveraged its core technical, regulatory, and supply chain capabilities to put in place the needed financing and logistics. By mid-April, the company had brought 25 million masks from China to France. Sterimed sold them at cost plus estimated transportation fees. “If air transportation costs exceed our estimations, we may well lose money. But that is not the point,” remarked Hyvernat at the time.
We first encountered Sterimed when we were researching a book about what we ended up calling the altruistic corporation, that is, a business whose purpose is to create social value first, not social value as a by-product of — or along with — profits. Altruistic corporations are companies that unconditionally serve their customers, suppliers, and local communities through their core business processes. Hence, they measure their success by such qualitative metrics as how delighted their customers are, how healthy their suppliers are, or how much well-being they bring to their communities.
Our five-year study showed that altruistic companies — whether public or private — were continuously successful using this specific, socially focused mode of business, proof that there is a way to run companies that doesn’t rely purely on a focus on the bottom line (the shareholder value model). It offers a solid and credible alternative to the “Chicago school” approach. In meeting the needs of their ecosystem’s members, these altruistic companies were economically successful.
We observed this phenomenon in several dozen companies across three continents in industries including banking, manufacturing, retail, pharmaceuticals, hospitality, food, and healthcare; many of the companies had been practicing corporate altruism for decades. Though the altruistic corporations differ from their competition in their focus on their ecosystem members’ good, they remain capitalistic in that they value profits. After-tax profits, however, are allocated first toward further service of the ecosystem members — and employees — and second toward shareholders. This includes public companies when it is detailed in the stockholders’ agreement.
Those observations were made in normal times. But because crises are often said to be the true test of the way businesses are run, we followed up this spring with several corporations we had studied in a variety of industries, including Sterimed, and added some new ones. We wanted to see how they had reacted to the novel coronavirus pandemic — and how they remained true to their values.
Top of the class
Advisors in one of 200 branches of U.K. division of the Swedish bank Handelsbanken did not hesitate when one of its clients — a medical ventilator manufacturer — asked for emergency assistance. Faced with the surge in demand, the manufacturer needed to place a massive purchase order for parts, paperwork for which would usually take two to three weeks to process. Handelsbanken did it in seven days by working late and on the weekend at no extra cost, thereby accelerating the delivery of ventilators to U.K. hospitals at the height of the pandemic.
Les Tissages de Charlieu (LTC), a high-end French textile producer, decided to help with masks. On March 13, just at the start of the pandemic in France, the company developed a high-quality, reusable mask in washable fabric within 24 hours and posted it on its website. After receiving millions of web visits and thousands of calls, LTC transformed its manufacturing process in two days to produce 150,000 masks a day, working 24/7, for hospitals and other clients. Like Sterimed, LTC charged only for production and shipping; it also shared the design specifications so other manufacturers could produce masks, too.
On March 24, Laurent Cavard, CEO of Altho, a major potato chip producer in France, announced a 9 percent pay increase for its transportation suppliers; he backdated the raise a week and pledged to pay any invoices immediately on receipt because suppliers were struggling. On the same day, Energy Vision, a Belgian company that analyzes energy use and helps clients find sustainable savings, declared it wouldn’t charge for energy consumption for two months. And on April 2, MAIF, a French mutual insurer with 8,000 employees, announced it was refunding €100 million (US$108 million) to its 2.8 million car insurance customers. MAIF’s experts had observed a 75 percent drop in car accidents during the lockdown and decided to return the resulting unused funds to its customers.
It may seem as though all of these companies could afford to be altruistic during the crisis because they were already doing well. The reality is more complicated. Thanks to their way of running their businesses, they were already outperforming the competition: In 2020, for example, MAIF was ranked first in insurance for customer relations in France for the 16th year in a row, and Handelsbanken in Sweden has outperformed its main rivals on profitability for 48 years in a row. But it would be a mistake to think it was because of their financial strength that these companies had the chance to act for the good of their ecosystem members. In France, for example, none of the larger competitors of MAIF returned any unused funds to their car insurance customers.
There is something in how these companies are run that makes them act unconditionally. And there is something that explains why they refuse to profit from the inflated market, why they increase suppliers’ pay, why they return earned profits to customers, and why they work overtime without charging.
Altruistic corporations explained
Corporate altruism isn’t the same as business philanthropy (donating part of corporate profits). Neither is it the same as benefit corporations’ way of running business, in which a company tries to balance the pursuits of social value and economic value simultaneously. Altruistic companies focus unconditionally on the creation of social value, believing that economic value will follow. That means it’s fine if a specific business activity does not generate money — or even if it loses money — as long as the activity provides benefits to part of the corporation’s ecosystem and doesn’t bankrupt it. And in a crisis, this kind of behavior proves the point made by Nassim Nicholas Taleb about what he called antifragile companies: They not only show resilience or robustness, but have four characteristics that give them the ability to become stronger while facing adversity.
