Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have talked and thought about when things get back to “normal.” I live in the midwest, and life is begin to feel more normal. As more people get vaccinated and the number of cases declines, social distancing and masking requirements are being eased, meetings are taking place in person, travel is resuming, and entertainment opportunities are more prevalent. I think it is important to ask right now:
- “Was normal that good?” and
- “Do we really want to go back to the way things were?”
I want to make it clear that I am not minimizing the suffering, death, and isolation brought by the pandemic. I sincerely look forward to a time free from the health concerns and anxiety caused by the virus, and my heart goes out to all those who have suffered and lost loved ones.
The following were common complaints before the pandemic:
- Companies could not find enough skilled workers.
- Churches were experiencing a drop in attendance and collections.
- Restaurants were getting by on razor thin margins.
- Brick and mortar stores were losing out on sales to online retailers.
- Colleges were experiencing a decline in traditional undergraduate students.
Life was far from perfect when things were “normal”. You can probably think of many other examples. A few lessons for leaders from the pandemic:
- Let’s get rid of unnecessary travel: As I’m starting to meet with people in person again, I’m being more intentional about whether meetings should be in person, virtual, a phone call, or an email. Travel can take away from time needed for other professional and personal responsibilities. Leaders need to safeguard their employees’ time and energy to focus on what is important.
- Unplanned collisions build community: I have missed accidental run ins with people I know that occur in the grocery store, at civic meetings, and athletic events. In the future, I want to take advantage of these opportunities to build relationships and network. Leaders can create these collisions within organizations and with professionals in other industries.
- Random check ins shouldn’t go away: During the first several months of the pandemic, I made a special effort to reach out to people to check on their health and well being. My friends and family did the same thing for me. These gestures were appreciated, and I hope they won’t go away. Check ins from leaders show care for employees as real people.
- Change comes from a feeling of urgency: The pandemic provided us with an urgency to change. The organizations that recognized change was necessary for their survival were likely those who were most successful in adapting. As leaders to to create change in the future, they need to explain the “why” behind the change and the reason change is necessary right now.
- Long term planning and rapid adaptation are needed: Successful organizations develop a long term vision for the future, but they also are able to quickly pivot to take advantage of opportunities.
- Employers can’t take their employees for granted: We are experiencing a labor shortage that has been accelerated by the pandemic. Organizations need to focus on retention and development of their talent. Employees don’t leave jobs-they leave bosses. Leaders have an important influence on their direct reports.
How will your new normal reflect the best of pre- and post-pandemic life? What should you leave behind? How will your organization be better as a result of the pandemic?
We provide leadership training and coaching services that can help leaders grow. Leadership coaching can provide accountability for busy leaders who want to change but don’t feel they have enough time. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact us.