Leading After COVID

There has been a blip in the space time continuum.

Here is what I mean by that. For years and years, we have all heard all about the breakneck rate of change. No doubt about that. But with a disruption the size of COVID, it feels as if a decade of change has occurred within the past 12 months.

Think about it. How long have organizations been debating and testing employees working from home.  It has been a topic for years. Along cpmes COVID, and the debate ends. Within 30 – 60 days, everyone is working at home, as technologically connected as ever.

Companies often discussed for months or years, changes to their product portfolios. Yet with the virus, manufactures quickly re-tooled from their normal products to PPE or other much needed equipment. Distilleries shifted from booze to hand sanitizers almost overnight. And there have been equally remarkable changes in getting food to people, who maybe for the first time, needed a helping hand. When the entire world hangs up a “temporarily closed for business” sign, unprecedented change has to be in the immediate forecast.

As disruptive as COVID was, think about some of the other earth-shakers which also concurrently occurred. There is now a new era of social unrest, political uneasiness, and even technology threats (the hacks do get bigger and more impactful). Even with herd immunity and the diminishing impact of the coronavirus, life will be much different going forward.

Here is the challenge. When a bunch of change occurs over time, we have a chance to adapt and get used to it. In fact, it becomes hard to remember how things had actually been done some years back. But COVID  and the other changes have occurred within the past 12 months. And you, like many, will be able to remember with great clarity, the way things were done in 2019. And there will be a longing to go back to those normal, good old days. But you can’t, because the world has forever changed. Many of the square holes have suddenly become round, and the old square pegs will no longer fit into them.

To continue to grow and succeed, leaders must do the hard work of examining and re-imaging everything going forward. Which systems and processes might still work; which ones definitely will not? Should the job outcomes and requirements be the same? Will the customer experience now include new and creative uses of technology, which were never there before? What about the workers? What kind of environment might they want or need to do their very best work. Are cramped cubicles back at the office, the best for everyone? And might employee well-being be defined differently going forward, given new and very real risks that some are now facing in the jobs?

Perhaps the toughest question you will have to answer is this. How must you be different as you move forward from the extraordinary curve balls of 2020? How must your workers be individually different as well? In what ways must all of you grow in order to spot – and capitalize on – novel opportunities now presenting themselves? If you stay complacent and merely try to plug the 2019 version of yourself into the new world of 2022, you will most likely fail. As it is not wise to put new wine into an old wineskin, neither is it wise to try to cram old ways of thinking and doing into a new world.

Best of luck as you construct your new path forward.

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