The Readiness is All

Conventional wisdom posits that “Confession is good for the soul.” Taking a page from that adage, I have a confession to make. I must confess that, after more than one year of it, and more importantly, having to always put on a brave face, I am more frequently experiencing bouts of pandemic fatigue.

The answers are not always coming as I would like them to but it is okay. The brave face is requiring a lot more self-motivation at times.

Let me explain.

My confession is not intended to understate the various states of affairs that we currently find ourselves in - as both a national community and a member of the global community - doing all in our collective power to fight the disease, spread awareness, boost wellness, and above all, save lives. (In fact, because of how adversely the entire world has been affected, I often find myself wondering how much longer, people can be expected to competently manage this state of affairs.)

My COVID-19 surfeit, such as it can be called, comes in response to me looking back over the course of the year, and all the drastic, sweeping changes (compromises really) we have had to implement/endure to achieve at least a portion of our personal and professional objectives, and realising that, in many ways, some of my actions have been in anticipation (hope?) of a return to pre-COVID days. (Whose hasn’t?)

Yes, my teams and I have been moving forward for the sake our customers, our stakeholders, and even each other, but that has been a difficult process in the fight against an unseen and dangerous enemy in COVID-19. The changes that have come our way in the past year have been staggering, to say the least. When we look back at the call and response of the local and global communities to this pandemic, I think we can all share in a sense of pride in knowing that, come what may, we always found ways to work together to surmount challenges.

But that is on a large scale. What about within ourselves as leaders? As individuals? How did we really surmount our challenges or at least sustainably positioned and primed our businesses and ourselves to do so? Have we really faced them, putting our best foot forward? Or have we chosen to turn a blind eye to those challenges, bury any fears.

Sure, we have made the tough calls, implemented the changes, and adjusted our business to adapt and survive, but are we, at times, holding on to a memory of a pre-pandemic time and just doing what we think is necessary until COVID-19’s impact on us is materially diminished?

Are we assessing the situations and moving to suit? Are we being proactive in our strategy and thorough in our tactics? Are we truly prepared for what a post-pandemic society will look like? What it will ask of us and, of course, what we are prepared to contribute to its development?

In a previous discussion, we touched on how important the right mindset is for us as leaders. For this month’s talk, I want us to look a little deeper at one particular aspect of that discussion; the mindset that is the Readiness is All.

The reason? Much in the same way that I suspect that we are experience bouts of pandemic fatigue, regardless of what, who and how we serve in our businesses, after a year of the nearly New Normal, we run the risk of becoming complacent (at best) and careless and unprepared (at worst) in the face of a future that could be as full of promise as it is perdition.

Stop Waiting, Start Waking
Yes, I miss the past dearly as I suspect many of us do. But longing for the past achieves nothing. Let me say that again: Wishing for the past to return does precious little in propelling us to realise the future we want or enjoy the future we have.

Our journey back to “newmalcy” may begin with us being patient and understanding as policies and practices change, but it cannot stop there. There is going to be a tomorrow, whether we are here to see it or not. How ready are we to seize it? We have to start waking from any COVID-19 slumber and stop waiting for it to pass.

A true leader, one seeking to be great, must understand that while not all changes are bad, not every return to the old ways and times is good. And if it is one thing that this pandemic has shown us it is that while the past is gone and the present ever-changing, the future is something that can seriously upend us…if we are not prepared. The future will also forever be more uncertain than we ever thought in the pre-pandemic days.

As many steps forward as there have been, we still have frequent setbacks. With every promise of the resumption of regular business operations come the threat of community spread and a spike in cases that we are not prepared for, resulting in us going back to stages that we thought were behind us.

I know that our leaders and experts are working around the clock to gain the upper hand. But, like a good boxing match, with every jab (no pun intended) we throw at the disease, we are greeted with a hook to the jaw. As dismaying as this feeling can be, I think that frustration and anxiety over when and how we can put the pandemic behind us have a great deal of merit, particularly in helping us become our better selves in the face of a future that is uncertain. To be frustrated and anxious is newmal, to be paralyzed by that frustration and anxiety is not.

As uncertain as the future may be, the readiness is all.

And it is this readiness that we leaders must have within us if we are to pick up where we left off. In fact, we should not be looking to pick up where we left off (as if Covid never happened), we should be looking to pick up from where we are. We should be readying ourselves to be more different, more innovative than we probably ever thought we could be. Equally importantly, it is this readiness that we must inculcate and instil in our teams as well. This is more than simply being optimistic (something we should absolutely never lose sight of). It is about being realistic in readjusting to the New Normal as best as possible.

When will it all end? No one knows. Will it ever end? Probably not. But are we ready for any possibility? That is really the question that we should be asking ourselves. Must we be ready for any possibility? The answer to this one is surely obvious.

So, how can we best ready ourselves and what does that readiness entail? Demand of us? That is what we must reflect on and decide as soon as we can.

Back to the Grind?

Consider this.

Early in the COVID-19 story arc, one of the main ways governments around the world sought to control the spread was by limiting the numbers of people in public. Various restrictions resulted in a large percentage of the workforce quickly transitioning to work-from-home arrangements. In the months since, not surprisingly, many people have come to appreciate not only the benefits of flexible working: reduction in commuter related stress, increased work-life balance, improved health and wellness, etc; but also its limitations: breakdown in culture and sense of team, loss of crucial relationships, increased work anxiety, etc.

Now, after more than a year of remote work arrangements, disjointed schedules, service interruptions, and phased back-to-work approaches, many employers and employees are finding themselves at a critical juncture. That juncture? Where do we go from here? What is the future of remote work? Are things better or worse, and in either scenario, how prepared are we to make the most of them?

While work from home arrangements have their benefits, they were really meant as a stop gap to control the spread. How really prepared are our teams for when they fully physically return to workspaces and offices, especially after being “away” for so long? How prepared are we as leaders to reinvigorate and lead our teams when the restrictions either go away or change yet again? This is but one example.

As leaders, we have had to evolve beyond traditional/standard concepts (such as it is) of leadership. We could no longer straddle any fences, refusing to see things from different perspectives. We have our teams, stakeholders, and publics to consider. In that, we have had to venture outside the proverbial box and become more impassioned, empathetic, and courageous leaders. Our people have had to do very much the same. But, after a year in, where are we along that readiness journey?

There is no Progress without Struggle

The present state of affairs calls for drastic steps. Inasmuch as we pine for the days of before, the times of now mandate that we each become more acceptable of and flexible to change. In a time where it seems like every three steps forward are greeted with one step back, it seems almost pointless to entertain any real discussion of “getting back to normal”. This is especially when it appears that many of us have forgotten what normal feels like, and far less can feel any real sense of optimism at its prospect.

As leaders, as employers, we cannot lose this optimism. We are entitled to have our bouts of fatigue but we cannot let them overwhelm us. We are entitled to pine for the good old days, but we cannot dwell in their memory. Our task is to look ahead. Our task is to motivate. Our task is to offer hope even when we keep none for ourselves. Our task is to identify the recipe for future success.

Again, the short answer is the readiness is all.

How are you getting your teams and yourselves ready?

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