• Socially oriented and inspiring corporate vision. The company unconditionally serves its ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and local communities as well as its employees. It views financial performance as a result of these actions, but not their purpose. The vision must be larger than the boundaries of the company and also possess an aspirational quality, which allows employees to “own” it emotionally.
• A CEO as a guardian for the vision. The CEO views his or her first responsibilities as ensuring that everyone has ownership of the company’s vision and that the vision serves as the criterion for decision making. The CEO asks employees to ask themselves: “Does what you are trying to do constitute the best way to serve our ecosystem members as people first, and not as a means to our business?”
• Autonomous action. Because all company employees know what vision they’re pursuing, decision making and the power to implement ideas belong to them. Knowing the decision criterion, they have no need to ask managers what options are best for each and every ecosystem member they deal with.
• Managers acting as servant leaders. Managers are not occupied with instructing and controlling teams, but with asking them, “What do you need in order to do your best for the company’s vision?” or “What is preventing you from doing your best?” The job of a manager is to remove obstacles to employee action and provide workers with the resources (materials, funding, time, etc.) they need to act.
Corporate altruism thriving in practice
The FruitGuys is a $35 million California company founded in 1998 that now employs 170 people and delivers fresh fruit to offices. The company has grown, all the while demonstrating the four principles of an antifragile, altruistic company.
Corporate altruism isn’t business philanthropy. Altruistic companies focus unconditionally on the creation of social value, believing that the economic value will follow.
First, having a vision of a company doing everything it could for customers was the reason Chris Mittelstaedt started the FruitGuys. When a friend mentioned that many office employees lacked healthy food at work, Mittelstaedt saw an opportunity to help people. In the kitchen of his San Francisco apartment, he and his wife started preparing fresh fruit baskets for local businesses, forging strong relationships with the local farmers who supplied the produce.
Mittelstaedt defines his life goal as “crafting business models that allow for people and organizations to have a positive and healthy impact on the world.” This drives “what FruitGuys is, and what it provides to clients, employees, community partners, farmers, and the world at large,” and goes beyond simply sourcing good fruit. For example, when rodents invaded and all but destroyed a farmer’s peach orchards, he mentioned to one FruitGuys employee that owls might help to keep the rodent population in check. A few months later, the FruitGuys surprised the farmer by installing four owl nesting boxes in his barn. It worked — owls came to nest and the rodents left.
Second, for everyone to feel ownership of this corporate vision of unconditionally serving the ecosystem members, it is critical that the CEO act as guardian of that vision. When a customer complained about seeing a rude gesture from one of the company’s delivery drivers, Mittelstaedt decided to create and put into practice a more explicit philosophy of customer service. He called it the 5Rs: be respectful, be responsive, be realistic, be responsible, and (pertinent in this case) be remembered positively. He told his employees, “Do whatever you think is necessary [to implement this philosophy], no matter what the cost. You have carte blanche.”
Third, this license to operate enabled employees to internalize the company’s vision and philosophy and to act on their own when facing customer or supplier problems. For example, when an employee in the billing department called a client about the late payment of eight bills, she discovered that she might not have sent them via the data transfer system, the client’s preferred billing method. The client was upset because the bills would now have to be processed manually. Immediately, taking the idea of carte blanche as her cue, the employee offered to cancel the bills. “I am aware of how much trouble our mistake has caused you. It’s unacceptable,” she said. Taken aback, the client changed her tone, refused the gesture, and promised to pay.
Finally, as servant leaders, the FruitGuys’ managers work together to find solutions. Mittelstaedt explains: “I’m not smart enough to come up with the right answer, but [I] ask really good questions to try to find out what the right answer would potentially be.” One example of this approach: When the company received a customer complaint — brown bananas in the fruit box — a customer service manager collaborated with a warehouse manager to send a new delivery to the customer that day, even though the customer was a three-hour drive away. The managers came together to make amends to the customer — who could not believe it when the replacement fruit box was delivered.
The COVID-19 lockdowns hit the FruitGuys hard. The company operates 15 hubs delivering in 48 states, and in a matter of weeks, its revenue dropped by 90 percent. Mittelstaedt recalls someone telling him to “mothball” his business and lay off everyone to stem the losses. Financial logic did dictate this solution, but it didn’t sit well with the company’s vision and philosophy. So, during the first week of the crisis, the leadership team looked for solutions in line with the company’s vision and “even at triple the losses incurred,” as Mittelstaedt put it. The solution: a home-delivery business for private customers and a program to deliver fruit to people fighting COVID-19 in the local community, which would help the ecosystem the company served. The company has also decided against layoffs, opting instead for a partial furloughing of the workforce, while continuing to provide full healthcare benefits. It also helped find work for some delivery and packaging employees in other businesses to avoid further furloughing.
