April 20, 2020
It’s far too early to be thinking about when this pandemic will be over. We could remain in a state of social distancing and virtual work for weeks or months to come. Even when this is over, it won’t really be over – not when it comes to the impact on the economy, our psyches, our cultural norms, our business practices, how we learn and how we communicate and how we go about our daily lives. And we could be facing another global pandemic at any time. Even when most of our attention is on the new normal, we will have a nagging feeling that it could all be thrown into chaos again, at any time, with only a few weeks’ notice.
So park that: “over” won’t really mean over. But there will come a time, we hope soon, when this storm will pass and everyone will open their doors and step blinking into the bright sun that we haven’t seen in what seems like a lifetime. What then?
YOUR BEST FOOD EXPERIENCES
Think about your best food experiences. Not the finest restaurants you’ve ever eaten in, or the most intricately prepared meals you’ve ever tasted — the best food experiences .
What made the food great wasn’t necessarily that it was great food. You might have been ravenously hungry, having subjected yourself to surfing lessons with your children on a chilly weekend morning, now taking a break for lunch on the beach with a cooler containing fresh bread, tomatoes, and some cold cuts – sun peeking through the clouds for the first time that day. You might have been out of a sickbed for the first time in a week or longer, finally able to eat at a table and finally able to taste food again. You might have been on a low-key date, pausing with someone you barely know to grab a quick bite at just the right time. It might have been the first time you tried sushi.
It’s not just the food. It’s the circumstances, the people, the time of day, your physical and emotional state, the thrill of the moment, and a thousand other factors that elevate a meal to a great food experience.
TRULY, A MOMENT TO SEIZE
Now think about what it will feel like when we’re all finally able to be together again. When we can be in an office with people we haven’t seen for months. When we can bump into people at the proverbial or literal water cooler and chat idly. When we can sit in a meeting together and talk about business-as-usual, not business-under-siege. When we can take a client out for drinks or a round of golf. And when we can leave work at the office, come home, and go out for dinner or a movie. It’s going to feel new and delicious. The conditions will be ripe for great experiences.
As a leader, you’re going to want to seize that moment. You need to see it coming and plan for it. Because like the great food experiences you were just reflecting on, that moment is going to be emblazoned in everyone’s memories. There are three ways you can seize this special moment.
SCENARIO A – BACK-TO-BUSINESS
What if you use that moment to welcome everyone back and send them straight back to their desk, to the pile of things that were waiting for them when they were last in the office, and to the new pile of things that must now happen in order to return to normal? You go straight back into the meetings you used to hold, and held via video conference during the crisis. Same agenda. Same routine. Back-to-business like nothing happened.
Call that Scenario A.
SCENARIO B – HUGS ALL AROUND
What if you use that moment to demonstrate sincere empathy for what your people have been through and the challenge of getting back to work? You change a few policies, you open the door to allow for occasional virtual work, you make counseling available, you give them time to re-acclimate to the office, and you instruct managers to be understanding about sick-days and frequent breaks.
Hugs all around – call that Scenario B.
SCENARIO C – CELEBRATORY PLANNING
What if you use that moment to bring people together to celebrate the relief they feel, to enjoy each other’s company, and to co-create the transition plan back to work? What if you set aside a day (or two, or three) to be together out of the office and convene a wide variety of people who are coming back from a wide variety of experiences to tell their stories, discuss their wants and needs, and share what they’ve discovered about themselves, their work, their customers, their partners, and so on. What if you hold these sessions across your business? What if at each session, hierarchy is temporarily suspended and you let your people jointly create the way forward? What if you make it their responsibility to recommend policy changes, workplace changes, product changes, process changes, and all the rest?
Call that Scenario C – Celebratory Planning.
HOW WILL YOU SEIZE THE MOMENT?
It may be a long way off, or it may be around the corner. In either case, think about what that defining moment will look like for your organization. Think about it now and visualize what you’ll do and how people will receive what you do. Discuss it with your leadership team and ask yourself if you’re following the pattern of Scenario A, B, or C:
- Back-to-business, as if nothing happened,
- Hugs all around, then forward to something new that you’ve defined for people, or
- Celebratory planning, then forward to something new that people have defined for themselves.
By the time this moment comes, you will have been interacting with people via video conference for weeks or months. They’ve seen your home office, your living room and kitchen. They’ve met your kids and your dog. Will you shut down all that amazing transparency now or will you seize this pinnacle moment to embrace a completely new style of leadership?
People will remember this moment. What lasting memory will you leave them with?
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