People are ready to move forward. We are done pausing, putting things on hold, implementing stop-gap measures, and going with temporary fixes. People want to know what the future will look like going forward at work, for their organization, with this new approach, and their lives. We want to be part of creating it.
This doesn’t mean things are over (pandemic, masks, fight for racial justice, the war in Ukraine, Zoom meetings, etc.). I keep coming back to this wisdom from Eboni Zamani-Gallaher shared on this podcast, “We pivoted, that doesn’t mean we pivoted well.” Now is our chance to do this well. As I work with organizations to help them create something better, here are a few key lessons we keep coming back to.
No Return to Normal
The events of the past two years have changed the world and each of us. Calls for a return to normal do not recognize reality or reflect any learning. We’ve changed, not just because of COVID. Although COVID has been the narrative of the past two years (lockdown, masks, vaccines, virtual, Zoom, etc.), toxic politics, racial injustice, social media amplifying the worst of us, being with our families, not going out or traveling, working out at home, and more have also changed us. COVID has opened the door to let us know we can actually do just about anything differently. As just one indicator, coaching clients seeking big changes to work, life, health, relationships, where they live, and more have left my coaching capacity over-enrolled for all of the past two years. This window of opportunity to truly rethink may be closing as folks crave stability and continuity.
What Will We Create?
I’ve heard so many statements, laments, demands, and just exhausted articulations.
- “This isn’t sustainable.”
- “The status quo isn’t working.”
- “This isn’t equitable.”
- “This never was working for many of us.”
We seem to be yearning for a shift from pointing out all the things that are not working (expectations, work from home, return to normal, overwhelm, erosion of truth and reality, etc.) to a desire to build something better. Our challenges, inequities, and unsustainable lives are important to explore. Folks now want to know what we are doing to do to create something better moving forward. For some of us, this means, our own individual decisions, or with our families and communities, or for those in positions of power working with those they lead.
New Set of Skills
If only there was a simple and easy list of pre-determined solutions that would for all of us. Unfortunately, you can’t Google what to create or how to create something new. You need to actually create something new. Many of the organizations I am working with are wanting to create something new, but want to begin with solid foundations by tending to what has happened and building their capacity for what is to come. They are exploring things such as:
- Trauma, Healing, Trauma-Informed Care, and Trauma Stewardship
- Cultivating Emotionally Intelligent Leadership to Lead in More Humane and More Effective Ways
- Developing a Social Justice Lens to Avoid Individualizing Systemic Changes
- Mindful Leadership to Better Navigate the Uncertainty
Create a Plan for Thriving
As leaders hear about the overwhelm and the burnout their folks are experiencing, it can be tempting to cut back to only what we need to do to survive. This can be tempting in our own lives as well. However, merely surviving means no meaning and purpose, which is often where we find our renewal and rejuvenation. It is important to cut back or essentialize, but how do we take the time to essentialize to thriving rather than surviving? Leaders who work with their employees to center their mission and purpose and cut away busy work and nonsense see the renewal and rejuvenation return.
Get Back to Your Principles
When I work with new coaching clients, we spend the first four sessions getting their cornerstones firmly in place. This includes activities to clarify, refine, and bring into focus their life purpose, core values, inner guide, and learn how to handle their inner critic. With these cornerstones in place, we build the life they want from this foundation. Organizations can similarly return to their fundamental values, mission, vision, and purpose. We should all be revisiting our foundations for the current reality and applying what we have learned. For some organizations, we need to reimagine those foundations for this new reality. For others, their cornerstones and the why may remain unchanged, they just need to rethink how they do their work.
Be sure not to use mission, vision, and values as jargon to ask people to do more with less. We can use these foundations to make the tough decisions about what transforms, remains, and is eliminated by practicing essentialism.
Center diversity, equity, and inclusion – not an add-on. Whiteness and other dominant cultural norms are central to normal. Creating something new gives us the opportunity to center social justice in values, purpose, workplace norms, work culture, benefits, pay, and more.