The home-delivery pivot has been a success. The company now has orders worth $90,000 per week, which allows it to reach a rough breakeven point. The U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program made it possible to bring all employees back to the reinvented company at least until the end of June. The business anticipates that only 60 to 70 percent of its corporate customers will return, and it’s looking at growing the home-delivery business to get back to full permanent employment and exceed its previous growth trajectory.
The alternative way to manage
The FruitGuys and the other companies we have mentioned were able to leverage their business capabilities and processes to act — particularly during the current crisis — for the good of their customers, suppliers, and local communities. But they did not achieve this through smart financial analysis, through focusing on profit or shareholder value maximization. They did it by concentrating single-mindedly on the good of their ecosystem members. This allowed them to devise and implement new solutions quickly. For example, Sterimed is considering turning its new import activities into a major business pillar. The company came to this by asking just one question: “How can we transform our processes to keep unconditionally serving the members of our ecosystem, including our employees?”
All crises end. But for many companies, the end of the crisis won’t be the end of the bad news. They may be unable to meet demand because suppliers will have disappeared and employees will have been laid off. As in the Aesop fable, they may be like the oak that breaks during the storm. The altruistic corporations will resemble the reeds, which bend but do not break. The current crisis has highlighted how it is possible to focus solely on the common good, and — as a result, not as a purpose — to thrive. It may not be possible for every company to do this, but we believe it’s not too late to try.
Isaac Getz is a professor of leadership and innovation at ESCP Business School in Paris, executive advisor, and coauthor of L’entreprise altruiste (The Altruistic Corporation, Albin Michel, 2019).
Laurent Marbacher is a consultant with 20 years’ experience specializing in organizational transformation and social value creation. He is the coauthor of L’entreprise altruiste and lives in the Loire Valley in France.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve left the cocoon of my home and have ventured out into the world. I’ve flown commercially, stayed in hotels and eaten in restaurants. My most significant ‘ah ha’ moment through those experiences is the realization that a Covid-driven ‘new normal’ won’t become real for consumers until they directly engage with businesses and the community.
To this point, considerations of what the new normal should look like as we work to reopen our economies has been largely theoretical, driven by teams of decision makers gathered together via Zoom or Hangouts. But scenario analysis and what-if planning can only take your business so far. It’s only when consumers begin interacting live and in-person with your business that the true variability and diversity of opinion and behavior becomes evident.
You’ll notice I’m not using the phrase ‘post-Covid world,’ as a vaccine is not yet available and general societal acceptance of increased health risks is still largely in question. We will be living in an uncomfortable, transitional state for some time – likely well into 2021.
As we all grapple with how best to lead our teams through this transitional phase, I want to share some thought-starters for leaders to consider as your business ramps back up during the Covid transition:
• Philosophy: What do you want your business to stand for during the Covid transition? In my travels, I’ve seen a wide variety of approaches, from highly conservative to wildly liberal. From this consumer’s perspective, there is a balance to be struck between the two in which you show your business cares about the health and safety of its customers and desires to get itself and the economy moving again. If your philosophy is too conservative, your business will appear unapproachable and difficult to do business with. Too liberal and you’ll send a strong message that your business doesn’t care about the subset of your customer base who’s opinion bends toward safety and security. Those customers are likely to leave you for other alternatives.
• Communication: Your clients, employees and partners want to know your philosophical stance. They want clarity regarding how they should engage with your business as you begin to reopen. This is all against the backdrop of a very fluid environment of rapidly changing regulations, healthcare advice, and public opinion. I’ve seen businesses communicate with their customer base once or twice since early March and assume that’s enough. My recommendation is to invest in more communication across multiple channels to keep your message fresh and relevant so your customers know what to expect when they interact with you. Remember that your customers need to interpret many different messages from myriad business and government leaders. Yours needs to stand out.
• Agility: In March or April, you probably measured the sentiment of your employees and customers about return-to-work and doing business with you during the Covid transition. While that data may still have some relevance, I’m confident there are many consumers like me who won’t truly know how they will behave until they move from the cloister of their homes and back out into the wild. While it’s a well-known fact that consumers dislike being over-surveyed, this is not the time to pull back on your efforts to seek to understand rapidly-shifting consumer behavior in new and creative ways.
• Employee Engagement: Your employees are humans with the same shifting opinions and emotions regarding what a Covid transition means to them as your consumers. Some of them are scared, some want to move forward like nothing’s happened. While there are a wide range of opinions that exist amongst your staff, they are all emotionally drained and some will exhibit signs of emotional exhaustion. This means the amount of discretionary energy your people have to give your business is low relative to what it would be under normal operating conditions. Your people likely want to work hard and do a good job to keep their jobs, but the distraction of a 24 hour news cycle and the constant threat of a silent killer is weighing heavily on them.
