May 11, 2021
by: Ellen Sherberg
As our communities reopen, the lives of women across America grow more complicated as they juggle responsibilities at home and at work (which is often still at home). Sherri Turpin began preparing for a crisis two years before the pandemic.
“People first has always guided my leadership. It has been essential during this pandemic.
Long before the pandemic, people first has helped ensure that our employees continue delivering critical communication access for the deaf and hard of hearing community, access as fundamental as talking to your family and friends and as important as 9-1-1. Like in any crisis, especially a life-threatening one, the demand for real-time information and communication access grows quickly and exponentially. This is true for all of us, whether your language is English or American Sign Language. More than anything, this pandemic has fortified my commitment to people first as a leadership north star.
I’ve always believed that there are valuable lessons that come with every challenge or hardship. This unprecedented year has delivered an abundance of life and work lessons for all of us, stretching our capacity for what’s possible. As just one example, we safely and successfully moved our headquarters to Austin from California in the middle of a pandemic.
One crucial lesson for me is the value of innovating and trying new ideas without the pressure of a crisis. Two years ago, we launched a pilot program allowing sign language interpreters to work from home. We wanted to have contingency plans for unexpected circumstances, those that change drastically overnight or significantly increase demand for sign language interpreters. We never considered a pandemic with this pilot program. One came and we were far more ready than we would have been.
Maintaining a sense of unity and purpose while navigating through a pandemic’s impact was paramount. I knew that communication authenticity was more vital than ever as many team members often seek a calm and forward-thinking leader. I recognized that every action and decision I made could inspire or just as easily dishearten. The pandemic reminded me of the extraordinary importance and value of steady and straight forward communications, how every word matters, how it can fuel a culture of unity and purpose during the most difficult times.
This pandemic also has made me realize how undervalued teamwork still really is today. All CEOs, myself included, know and appreciate the power of teamwork but there is nothing quite like a pandemic to spotlight this. All last year, I witnessed countless and incredible levels of warp speed collaboration, people working beautifully together, developing and implementing new game plans daily. Teamwork is a bedrock of crisis management success — few leaders will get through without it.
Lastly, the pandemic provided a reset for me on the importance of resilience, which I believe is far more easily achieved when you love your work and know that you are positively impacting lives. You have to be excited to wake up in the morning and go to work, most especially when you are making tough decisions effecting thousands of employees and a large community of deaf individuals. Passion — loving what you do — always gets you through. It more than got me through. Passion is the very thing that made me a better pandemic leader.”