Music plays, friends dance, most are laughing with abandon, eyes shining – the countdown begins. 10, 9, 8, . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR! We toast to a new decade, 2020! Spirits are high and expectations are as well. We begin the new year with hope and promise and a new path forward.
(Sound of a record player needle scratching across a record)
Fast forward to May 2020. Everything has changed. Somehow, we made it through the months of March and April. We went into quarantine and watched jobs disappear and businesses crumble. No one knew how to respond or what to expect. We made the best decisions we could. Aggressive cost cutting measures took place, employees were let go. Everyone had to pivot and pivot again while in crisis management mode. News became hard to watch, or read, or even listen to. It was time to hunker down and get ready for whatever might come next. Our businesses and our communities had already experienced the unimaginable. How could things get worse?
Then, we entered the phase that we’ll call “The What-If” phase where we tried to solve problems that don’t exist yet. What if COVID-19 lasts into the fall? What if the economy doesn’t recover for years? Then what? How will we respond if…? Entire days spent discussing scenarios. Every back and forth inevitably ending with the same conclusion. “We just don’t know.”
Stages of Grief
Many of us are starting to accept – or at least better define our new reality. Those of us with small businesses that came to a forced full-stop during this crisis are somewhere on the Kubler-Ross cycle of grief, perhaps coming close to acceptance and seeking realistic solutions. Some of us are on furlough, on notice or on edge that we are in danger of losing our jobs and we are white-knuckling what we have to hold onto because our current fate is in someone else’s hands. Yet others of us are seeing a little lift in our industry from relaxed lock-down rules and we are just trying to determine the distance to the light at the end of this tunnel.
A few things have become painfully clear – some businesses may not recover. Some of us may have to do a full 180 and reinvent ourselves, our companies, and a new path forward in a whole new direction. Harvard Business Review described in a recent blog, “The job losses that come with the Covid-19 pandemic and recession are likely to strike particularly hard at people’s sense of identity.” As business owners, executive leaders and entrepreneurs, it is common to align our identities with our professions. After all, that is where the majority of our time, education and energy is spent. The good news from the research outlined in this same blog is, “people forced to leave the work they cared deeply about found that most did manage to create meaningful futures – and some even felt more fulfilled than they had before.” So how do we get there?
Well, here is the brutal truth – re-entry does not equate to “Back to Normal!” It is going to take a hardcore self-assessment to determine where we go from here. We have to get aggressive and meticulous in ways we have never explored before. We have to look at the bottom line AND look in the mirror and get a true grasp of what needs to change. Then we have to assess our energy, our drive and our level of passion to see if we have what it takes to hit GO on the next path.
During our coaching conversations, we’ve explored five questions to get the juices flowing:
- What activities and/or deliverables are essential to my existing business or position?
- Which of these can I no longer deliver or no longer do based on the current marketplace?
- Out of that list, what is left that I can focus on?
- What is the priority of each given the existing set of rules in my industry?
- Are there resources that I have or need in order to adjust these activities?
The good news is, that it is clearly time to redefine normal, and we all have an opportunity to not only participate, but to innovate and be leaders in what comes next. People have been talking about the “fourth industrial revolution” for years, and this global pandemic may be the catalyst to expedite it. What is holding you back? What are you willing to let go of? Most importantly, what can you begin to do that will help move you toward a new path and a meaningful future?