For those of you impatiently waiting for stay-at-home orders to be lifted, for the curve to flatten and the pandemic to become yesterday’s news so that things can get back to normal . . . it’s not going to happen. Oh sure, businesses will start to reopen, and at some point the pandemic will cease to be headline news, but what we fondly remember as “normal” is simply not going to return. I’m certainly not the first person to make this observation, but here’s the part I haven’t heard discussed as much: That’s okay. Normal is over-rated!
Normal is about routine . . . ordinary . . . predictable. Sure, normal is comfortable. Normal gives you a sense of competence. You know what to do, how things are going to work and there is an “auto-pilot” feel to your days that can be reassuring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s just not what leadership is about.
Leadership is about stretching and growing . . . challenging and innovating . . . finding new ways to expand your mission impact. It is certainly not predictable, it is often uncomfortable, and autopilot is not an option. Leadership is about looking for the opportunities in the midst of the storm and motivating your people to capitalize them. It is about re-envisioning how to carry out your strategic goals amidst ever-changing variables. Done well, it can build a can-do spirit and sense of team among your people that will allow you to accomplish things that would have seemed impossible in the midst of “normal”.
The key to moving beyond normal, to break away from the status quo, is to be crystal clear on your organization’s mission and your strategic goals. Sometimes it might feel easier, or safer, to default to what “everyone else” is doing. There is nothing wrong with being aware of how other organizations are responding to a situation, but if that is the rationale for your actions then you are working in support of their goals not your own.
What if, instead of defaulting to the “what everyone else is doing” sense of normal, you intentionally define and communicate what is “normal” for your organization? Maybe normal in your organization means that you are always changing and growing. Maybe normal means that you turn to your people for innovative solutions. Maybe normal is that the goal isn’t to follow the crowd but to be driven by the mission.
If your job is to lead an organization with a distinctive mission, and a unique set of circumstances, gifts and graces, why would you aspire to respond to a situation like everyone else? You’re a leader. Re-write the rules.
Normal is over-rated.