Choice Energy’s Christopher Dean shares his coronavirus diary: May 13, 2020


Choice Energy chief executive Christopher Dean.

In January, full of hope and inspiration from the success and growth of 2019, I shared a famous quote with the Choice Energy team from Teddy Roosevelt himself.

For those not familiar, it starts like this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again.”

What I wasn’t expecting was how soon this message of trying and striving was going to prove itself as a real keystone to the attitudes and requirements of so many people — in business or otherwise.

Company-wide emails like these have been my real act of journaling in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was announced.

Reflecting back through the different chapters of this event, and their subsequent sent emails, I see the modern-day equivalent of a ship captain shouting for ‘brace’. You have faith and intimate knowledge of your vessel, and those onboard it, but how high the waves are, and where they’re going to hit you, is something you can’t always know.

And then there is the dual concern of every good business owner: ‘How will this affect not only my ship, but also the people on it?’

In one email, titled “A letter to myself”, I shared this inner monologue:

“Next time you’re feeling down about the current situation, who are you to think this is just happening to yourself?”

Self-critical, perhaps, but it is easy to let fear and uncertainty eat into the part of your brain that controls your self-preservation instincts. For me at that time, I was demanding my own mind to take stock of the devastation around me, which for some has been completely life-obliterating.

The response from the team was humbling, with members sharing a similar train of thought, and sharing the wisdom of their children.

The message? Don’t beat yourself up. Stay human. Keep going.

We can pretend the coronavirus is a purely economic devastator, but at the end of the day, we know with social restrictions and the very mortal nature of the illness, how people feel and react about the unseen danger is very real for businesses, too. Keeping your team ‘braced’ isn’t just about ensuring they have a job to come to, but also that the company they come to understands the fear, exhaustion, self-critique and anxiety that comes with this climate. Leading isn’t about ignoring these feelings, but allowing them their space, acknowledgement, and letting them go mindfully.

My team’s compassionate and bracing responses clearly hit home.

My next email included these lines:

“There is something in the air while we fight this battle. While we are winning this battle. While we have each other’s backs. While we dig in a little deeper than normal and send out into the world that in which we want to receive back from it”.

Leading my team, I know keeping a positive yet realistic outlook is key for true resilience. Our incredible operations manager Daniela has provided vital practical support, while chief operating officer Alan keeps hearts and heads high with his spirited ‘good news in weird times’ broadcasts.

For a team as close and passionate as we are, it’s been touching to see how these bonds have expanded across distance. Team members celebrate each other louder, share good news further. Our core ethos of helping businesses feels even more poignant, with our support team having very real and honest conversations with new and existing customers.

We’ve looked to experts to find our next steps, speaking to professionals in accounting, real estate and similar services to glean as much advice and understanding as we can. But at a human level, it’s been incredible to look within to the culture we’ve fostered. Building resilience in the team while the sun shines and the going is good means troubled waters feel less overwhelming. 

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