• Policies: Since your employees will not be performing at peak levels during the Covid transition, ensure you’re setting them up for success by creating clear goals and policies. My recent interactions with a national hotel chain and a rental car company put this issue into full view. In both cases, it was clear that management had not carefully thought through the new procedures that were necessary for efficient processing of guest interactions and had left too much decision-making in the hands of very junior staff members with little to no training. This lack of clarity created both customer and employee dissatisfaction that was displayed publicly. The brand damage that results from looking disorganized and sloppy is difficult, if not impossible to repair.
• Technology: I recommend making investments in lightweight, touchless technologies to eliminate direct customer contact whenever possible. For the last few years, I thought that the QR code was dead, but it’s made a surprising resurgence. Another silver lining of the Covid crisis is that the U.S. may finally catch up to the rest of the world in the adoption of tap-and-go payment systems. In traveling across the globe, I find it embarrassing how far behind we are in the use of these technologies.
The next eighteen months will be an incredibly difficult time for all of us. In addition to Covid, we’ll be navigating through a presidential election cycle, economic challenges and continued social unrest brought about by systemic racism and police brutality. To ensure your business is set up for long-term success, focus on the above points will help guide you through the Covid transition.
Today every chief executive is focused on two 2020 imperatives: Resilience and results. While executives have little control over demand resilience, they have direct control over operational resilience and results focus. In Resilience Thinking, scientists Brian Walker and David Salt describe resilience as “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure.” The enterprise test is whether it can shift where work is done and still drive its best potential results despite employee diaspora and turmoil.
To adapt and respond to new realities, organizations need three fundamental capabilities:
1. The company needs to shift strategic priorities quarterly and get everyone re-aligned.
2. People need a source of truth on current strategic priorities for their organization, business function and group.
3. Team members need to work cohesively yet independently to be productive without proximity.
Organizations will need to exercise these capabilities long after Spring 2020, so many are adopting platform-enabled Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to close these resilience gaps and optimize business outcomes.
RESPOND & RUN FASTER
OKRs are a technique for aligning objectives, defining desired results and measuring progress in shorter, focused intervals. Made popular by startups, large enterprises have adopted them to respond to dynamic markets, close strategy alignment gaps and engage more of their organization in strategy execution. An OKR platform provides enterprise-wide transparency on what each team is trying to achieve and its progress to plan, automates management reporting like QBRs and operating reviews and connects company outcomes with team output.
Organizations like Comcast, Microsoft, Cisco, Zuora, GHX and others that had an OKR process and platform before the crisis were able to quickly adjust strategic priorities, align teams and shift efforts in March 2020. Moreover, they can see where re-alignment breaks down and drive focus faster. Fortuitous at crisis onset, it will also help them navigate through and out of it. Tony Werner, president of Comcast Technology Products & Experience, says his process and platform “have helped amplify and accelerate results.”
The core tenets of a good OKR practice include:
• Quarterly iteration on strategic priorities. Quarterly objectives and key results replace annual strategic plans that quickly get stale. Aligning and re-aligning on near-term results drives higher focus, fosters a fast-learning organization and improves overall outcomes.
• Explicit rather than implied alignment. The OKR process makes alignment an overt step in a company’s operating model. OKRs are localized to each team, not just leadership teams (typically less than 2 percent of your workforce) so more of the organization’s capacity is leveraged against its strategy. Broad alignment is the source of startups’ speed but is often the Achilles’ heel of large enterprises.
• Best possible results. The process helps teams define, align and organize to achieve their best possible results. It rallies people to greatness rather than mediocrity. By spending three hours aligning on objectives and key results at the beginning of the quarter, people can focus on what matters for the 500 hours they spend in the quarter.
• Speed as a competitive advantage. OKRs focus effort on outcomes that matter most in the next 90 days, and platforms provide a continuous picture of the gap to plan. That visibility helps teams identify and resolve risks earlier in the quarter.
• Teams are the engine of value creation. OKRs enable functional and cross-functional teams to clarify what they want to achieve and how success is measured. Working groups, pods and squads can be more self-directed, aligned and accountable.
To drive productivity without proximity, employees need the ability to make progress and good decisions independently. Clarity on intended outcomes and transparency on commitments, actions and decisions helps interdependent colleagues be effective asynchronously. Automating and accelerating management reporting is imperative now as well because leaders need self-service data in the moment—and management-by-meeting has become exhausting. The future of work is here, and it requires the ability to work with autonomy, get information and feedback digitally and circulate business facts in more automated ways.
