By Paul Reilly
If you ask any St. Louisan, “What is St. Louis famous for?” you would receive a myriad of responses: St. Louis-style ribs, St. Louis-style pizza, world-class baseball, Anheuser-Busch, etc. However, the most recognizable symbol of St. Louis is the Gateway Arch. Regardless of how many times I’ve seen the Gateway Arch, I still appreciate and admire this symbol of St. Louis.
The Romans first used arches to span wider gaps and support heavier loads. Building an arch is relatively simple. Fabricate several pieces so that they align in a semi-circle shape. Build each side separately and use temporary supports to brace the incomplete arch. Finally, place the keystone in the center of the arch. With the keystone in place, remove the temporary supports, and the arch will stand on its own.
Now that the arch is standing, it’s strong and secure, right? Well, not really. The only way to strengthen the arch is to apply downward pressure. The pressure forces the pieces to press firmly against one another. When pressed firmly together, the arch can carry a heavier load. Increasing the downward pressure strengthens the arch.
We are facing unprecedented downward pressure. This crisis has physically separated us, and paradoxically, brought us closer. Pressed firmly together, we can carry more than we thought was possible. Eventually, this pressure will lift. So, while it’s here, let’s use it. Use this temporary pressure to strengthen your team permanently.
A crisis clarifies what is important and what is not. Remember the pre-crisis quarreling within your organization? The petty infighting between different departments? As we reflect on those little things, it seems silly. How could we let these trivial things drive us apart?
The strength of an arch is similar to that of your team—each member has to do their part. Now is the time to act. If you have a checkered past with your team, now is the time to build a better future. If you overburdened other departments, now is the time to redistribute the load. If you are overbearing, be more empathetic. If you talk too much, listen more. Do your part in strengthening the team.
Hopefully, there will never be another opportunity like this to strengthen your team. We don’t know when this pressure will subside. It’s critical to act now. Even if your team was struggling before, they can still unite and become stronger. Consider Viktor Frankl’s famous quote from his renowned book, Man’s Search for Meaning:
“If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together.”
Although we’re not the architect of this current crisis, this extra load can bring any team closer together—no matter how far apart.