As the world prepares to move forward, leaders find themselves caught in a struggle between what has been and what will be. Companies are finding themselves having to balance the current day-to-day struggles for survival by paying proper attention to how their business model needs to pivot in this crisis.
The first thing we should do to set ourselves up for success in leveraging the new normal is to set up two teams that can help our organizations navigate the way forward: a pivot team whose mission is to figure out what the company will look like moving forward and how to best grab the opportunities that are ahead and a day-to-day team that is going to ensure the company gets to the other side. These teams may not reflect your current structure or hierarchy and that is fine, if not preferred.
To staff the pivot team, look for the people who are the most creative, the most innovative in your company, no matter where they sit on the org chart. They are going to be the ones that will best be able to envision the possibilities beyond the fear and uncertainty. The day-to-day team should be made up of those who are the most straight forward and, perhaps, uncomfortable with the unknown. They will be able to organize and grasp what needs to happen to ensure that the organization survives. This includes controlling cash flow and costs and ensuring the proper communications are made.
Setting these teams up as soon as possible is necessary because it’s so hard to tell what the new normal will be. If we don’t start moving aggressively to get people back to work, the new normal is going to be very bad. Unemployment of 20% will be devastating to our people and our economy if allowed to continue for much longer.
Moving to a better new normal requires leadership based on truth and context, not fear. Car accidents kill 1.3 million people a year, but we don’t see that reported on the national news each night. Heart disease kills over 500,000 a year but we are not demanding that fast-food restaurants close and the government is not forcing people to exercise. Suicide killed about 130,000 people last year and suicide hotline call volume is 200% greater than last year at this time. However, we are not responding to this mental health crisis in a manner anywhere near as urgent or aggressive. We MUST get a perspective on this virus.
We cannot let fear dictate our response as we move forward. The new normal for American businesses will only be bad if we let it by living in fear. What are we so afraid of? For those between 18 and 60 and without pre-existing conditions, you are ten times less likely to die of COVID-19 than you are from the common flu. The common flu is also more deadly to children. You take a bigger risk every time you drive your car than you would if you were to contact COVID-19.
If we live in facts and hold onto life a bit more loosely, the new normal can be whatever we want it to be. That’s a powerful and inspiring place to be as a business leader.