IT’S ALL DIGITAL NOW
Operating drag that wasn’t visible in person or in growth climates will now be magnified. While the external situation is changing very quickly, you may find that your internal response isn’t changing fast enough. To drive your best results in difficult conditions, you’ll need to accelerate your operational response, iterate frequently on strategic priorities and mobilize everyone faster.
Fortunately, these can be accelerated and automated with proven, purpose-built OKR solutions. Zuora’s CEO Tien Tzou says, “A strong platform partner that provides expert coaching can help you unify the organization on OKRs and implement a platform in a few weeks.” Turn on the digital capacity to align, measure and optimize outcomes now—just in time to rally on the company’s best possible results for the second half of 2020.
Cyprus, the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, is rich in history, traditions, arts, natural landscapes, and flavors. It is full of stunning landscapes and attraction worth to be discovered, from the beautiful capital of Nicosia to Paphos, Ayia Napa, and Troodos Mountains. On the island of the goddess Aphrodite, you can do anything you imagine! From visiting archeological sites, churches, and monuments, to diving in turquoise waters. Start from Petra Tou Romiou, the place where Aphrodite was born, visit Kourion, explore the beautiful wine villages, taste halloumi, make your own ceramics and get to know every aspect of the Cypriot cities.
Limassol is the largest coastal city in Cyprus and the most important port of the island. It has an intense nightlife and a rich cultural tradition. Although it is being modernized at a fast pace, it can be at the same time rich and traditional. You will understand this as you take a walk in the newly renovated pier, drink a coffee in the old port, and do your shopping in the newly established marina of Limassol. Finally, in the picturesque cobbled streets of the old town, you will find a castle as well as markets, galleries and shops.
One of the things you should definitely do in Cyprus is to visit the Limassol Marina which is the culmination of luxury in Cyprus. It is a cosmopolitan hub for seaside properties with stunning sea views, shopping opportunities, food, cruises, and exclusive beaches. The activities you can take part in, include skiing, windsurfing, diving, sailing, and fishing. Cyprus has always had the ability to combine Eastern and Western culture, and the Limassol Marina displays it perfectly.
The Ancient Theater of Kourion is an exhibit of Cypriot antiquity and a must-see. Guided tours are not offered, but the site has many signs with detailed information. There are large buildings, intricate mosaics, and statues.
Located in the mountains of Troodos, Kakopetria will give you as much as any other place in Cyprus. Calm and serenity are dressed in the colors of nature! The village is the best choice for an excursion next to streams, bridges, and stone-built picturesque streets. The scenery from the past is ideally complemented by a walk in the watermills and museums.
Nicosia, the long-suffering capital of Cyprus, is modern, lively, and at the same time traditional and picturesque. Nicosia is the only divided capital in the world, but that does not stop the city from evolving rapidly. Not only is the center of the economy and a strategic point with great reconstruction, but also a city with remarkable nightlife and cultural life. The old town with its restored colorful houses, churches and attractions, the lively pedestrian street of Ledra and the large squares are just some of the places worth exploring. Finally, outside the city, you will find some of the most beautiful villages in Cyprus.
Larnaca is the city of Cyprus that has been inhabited mostly through years than any other! A city that has a long history (4,000 years), while at the same time has become modernized at a very fast pace. It is a different model of the city, since its beach looks like a tourist resort hosting many hotels, cafes, and shops. Visitors can take a walk at the historic center and of course the famous Byzantine church of St. Lazarou, the city’s patron saint. The most famous spot of Larnaca is the beach of Finikoudes, with the endless palm trees. A meeting place for many people, the beach of Finikoudes is connected with the coastal pedestrian street Piale Pasha, Alyki, Hala Sultan Tekke, and other picturesque neighborhoods of the city.
The Medieval Castle of Larnaca was built to protect the anchorage of Alykes by Louis XIV in the 14th century and played a significant role until 1570 when the Venetians demolished it to fall to the Turks. The latter rebuilt it in 1625 and strengthened it in a two-story building on its north side. After the end of the Ottoman period in Cyprus, the British turned it into a prison and used it during the first years of their rule. Today, the castle houses the Small Medieval Museum of Larnaca in three rooms and exhibit objects from the Early Christian Period (4th-7th century) and the Period of Ottoman rule (18th-19th century).
It is located in the southwest of Larnaca, it is the second “largest salt mine in Cyprus”, with an area of 2.2 sq. Km. Also, it has been declared as a protected area. During the winter, the lake is filled with water and hosts thousands of migratory birds, including flamingos and wild ducks. Explore its panoramic area on foot on the natural trail, 4 km high. which leads to the old Cairo Aqueduct. Along the way, you will find information about the flora of the area, while you can stop at the benches to enjoy in comfort the exceptional natural landscape.
