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  • Writer's pictureBruce Langevin

Here is Hoping We Don’t Return to “Normal!”

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Before a flood of comments come in like a torrent, from people tired of being locked down, housebound, and missing their families, let me provide the all too important context. There are so many things we enjoyed, pre-pandemic, that we are all looking forward to. Meeting friends for dinner, normal Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, and an end to the devastating impact on our elderly.

Despite those wonderful things, there have been lessons learned, and insights gleaned that I hope no one forgets. And specifically, in the arena of leadership and people management, adaptations that we should avoid undoing at all costs.

Let’s start with the obvious one, people really matter!

It did not take long for us to embrace the loss of access to family and close friends, but similarly impactful were the human connections between teams and co-workers, that we sadly took so much for granted. We had to find new ways to remain connected, and in the case of leaders, new ways to motivate and empower. In most cases virtual ways. And those with the heart for leadership found those new and novel ways, which almost always centered on personal connection and emotional intelligence.

Leaders needed to fine tune their understanding of what was going on with those on the other end of the Zoom call, and ensured they engaged in other personal ways, ensuring motivation, and performance maintained momentum – and that the faces filling the squares on our screens were safe, healthy and mentally coping.

Here is hoping, when the world begins turning again that we do not return to the “normal” of taking personal contact for granted. To the “normal” of undervaluing the personal wellbeing of colleagues and team members. And here is hoping that leaders ensure they bring with them the lessons of virtual leadership into the new fully or hybrid virtual reality.

A recent discussion with a client focused attention for me, with laser focus, on another “normal” I trust we leave behind. The discussion focused on concerns with an underperforming team, symptoms specifically presenting themselves as a lack of engagement and input in weekly team meetings – virtual of course. Much of the current research, supported by anecdotal experience, has pointed to the practice of replacing blocks of time, normally consumed by walking to meeting rooms or driving between locations with, you guessed it, more work.

The physical and mental impact of more and more work are in most ways obvious, but the other telling impact of little or no down time between meetings and engagements is quality.

The quality we misplace because we have ensured little if any time for preparation. I cannot tell you how many times in 2020, I heard a meeting organizer ask those specifically invited, for a reminder as to the purpose of the meeting. The quality of the following 30 minutes was in most cases diminished because no thought, as to outcomes and purpose, had gone into leading a quality meeting.

Far more impactful though, is the negative impact of the messaging. When we arrive having given the gathering no thought or preparation, we are for all intents and purposes saying your time is not important.

Those who lead, and recognize the importance of changing that narrative, ensured they allowed for the time required to prepare for successful, well thought out meetings. In doing so they also sent the message to their teams that their time was valued, important, and to be respected.

Here is hoping that we do not return to the “normal” of being leaders who are too busy to prepare, and too busy to send the much-needed message that our teams time is valuable.

I am looking forward to diners out, family gatherings and the all-important human interaction that fuels, to a great extent, high performance.

I am equally hopeful that those who lead leave behind the working environments that took for granted the criticality of human connection, couple with the need to send clear messaging that our teams time should be respected and valued.

Here is hoping we only return to a “normal” that has learned from this past year, and that leaves behind poor leadership practices in the same dust we leave COVID!

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