If You Have Free Time Right Now, Spend It Helping Others
By Ken Banta and Orlan Boston
Originally published on Harvard Business Review
Image source: Getty Images
Ken Banta is founder and principal of The Vanguard Network, which convenes C-Suite discussions around high-performance leadership, and advises top executives on leadership.
Orlan Boston is a partner in the Ernst & Young LLP Global Health Sciences practice. He has spent the past two decades serving in a variety of senior leadership roles in business, media, public service, nonprofits, and philanthropy as a senior partner at EY and Deloitte, entrepreneur, venture capital investor, film producer, author, presidential appointee, philanthropist, and member of several boards.
How can consultants, coaches, and other gig workers with time on their hands during the pandemic and economic downturn stay productive?
As client work has slowed or even stopped, tens of thousands of business advisors have unexpectedly open calendars. Getting back to busy will take months. Many of these professionals are filling the void by catching up on work reading, exercising, and spending time with their families.
There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities. But why not also turn outward and apply your knowledge and skills to needs directly or indirectly created by the Covid-19 crisis?
We are both consultants ourselves. Orlan is a senior partner in the health and life sciences practice of a global management consulting firm. Ken is founder and principal of The Vanguard Network, working with C-Suite executives to build leadership capabilities. Many of the ideas and recommendations we set out here come from our own experience.
Support the pandemic response.
Whether it’s a local hospital trying to source more supplies, or a community seeking to orchestrate meal deliveries to seniors, consultants can give advice on how to do the work better and faster. One consultant in New York City is helping local businesses band together to plan a coordinated effort on recovery. Logistics, organizational effectiveness, communications, and leadership coaching are just some of the consulting capabilities that can help affected businesses. Italian artist Alberto Canova is providing his artwork free of charge to organizations to support their communications during the pandemic. This pro bono work is also good for Canova: he builds his repertoire, stays active, and generates goodwill with future potential clients.
Assist small businesses and nonprofits.
These organizations have been hit the hardest and need help to weather the storm. Local chambers of commerce and business associations can help identify pragmatic ways to assist local organizations, such as filing for available financial support. CPAs can make a big contribution. CPA Mackey McNeill, of Mackey Advisors in Bellevue, Kentucky, used her firm’s own cash-forecasting tool to help small businesses in the area plan how to manage through the crisis. This kind of work is especially valuable to small businesses, which lack the in-house accounting resources available to larger organizations. Nonprofits that you or your company already support can be a smart place to start. Ken and Orlan have both increased the work they are doing as nonprofit board members, with a new focus on pandemic survival and recovery.
Help individuals and organizations manage the human impact of the crisis.
Leadership advisor Annie Perrin saw how stressful the pandemic has been for people in healthcare support functions. She launched free webinar sessions on how to manage stress and anxiety for IT professionals in a hospital system in Indiana. Participants say the sessions make them feel better and help them to operate more efficiently.
Offer coaching and mentoring.
The pandemic is causing many people to reflect on their sense of purpose, while others are suffering from stress and anxiety. Jim Mendelsohn, a New York City writing consultant, has pivoted from his usual work, coaching a range of professionals and students from middle school to doctoral candidates, to seeing far more students with pandemic anxieties — steeply discounting and doing pro-bono work as part of that pivot.
These kinds of side-gig ventures are valuable in themselves, helping those who take them on to make a significant contribution to the pandemic relief-and-response effort. In the process, you can expand your professional capabilities. And the ventures can help you develop fresh relationships that blossom into new business when recovery begins.