Due to its huge cultural heritage and its indisputable beauty, Paphos had been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2017. Located in the southwestern part of Cyprus, it is a popular seaside resort with luxury hotels and important historical attractions, while its medieval castle has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is divided into Paphos, which is the city’s tourist center, and Kato Paphos, which is the island’s pre-eminent tourist destination. There you will find a patchwork of cultures that will take you to different historical periods.
It is located on the southwest coast of Paphos Province and impresses the lionesses in its wild landscape and its distinctive landscape. This particular beach has been associated with the most beautiful of all the deities, Aphrodite, since, according to Psythos, the ancient goddess of love and beauty was born in this place from the foam of the sea. A characteristic feature of the “Stone of Rome” is the scattered rocks along the coast, which are connected to a sharp legend, by Digenes Akritas, who is said to have pushed the Saracen Arabs away from these rocks.
One of the most important archeological sites in Cyprus, the Archaeological Park of Kato Paphos has been included in the list of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage since 1980 and is definitely worth visiting. Located just 3 km. from the city center, is an open-air museum with attractions and monuments from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. During your tour, you will admire monuments such as the Asclepieion, the Conservatory, the Agora, the Fortress of the Forty Columns, the Russian mansions, and the ruins of the early Christian royal church of Licheniotissa.
Ayia Napa, is the city of rapid growth, beautiful beaches, and nightlife. The first building of the village was a monastery which was surrounded by dense vegetation for this reason and it was given the name Ayia Napa, which is the Holy of the forests. The small fishing village of the few inhabitants has developed into one of the most touristic stations in the world. Some of the beaches you should visit are Nissi Beach and Blue Lagoon.
Cabo Greco National Forest Park is one of the most famous areas in Cyprus. The area is rich in fauna and flora, has underwater ravines, caves, vertical limestone rocks, a special bottom, and waters (Blue Lagoon) that you won’t find anywhere else in the island.
Protaras is the place that the locals prefer. Here the sea is wonderful and the landscape peaceful. Protaras has clear blue waters and sandy beaches. The most famous is the bay Fig Tree. It is worth mentioning that many couples choose this place for getting married.
For almost every woman, every single day is a challenge. Most women take on different roles. They have to be mothers, employees, partners, etc. Despite all these demanding roles some women seem to cope with life’s challenges with such comfort that they make everything seem easy. These kinds of women are usually the dynamic ones we meet in our everyday life, being successful in every aspect of their lives. The question is, how do they manage it?
Dynamic women often have some common characteristics and everyday habits that are the secret of their success. Whether you call it a “strategy”, or not, the result is that really matters.
Definitely, positive thinking is a very good thing, but preparation is even better if things don’t go the way we want them to. Feel comfortable with the worst-case scenario or think of all the possible outcomes and solutions.
Each woman has her own, unique potential. So, comparing ourselves to others leads nowhere. On the contrary, focusing on our own strengths and weaknesses can lead to success. Seems that successful and dynamic women are aware of that.
After weeks of demonstrations and social protests helped reshape the American conversation about race, advocates for the Black Lives Matter movement recently gained a powerful group of allies:
Fans of South Korean pop music, commonly referred to as K-pop, are nothing new in Asia, but they are growing in explosive numbers around the world as bands like BTS, EXO, and Blackpink claim the international music stage. K-pop fans are well known for their passionate adoration of their music idols, and they have developed a ubiquitous social media presence that produces a steady stream of video clips of performances (known as fancams), memes, and other illustrations of online adoration. Social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and others fuel the growth of K-pop in the United States since they make it possible for fans to not only watch their favorite acts endlessly online, but also create content that demonstrates their devotion to them.
Increasingly, however, K-pop has stepped beyond fandom into a different arena – social activism.
Last week, amidst the protests that have swept the United States, one of K-pops biggest bands, South Korea’s BTS, shared a tweet in both Korean and English aligning itself with the Black Lives Matter movement. In the statement to its 26 million followers, it wrote, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter.” The reaction from its fans was swift, and its fervent fan base, known as ARMY, short for “Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth,” quickly matched the band’s $1 million contribution to Black Lives Matter causes.
But it appears K-pop fans aren’t done being allies with the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, it looks like they are just getting started.
This week, as Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson came under fire for critical comments he has made about both the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests, K-pop fans once again sprang into action. Carlson, the popular host of his own show Tucker Carlson Tonight, gave an incendiary monologue on Monday night in which he questioned the legitimacy of the protests in startling terms.
“This may be a lot of things, this moment we’re living through, but it is definitely not about Black lives. And remember that when they come for you — and at this rate, they will,” Mr. Carlson said on Monday evening.
