Let’s Stop Striving For Normal

Last year, I wrote about the old normal versus the new normal as we were hitting the one-year mark in this pandemic. Now that we are a full two-years into the pandemic, we might be looking at the end of it.  We thought about this last year at this time as well, with the emergence of the vaccines, but we did not anticipate all of the roadblocks and resistance that surfaced. That stopped progress in its tracks at that time. Are we out of the woods now? Perhaps.

One year later, I don’t think we can use the word “normal” at all anymore. What we discovered quite clearly over the past year is that we have ventured so far into changing our lives, that nothing is normal or typical anymore. When forced into situations, we had to adapt. We learned what worked for us and what didn’t, and the things we thought we had to do were suddenly questioned. Work, leadership and lives were upended two years ago, and just one year ago, the focus seemed to be on what working remotely was doing to our lives. Last year, I mentioned that our work and home lives were jumbled, that instant messaging is the new office drive-by, and the walls came down (virtually) with our global co-workers. All of that is still true and next level, but now, it’s time to reflect and move forward more deeply.

Being a leader in 2022 now looks profoundly different than it ever has before. How do you navigate waters that are truly uncharted? We are all figuring this out together, and we will learn from each other.  Not just what works, but what doesn’t work. Let me offer up some insight that may help you figure out how to adapt your leadership and style, from what I have learned over the last year and what’s right in front of us now.

Speak up and stand up for your needs, as a leader, an employee and a student.

Who would have predicted two years ago that we would see something called “The Great Resignation” or “The War for Talent” in late 2021 and early 2022? The best leaders have always been those that are an advocate for you and really listen to what you need to be your best self at work, school and home. If you don’t have those skills as a leader, your employee will find someone that does. Don’t hide your disengagement or unhappiness, but do something about it.  Speak up for what you need. I’m not suggesting that you make unreasonable demands, but have a real, meaningful conversations to make it happen.

Flexibility is now table stakes.

Life, school and work are more complicated than ever. They are intertwined like no other point in our lives. If you work in an environment that can exercise some flexibility, do it. Your employees will eventually leave if you don’t offer that, because they can find that somewhere else. Sure, you will have projects and customers that dictate your schedule at times, but get creative where you can. Flexibility is no longer a “nice to have”, but a “must have”. Are you a leader that is aware of this and are doing what you can, or are you stuck in the old “9 to 5” mindset?

Always be learning and keeping your skills fresh.

This also applies to leaders, student, and employees. Maybe you have been one of the few in your city or state with a certain set of skills that are hard to find. In the past, perhaps that meant some stability. Now, in our exploding virtual world, someone five states away may have similar or better skills and they could take your job, doing it remotely. Staying current, relevant and curious means more now than ever before, even when many employees are in a position to call the shots in their current job search. “The War for Talent” will not always be here. Be ready and be relevant.

There was an old normal, and even a new normal for a while. Now let’s begin talking about what we need personally as individuals, to feel fulfilled, challenged, productive and happy in this new world.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.