An Indian stockbroker reacts as he watches the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) index on a trading terminal in Mumbai, India, Monday, March 9, 2020. Global stock markets and oil prices plunged Monday after a squabble among crude producers jolted investors who already were on edge about the surging costs of a virus outbreak. India's Sensex retreated 6.2% to 35,255.73. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
How coronavirus could lead some countries into recession
01:56 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Alexis Glick is chief executive officer of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthier school communities through programs in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. She is a frequent contributor to CNN on topics related to global business, the financial markets and CEO leadership trends. She advises CEOs and professional athletes. The views expressed here are hers. Read more opinion on CNN

CNN  — 

We may be in a public health emergency with the coronavirus (covid-19), but that doesn’t mean we lack the resources, or the common sense, to deal with it.

I’ve spent a good deal of time in my career, first on Wall Street and then in financial media, advising CEOs on issues including investing, health care, technology and more. And maybe it’s the adviser in me, or the fact that I now run a youth wellness nonprofit serving millions of young people, or the fact that I’m a mother of four, or perhaps all of the above.

Alexis Glick

But my reaction thus far has been to retreat to the management (and family) basics: steady hand and safety first. Here’s what I’ve been reminding my team: DON’T BE A HERO!

One of the first thing I notice in CEOs when they’re up against a tough challenge – a “black swan” event, as we call it on Wall Street, something unexpected that comes at you out of the blue – is that he or she will surround themselves with the experts.

Despite having been through SARS, H1N1 and Ebola, the world is in pretty new territory with this virus. Very few leaders of companies, not to mention ordinary consumers, have experience leading their employees or families through something that’s moving as fast as this, or has so many serious and immediate implications for so many people.

So, this is no time for lone-wolf heroism. My message to both business folks and consumers is that you’re doing no one a favor by ignoring the emergency and just “working through it,” as I’ve heard several people say they’re doing.

It may seem like a brave act to just plunge forward with no regard to what’s going on, but it’s foolhardy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has specific guidance on what businesses and employees should be doing now, and there are also great medical professionals and organizations using their social channels, Twitter and LinkedIn, to share information. These online resources are a godsend in times like these when we want to minimize in-person contact but still get the guidance we need.

Part of not trying to be a hero is remembering who the experts are. The authorities in this crisis are health-care providers, government health agencies and public health authorities. It is them to whom we should be listening, not politicians, bloggers or anyone whose agenda may or may not contribute to misinformation.

The wisest CEO, or parent, knows when to say “I don’t know” – and when to turn to those who know best. As both a CEO and a mom myself, I know that both employees in a company and the children in your family respect and are reassured by the truth – even through the truth that we’re uncertain about the spread of this virus in the coming days and weeks. Being told the truth is itself reassuring, even when it’s scary.

My other piece of advice at this moment is to remember that kindness goes a long way. In our digital, hyperconnected world, we have become strangely unconnected from our neighbors in many important personal ways.

But now is the time for unity, and to remind friends, colleagues, employees, neighbors and family members that we really are all in this together. I urge people to think of ways in which you can assist those around you in any way you can during this challenging time and think about how you can pick up the slack for others. Remember that there are lots of folks who don’t ask for help but need it regardless.

Are their people in your community who live alone? Elders, perhaps, who are particularly susceptible to illness who might appreciate a phone call or email telling them you’re nearby? Work teams in your company or organization who could use help with the mechanics of rescheduling, canceling or reorganizing events? Would it make sense for you to let employees telecommute during the crisis? This would be a boon to those parents who have kids home as the result of school closures.

Ask yourself and ask those around you: How else can I be helping? This is a time for roll-up-your-sleeves good deeds, both in the office and in your community.

Because I work with kids, many of them food-insecure, my kindness meter is always pointed toward them. With schools and whole school districts closing, what’s happening with the students who depend on the school breakfast and lunch programs for their daily nutrition in your area? If you’re a business, how might your company work together with local suppliers to step in to provide meals?Put together backpacks for home delivery?

A call to your local superintendent, school board member, or selectman offering assistance might go a long way in your town or community. And overcommunicate – now is a time for ultimate clarity.

Kindness can also take the form of supporting businesses in your community. Remember, according to 2019 figures from the US Small Business Administration, small business employed almost 60 million people or 47.3% of the private workforce as of 2016, many of them part-time. And small businesses – restaurants, for example – are the ones often hit hardest in times like this. Remember to patronize and support them.

And what about kindness toward health-care workers? Our health-care system is facing one of the greatest challenges it has ever had to deal with. Workers are already overtaxed, overworked and under pressure. Acknowledge this, thank them, and reward them for what they’re doing. And support them in any way you can. As community testing for the virus expands, if you’re a business, think about providing additional facilities, space, volunteers – just as you would in a natural disaster.

Here’s an ultimate act of kindness: putting your company or corporation’s resources to the service of purpose and social impact that creates good in the world. I would remind my friends in the business community that this past fall, following up on BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s urging for the past several years, the Business Roundtable stressed that purpose is the most important thing an organization can have going forward. Yes, profit and shareholder value are vital, but without a purpose built around social impact and making the world a better place – without kindness – profit for its own sake is empty.

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    A friend reminded me that the vast majority of folks who contract the coronavirus will have mild symptoms and recover. Medical experts say that those with preexisting, underlying illnesses, and those compromised by age or infirmity, are most in danger

    While our hearts and thoughts are with those people, the majority of us will most likely get through this unscathed. Her reminding me of this was, well, one of the great kindnesses of my day.