Following his offensive comments, Carlson was dumped by several of his high-profile sponsors, and in response, the hashtag #IStandWithTucker, began trending on Twitter. But in another act of online activism, K-pop fans started spamming the hashtag filling it with fancams and photos of K-pop stars, essentially drowning out the tweets supporting Carlson.
In some ways, it is not surprising that K-pop fans are stepping up their activism. Much of the world is feeling a surge of interest in ways to step up their attitudes and actions around issues of racial justice. And as the music industry starts to more closely examine how its own actions might have sustained systemic racism in America and around the world, it shouldn’t be surprising that fans will continue to find ways to channel their sense of connection to artists and one another in ways that help the cause.
One thing that is clear. K-pop is flexing its music fandom muscles at a time when the United States could benefit from a surge of activism and allyship in the fight for racial justice. And regardless of whether it is said or sang in Korean, English, or any other language, the sound of people supporting one another is always good to hear.
In the face of a global pandemic, retreat is a natural response. Not for Shelly Tygielski – a meditation teacher and community organizer – and Busy Philipps – an accomplished actor and activist for a range of causes. Both are rare examples of how embracing fear and using your platform can lead to big-scale, meaningful change. Pandemic of Love has raised over $21 million in just 12 weeks. It even led to a casual Sunday evening conversation with former Vice President, Joe Biden.
We chatted about the innate human urge to give, how to build a grassroots movement, and why mutual aid communities can be the simplest of human connection in a world of increased isolation.
Brendan Doherty: Welcome to Icons of Impact. I’m really excited today to have two extraordinary people who are teaming up. One is Shelly Tygielski, the founder of Pandemic of Love; she’s also a renowned meditation teacher. And we have Busy Philipps, an extraordinary actor and activist, who has helped Shelly amplify her incredible work. Shelly, I’d love to start with you: we are obviously in the midst of a pandemic, and you took that moment to step back and ask what you could do in response. Tell me about Pandemic of Love?
Shelly Tygielski: Sure! Pandemic of Love is the culmination of my life as a meditator for the last 20 years. It’s always been a personal practice, and for the last four years, I’ve been a full-time meditation teacher after leaving the corporate world. I wanted to figure out a way to not be afraid of what was coming, to choose love over fear. When we’re afraid we’re in fight or flight mode, but we have the ability to create a new default mode of empathy and action instead. That’s the seed behind Pandemic of Love.
Doherty: So what’s the model for Pandemic of Love?
Tygielski: It’s a mutual aid community, which is not something that I invented. It’s been around a very long time. Our grandparents, your parents, my parents, everybody used to use the phrase back in the day when people used to live in a community together… when they knew their neighbors. People would know what was happening, but since the Industrial Revolution and the Technological Revolution, we’ve lost that human connection. So, the theory behind this mutual aid community was people are in fear, they’re losing jobs, they need to stock up on supplies. But most people don’t even have enough money to make ends meet at the end of the week, so how do we expect them to now shelter successfully at home? The mutual aid community was designed in a simple way: there are two forms – one where people can “get help” and have their needs met for groceries, utility bills, gas, and other needs. And a “give help” for people who could be donors or patrons, those who have privilege and are able to fulfill those needs. Now we have over 600 volunteers who spend their time just making matches. That’s it, we’re matchmakers, money never touches our organization.
Doherty: Give us a quick stat – to date, how much money raised and what’s the average amount?
Tygielski: So to date, we are almost at 130,000 matches. Which means, at least 260,000 people have made a human connection. The average transaction is $145. And we’re over $21 million in transactions. We have micro-communities around the globe, everywhere from Australia, to the UK to Iceland, plus in the Caribbean, Latin America, and all across the US. This is a grassroots movement, it really is neighbor helping neighbor.
Doherty: Busy, you must come across so many folks who want you to amplify their cause or get behind it. How did you hear about this, and what drew you in? What resonated personally for you?
Busy Philipps: A friend of mine, Ashley Margolis, posted about what Shelly was starting to do on her own Instagram. And I’m always looking for ways to help… I’ve been involved in many charity organizations and seek different ways to help communities in need, especially those in my backyard. I know that people can get fatigued and feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the need. And there are different kinds of donors. You have to figure out different ways to reach people and have it make sense to them. A one-to-one connection was something that made so much sense, and I just knew that people really respond to that. For instance, at another amazing organization, Baby2Baby, we started posting Amazon wish lists instead of asking people for monetary donations. There was something that people loved about just like, “Oh yeah, I’ll buy this cute thing, since it’s already on my Instagram.” So that was what drew me to Shelly. I just wanted to put it out there, repost it. There are all kinds of people that follow me, from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, so I just put – “if you can help, maybe this is a thing you want to do; and if you need help, maybe this is the thing you want to do too.” It’s been incredible how people have really responded to it.
