By Kevin Haas – April 2020

With our three-step plan, learn to not only survive, but also thrive as a leader, despite the workplace challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Kevin shares a revelation from a client as a catalyst to help leaders move forward productively during a disruption like COVID-19. He provides an outline and prompts for a three-step strategy to refocus and adapt to a new normal. These tips are applicable for both home and work, since the line between those two is perhaps even more blurred than ever. Then, take the Coronavirus Leadership Challenge with the worksheet at the end of the article!

SAN team in Zoom meeting

The new normal at SAN includes coffee chats, which help the team feel connected.

I was speaking with a good friend and client recently, Sandra, about personal and professional growth. We talked about all she had done in the last decade to grow as a person and leader, like how she had to manage some difficult teams. She also had to face some personal fears while learning to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” We revisited setbacks she has endured in both her career and personal life.

We were speaking in context of how much the world had changed in the last 45 days and how now, more than ever, her organization needed leadership. Genuine, compassionate, steely-eyed leadership. Sandra shared a striking realization. She explained that all the hard work she put into the last 10 years had uniquely prepared her for this moment. It’s a great observation that probably serves everyone well:

What if this is the moment we’ve all been preparing for? 

It feels like in the blink of an eye, our world has turned upside down. Everything has changed. You don’t need anyone to tell you that; you likely are living it every day. Every client I have talked with in the last few weeks has been in “go mode.” Setting up staff to work from home. Figuring out solutions to emergencies. Sorting out the cash flow. Creating new work-arounds to get basic business done.

For many of us, the last several weeks have been a blur as we attempt to settle into our new work/home situations, but we are now entering a new stage. It appears as though we are collectively in for a longer period of disruption. While we don’t know how long this will last, it will clearly be more than a few weeks. As a result, we are getting to know our new routines as a “new normal.”

If we step back and look at this with some perspective, this moment presents us with a unique opportunity as my friend Sandra described. We can either embrace the new normal or resist it. If we agree with the idea that all of our past experience has prepared us for this moment, we can embrace our new normal as an opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. The other option is to view it as an “interference” in our life and miss a chance to make positive changes.

Great unrest creates the need for great leadership. 

Here are a few simple steps we can each challenge ourselves with to help embrace the “new normal” in a productive manner:

  1. Identify the “old way”. Without judgement or attachment, jot down the way things used to be. This can include:
    • Job structure
    • Goals and objectives
    • Workflows and processes
    • Work environment
    • Leadership style
    • Communication style
    • Your approach to getting results
    • Home environment
    • Hobbies
    • Intrinsic and extrinsic definition of success
  1. Identify the “new normal”. First, take a moment to pause. Let your breathing relax and allow your imagination and inner wisdom to open up gently and freely. With the understanding that you are fully and uniquely prepared for this moment, ask yourself the following:

How do I choose to lead, and be, at this time?

What do I feel my ____________ (team, company, clients, family, friends) need from me right now?

What changes am I ready to make in my life that would be helpful for my current situation?

Allow your insight and deeper understanding to bubble up in a manner that is clear for you and then write down how you are choosing to be in this new normal. Aspects may include (but of course not be limited to):

      • New nature of job
      • New work rhythms (schedule, breaks, structure)
      • Innovations that will be helpful right now
      • New leadership that you choose to demonstrate
      • New communication you feel is appropriate
      • New ways of interacting
      • New home environment
      • New hobbies
      • New definition of intrinsic and extrinsic success
      • Next steps
  1. For each of the insights you wrote down above, take a moment to identify the actions you might take to move forward. Keep it simple and be specific. Small, realistic steps every day toward an end goal in mind are typically far easier than large overnight changes. Be sure to include deadlines as relevant to keep you on track, but keep them flexible. (This situation has definitely highlighted the importance of flexibility.)

The reality is that we are always choosing our responses to the world around us. It may be the unique gift of being human. The impact the pandemic has had on all of our lives is staggering. We need great leadership now more than ever. How do you choose to answer the call? 



Leadership Challenge worksheet

Download our worksheet to help you take the Coronavirus Leadership Challenge and productively adapt to the new normal.

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