Management and Leadership in Nonprofits


Just normal

May 20, 2020
Just normal

View of lake and sun behind clouds 

For the last couple of months we have been treated to the advice: "Get ready for the New Normal". I can share that I'm not quite ready yet. I'm working on it, but just not there. At the same time, the days that we are currently living in no longer feel to me like a "New Normal." In fact, they feel just plain old normal. Here's what may happen in one of my days: Wake up, have breakfast, go to work, meet with people, discuss ideas and actions, think, eat some more, pick up some groceries or items from a store, work in my yard, go for a walk or bike ride, talk with family and friends, watch some TV, read a little, etc… Of course I don't do that all in one day but it's all there as I work through my week. If I think about it, it's all pretty much the same as what I did pre-COVID.

What has changed? It's how I do those things. I wear a mask in a store or if I will be near people, I go less frequently to the store, I practice social distance from my friends and family and do not participate in physical groups, I only visit my clients sites virtually, my work happens in my home, I eat food from my favorite restaurants in my home, I visit with friends, family and clients via video, etc. In short, same result, different methods.

Sounds simple, right? Yet, it has been so hard. The "how we do things" changed so fast. We had to adjust at the flip of a switch. We didn't like it, but we did it. And amazingly, the vast majority of THE WORLD has made this adjustment. In fact, as time passes, I'd suggest that how we are doing the things we do is quickly becoming just normal.

With a little reflection, I can think of no other time in my life where people have adjusted so quickly to new ways of doing things that so significantly impacted their daily lives. Why did we do it? There was a selfish reason — keep ourselves healthy. There was a selfless reason — keep others healthy. Our best leaders helped people understand this why and helped people adjust. And, we have more work to do.

I'll go as far as suggesting that the hard work is just beginning. What we do is going to stay the same. How we do it is going to continue to evolve. We will miss some of the old ways of doing things and we will adjust our methods to accommodate the things we know are coming:

  • There will be a vaccine creating more immunity allowing us to be together more
  • People will need to see each other in person, sometimes in larger groups
  • We will spend some time working in our offices and at others offices
  • People will go in public to meetings and events
  • Schools will reopen
  • And more…

As these changes evolve, we will return to some of the ways we did stuff and we will keep some of the ways we are doing things now. We leaders will need to help guide people through what this looks like. We will set the standards and expectations. We will need to help some of our people overcome fears they have developed and others to not rush back to the old ways. We will find and set the balance. How will we do this? Here's one thought:

  • Create your plan to reopen centers and programs that require personal contact
  • Review your community needs and adjust your approach
  • Review the way you work in all areas, revisit your desired outcomes, and adjust your processes
  • Revisit your strategic plan and adjust your priorities
  • Act, Execute, Debrief, Adjust, Repeat

You will find more of your employees working remotely, your office layouts will look different, your service delivery methods will use more technology, and you will embrace these things and more because what you do has not changed, only how you do it.

You will lead this new how.

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