Doherty: Shelly, what did you experience after Busy got involved?
Tygielski: A surge of people coming to the site. I reached out to her on her Instagram and said, “thank you, you have no idea what this has meant.” We can match so many more people now, there’s always three people in need for every one person who donates. Every time somebody like Busy amplifies the message, it goes down to two- to- one for a short while, and we’re able to do more.
Philipps: I was thinking about this earlier today, we are currently in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, and I’m trying to help engage a lot of my followers who are a majority white women — I know that because I get the analytics from Instagram. I’m trying to figure out ways to have them be involved and donate if they’re able. One really valuable thing that I’ve done for years, and advocated for other people who are in a position of comfort to do too, is to think about an amount of money where you wouldn’t blink an eye – to send your kids camp, or to buy yourself a new outfit to go to an event, nice things you’re able to do for yourself or your family — and match that with a comparable charitable donation.
Doherty: That also helps folks personalize it. The elegance of Pandemic of Love is that it’s stripped away of all of the fluff, and is really just about how you can connect someone in need with someone who has means in that moment; because that role could be reversed. Speaking as someone who has participated, I was paired with a young mother in North Georgia and after I supported her, we shared a bit. It felt very real suddenly, like I had a little micro-window into someone’s life.
Tygielski: Yes, that really is the most important part of it, honestly. It’s disruptive. In the business world, we always talk about how companies like Uber are disruptive. This movement is a disruption because it’s like, “Wait a minute, I don’t need this overhead and the staff to get this person help. And I know exactly where my gift is going.”
Doherty: What does this look like post-COVID-19? Is it one of those things that pops up to fit the need and then disappears? Does the model of an exclusively volunteer based organization work longer term given that it can be harder to maintain and relies on generosity of spirit?
Tygielski: Well, being a meditation teacher I live in the present. But I’m thinking about how the concept of mutual aid can be sustainable long after the pandemic is over. After this is all over, something new will emerge. So what does the new order look like? My “BHAG,” my “big, hairy, audacious, goal” is that I’d love to see the institutionalization of mutual aid. Why shouldn’t every municipality have a mutual aid community that’s formalized in some way?
Then there’s equity. People always have the need to give. It creates that connection constantly. We’re pivoting — like with the Navajo tribe. We’re in Minnesota. We’re in Atlanta. We’ve doubled our efforts. We’ve gotten more donors last weekend and we are allowing people in those cities to select whether or not they want to assist with specifically things like bail money or legal aid.
Doherty: Busy, with a platform of your size, often there is increased scrutiny. I had a good conversation with Jameela Jamil about this and about call out culture and cancel culture. I know even myself, especially in this moment, as a white person wanting to speak out and be even more active as an anti-racist … I’m still mindful of not wanting to get it wrong.
Philipps: You can’t get it wrong if you’re standing up for a thing that is right. It won’t be wrong. Sure, we can always do better, we can always learn better words to use, and we can always own our own ignorance and say, “I’m learning, I’m trying, I will do better.” But the baseline for me, especially if we’re shifting and talking about Black Lives Matter is simply: do you think that racism is okay? If the answer is no, then you think Black Lives Matter. In terms of showing up and using my platform to help the people who follow me use their ears on all kinds of social justice issues, it’s the same thing… there can be a fatigue, you can feel overwhelmed, you can be like “I don’t want to see that.” Well, you know, neither do my friends who live with this daily as their reality due to their skin tone. So I owe it to them to be uncomfortable and upset and own my own place in it and do what I can do in the ways I can do it. I can’t go to protests that are three blocks away right now because of COVID and because I have two small kids. But I do know I can donate, sign petitions, make phone calls.
Doherty: I also think, given that you have a mostly white female online audience base, that your standing up on these issues and speaking publicly to your audience is bringing new folks in — converting them, making the case accessible and relatable. And eventually, where I came down, is that any ridiculous fear I have of saying it wrong is nothing compared to the fear of being black in America today. So I’m 100% with you.
Philipps: I’m curious and excited to see where Shelly takes Pandemic of Love. I think that she’s right, we’re at a real turning point in our society. Where we go from here is truly up to every single one of us, and it involves both participation and a willingness to be open, to listen, and to know when to take a step back. I would say that the overarching thing — and I know Shelley agrees with me — is that people really do want to help. They do. Most people want to help, they just either feel overwhelmed or they don’t know where to start or they’re worried they’re going to make a mistake or they’re afraid of something. So, being able to strip it all away and just say like, “Shelly, this is Busy. You guys can help each other out”… that’s an incredibly powerful way to move forward.
Doherty: Thank you both, really appreciate you taking the time. Let’s give Pandemic of Love some lift!