Leadership: designing our new normal during the chaos of the crisis

Brent Szalay

I hope you’re keeping safe and sane, in what really is an insane time in our history.

Perhaps you’re doing what I am? I’m reading a lot of articles and intently listening to what people are saying. I guess what I’m trying to do is look for hidden opportunities as I start to see leaders emerge from the chaos most people have got caught up in. Toilet paper fuss and all.

Despite the onslaught of negative news and stressful situations at the moment, inspirational stories are starting to sprout, as the shock slowly settles and stimulus measures lend welcomed support. Some businesses are already starting to pivot. For instance, the clothing label Zara is making scrubs for Doctors in Spain. One of my favourite leadership speakers, Simon Sinek, is creating an online book club; building greater connection amongst his community. And at a local level, the South Melbourne Market has launched a drive-through pick-up service to support their stalls in continuing to provide fresh produce!

All of these examples go to show, business has already changed from what was our once, ‘normal‘.

To think of it, we’ve been busy here at SEIVA helping some of our partners; The Law Institute of Victoria, Design Matters and CPA Australia – create educational webinars for their members with businesses. In times of trouble, we naturally see a greater demand for trusted advice. And, so in these last few weeks, we’ve adjusted some of our resources to guide these people.

The key point I want you to take away is, as leaders in this crisis, it’s up to us to look to the future and decide what we want our new normal to look like, once we cross this pandemic bridge. It is comforting to know that we’re crossing it together.

So, here’s my suggested approach for designing our new normal:

1. We need to understand:

    • The needs of our customers by actively listening to how they have been impacted.
      It’s a great time to build trust by identifying what they see as valuable. Once we know what’s of most value to them; we then need to determine how can we best provide it to them. And, potentially invest some resources to attend to them well.
    • Our strengths that elevate us and our purpose that should drive our decision making.
      At a time like this, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. And so, there’s a tendency to mimic what competitors are doing and communicating. Rather, we need to form our unique view and an action plan that aligns with our identity.

2. We need to consider:

    • What have we learned from this sudden and forced change in operations?
    • What will we do to protect ourselves better next time?
    • Have we noticed any benefits from our teams working from home? For example: Here at SEIVA, we’re loving our new video voice-overs that guide our clients through complicated stimulus measures. I can’t see us ceasing this new approach, once this virus is all set and done.
    • What relationships have we potentially strengthened? For example: we’re being really mindful to regularly check in with one another and our community of clients. Connection is key to killing the emotional burden of isolation. And, ‘Zoom’ is opening eyes to our home lives; kids running around; pets begging for a pat; home offices that are painted pink : )

3. We need to look for inspiration:

Uber, Airbnb, Slack and Whatsapp – were all created during the GFC. Then for some home soil glory, Commbank decided to reinvest into their award-winning online platforms during the GFC, while their competitors were re-balancing their portfolios. While we’re certainly not seeking the limelight of these big gun superstars, we are looking for better ways to run our business. And, better ways to connect with our community. So, why not keep our eyes open for ideas.

4. Lastly, as leaders, we need to be great communicators:

Regular and open communication with our team and customers needs to be an equal priority to forming our new normal vision. I’m making sure we’re having regular team Zoom meetings; discussing how we’re going and what we’re learning; about ourselves, our new working environment and the evolving needs of those whom we support. We’re all contributing ideas to what we want our new normal to be, going forward. I’m a big believer in the notion that a culture of contribution is a key driver of motivation and a sense of fulfillment. Our team are all wanting more than just a paycheck from their role here at SEIVA. And, we’re certainly stronger together. In either crisis or normal mode.


Well, that wraps up my suggested approach for designing a new normal. So, how will you re-evaluate your business model to design your new normal? Hit me up for a Zoom meeting if you want to share in ideas and a virtual beer. : )


Brent Szalay. 

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