How are you feeling?

It’s a question I have been asking clients and colleagues for several weeks now and the responses have been rich with insight into the human condition. A shout out to those who graciously spent time during this chaotic time to talk, commiserate and share.

(Tip: It sounds counter-intuitive, but this may be the perfect time to connect on deeply meaningful and relevant levels with clients, customers, and colleagues as I have found that we have become more empathetic and giving.)

When I ask “how are you feeling” I also share first.

I talk about the waves of uncertainty that wash over me. I have found that uncertainty can be triggered by the media, government updates and industry reports. It is cold comfort that I am not alone. It seems we are all experiencing varying levels of uncertainty. (Tip: you have no doubt read about vulnerable leadership. It works. If you are not yet practicing it, I highly recommend it.)

I share how I am using uncertainty as a gating technique for key decisions. It is forcing careful yet agile examination and leading to acts of reimagination and decisions around reinvention. But it is not easy. The talking helps as does critical thinking and scenario planning.

What does not help me is the placebo-like language of “new normal”.

I do not find anything “normal” about where we are or where we are going. I understand that getting to “normal” is comforting when dealing with the daily crises of this pandemic, but the risk is, I think, in lulling us into a false positive sense of confidence.

As we now lift out of crisis management and prepare to point our organizations back into the future I, for one, am wary about using “new normal” as my north star.

Instead I asked a deceptively simple question of my company.

Do we bounce back or spring forward?

It’s a simple question that has grounded my thinking and shoved uncertainty further back in my mind. (it’s still there but now I am using it purposefully rather than letting it consume me).

Choosing to bounce back, for me meant assuming we will get back to “normal” and this path would help my company recover what has been lost. How far back we can bounce is the complex follow up question. So much is different now; how we work, our behaviours and attitudes. It would be tricky navigation.

Choosing to spring forward, for me meant a future positive approach. This path would help my company serve clients more effectively by becoming ready and receptive to what is next in our very different world.

I am choosing to spring forward. The direction taken will be different for each organization because we are all affected by the pandemic differently. Pausing and asking this question helped me understand how my company has been affected and gave me some certainty and confidence in the decision. Regardless of the direction that is right for your organization one thing is clear:

We all need a little more certainty for the journey ahead of us.

As we contemplate reopening, rebooting, or ramping up our businesses there may be no more appropriate rallying cry than that of the poet Petrarch. He called Italians to the Renaissance with the words.

“walk forwards in the radiance of the past.”

What Petrarch meant was, overcome your uncertainty by building on what has worked best in the past. Use what has made you great and successful. His caution in “walking forwards” was about becoming stuck if we did not iterate, experiment with, and evolve the best of our past because the future is so different.

These are the words that will guide me and my company as we navigate through the chaos and steer for the future. I will update you on our progress.

In the meantime, I wish you well as you embark on your own journey. Whatever path you choose may it lead to a brilliant future.