Old Normal, New Normal?
The Rules to Thriving with No Normalcy
Saturday, March 14th, 2020, Chicago, Illinois. Late into the evening. I won’t forget where I was. The General Manager of our crew, 760 miles away at Charlotte Motor Speedway, called me with the news that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper had just tweeted he was shutting down the state.
Old normal? New normal? No normal?
Nobody had any idea. What did ‘shutting down the state’ even mean? And how was I supposed to interpret the news, make decisions, and confidently lead a team to success without having any answers myself? Then I remembered, the same way I always had: embrace the reality that no normal is the actual normal. Especially not during a crisis and particularly not in entrepreneurship.
The thing we’d all but forgotten was that before March 2020, significant growth never happened in a period of normal. That being said, no one should be anxiously anticipating the ‘new normal’ with any more enthusiasm than you are mourning the loss of the old normal. Look outside your comfort zone, that’s where the magic happens.
1. Retrace your Steps: Find consistency in no normal.
Someone once told me, ‘get a piece of paper, write down all the years you’ve been in business, label out the one or two major wins and losses that defined each year and look for the trend line’. And what do you know, it jumped off the page at me.
We’re not defined by what we talk about doing or what we propose, we’re defined by what’s in the rearview mirror. What did you, your business, or those you lead accomplish? It doesn’t matter how many major losses are on the paper, do the wins outnumber them? Results are the chapters of success.
I bet dollars that you’ll find every major LOSS took you off track, off projection, and out of normal. I also bet that every WIN took you back on track, but not the same track. To a new track, a new normal.
2. Embrace It: The new normal IS no normal.
No matter how many years ago the growth journey you’re on started, if it’s one of evolution, nothing about it has been normal. And if you’re not evolving, you’re dying.
“If you’re not evolving, you’re dying.”
This spring, we learned that. No substantial growth comes from not doing something drastic. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by force. And moving forward, nothing genuinely business (or life) altering will come without another drastic transition from an old normal to a new.
Use this paradigm to wake up every day looking for the personal and procedural strengths that allow you to navigate this morning’s normal. You can lay any set of circumstances on a few solid principles and achieve your desired results. Start identifying and embodying these. They should look like leadership, accountability, communication, culture. Not operations, accounting, or sales. The intangible values, the vision, becomes the roadmap through reroutes and detours. And, inevitably, becomes very visible in businesses that succeed in a crisis vs the ones that do not.
3. Leverage Inflection: The best time to shake it up is when nothing is settled.
People aren’t scared of change, they’re scared of unknown. When the normal that your team is used to is challenged (or destroyed) they panic. What is going to happen to me?
There is no better time to acknowledge that things are changing, no doubt about that, but to come out better and to come out stronger, we need to do what we may have been putting off.
Our vision, which hangs high on a shelf in good times, must be brought down, dusted off, and relied upon. The team agreed on a vision when they were comfortable and confident. By tugging on those emotions and restating that battle plan, you will be able to lead and navigate to the new path of normal. Companies must have a strong playbook. But a playbook is not just defense, you must score points to win the game. Know when to play defense and know when the ball is in your hands to play offense. Don’t miss an opportunity to put anything on the table, consider all options and decide which choices and which investments, which can be time or money, need to be acted upon.
4. Invest in Culture: Use this time to bring people together.
Have empathy. By the time “normal” is disrupted, your people are well into thinking and worrying about what the future holds for them. This can be an easy distraction that quickly erodes away at the focus needed to navigate a changing business landscape.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weaknesses.” -Brené Brown
Bring your people together and find creative ways for everyone to be included in mapping out the new normal. With inclusion comes buy-in, and with buy-in comes results.
When people know they have a leader that is looking out for them, and that is human too, they come together. With your company’s vision as the glue, your team will transcend the comfort zone and find a way through, to the next level of normal. And, in a growing organization over the years, you will find it easier and easier (and more rewarding!) to navigate through disruption and growing pain, using short but meaningful moments of normal, to achieve tremendous growth and success.
CEO/Founder, Xtreme Xperience