“Little darling, it’s been a long, cold lonely winter.
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here.
Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun.
And, I say, ‘It’s alright’.
My November 2019 article asked you to prepare for an economic winter. Obviously, it arrived much sooner and stronger than anyone imagined. The COVID-19 virus is the equivalent of a global economic polar vortex.
Preparing for Spring
We don’t know the ultimate length or severity of this economic downturn. We do, however, know that after the winter comes the spring.
Here are three ideas you should pursue right now to be ready:
- Watch for the signs.
Nature signals that spring is in the air.
Birds sound happier. Trees begin to show their buds. The smells of wood burning in a distant fireplace or the piney odor of evergreen trees are replaced with the fresher, softer scents of a reawakening Earth.
The economy shows signs, too.
From a macro perspective, the economy is on its way back when layoffs decrease and consistently fall below 250,000 per month. Hiring increases begin to exceed 100,000 per month. Construction activity picks up. The GDP forecast projects growth in the future. There are significant positive moves in consumer confidence, leading economic indicators, and the percentage of economists who forecast growth.
There are similar signs in the marketplace you serve. Identify and begin monitoring them now.
You are rarely hurt by planting your garden a few weeks late. You can miss opportunities when you aren’t paying attention to signs of economic spring.
- Build your culture to flourish in what’s next.
Are you hunkered down waiting for the returning “new normal”?
Forget about it. We aren’t going to awaken from hibernation to find that things are the same. A sense of “normal” won’t return for a very long time. Perhaps it will not arrive at all.
There is no more new normal. There is only a new next.
The concept of a state of “normal” is rooted in Kurt Lewin’s classic change model that you unfreeze the thing you want to be different, change it, and refreeze it.
That notion was already questionable because the world moves too quickly to ever fully refreeze a change. The COVID-19 virus has proven that the best we can often achieve isn’t refreezing to ice. It is gelatin.
The culture needed to flourish in a new next environment is built on the foundation of the past. It is values aligned, results focused, member obsessed, and people centric.
The culture accelerates your ability to flourish when it is change ready, data driven, and process oriented. Chances are that you were already working on – or at least talking about – these items. This crisis is the ultimate stress test that determines where you are solid and where there are gaps.
Even those things aren’t enough to ensure your survival … much less position you for growth.
The game changers for your culture are that it is collaboration enabled and future seeking.
Collaboration-enabled, future-seeking cultures actively seek different perspectives and ideas to solve problems and capture opportunities. They are like the scouts who worked for the wagon trains as the West was being settled. Every day they rode out over the horizon in search of two things: Where are the hostiles that have the potential to do us harm, and where is the water that provides an opportunity to sustain and fuel us on our journey?
- Keep the ground prepared and the plants watered.
Lawns and plants need water even when they are dormant. It helps to put a pre-emergent on your lawn before the weeds have a chance to sprout.
These are facts of winter lawn care that you probably learned in your youth. I, on the other hand, had to discover them the hard way when I became a first-time home owner.
It’s the same with your members. Consistent care and feeding of the relationship during this economic winter sets the stage for a vibrant growth spurt when the economy thaws and spring arrives.
Managing the Dissonance
Articles, presentations, and books make leading sound easy. Then you are bombarded with the realities of the moment.
That is especially true right now. The dissonance between preparing for the spring and surviving the winter is real.
Your good intentions compete with the emergencies and mundane of today. Your team and members must have the necessary PPE. Members have questions about their PPP loans or unemployment payment status that require research. Helping your team remain productive as it works from home is taking more time. The clock doesn’t magically add an extra two hours per day.
One solution lies in doing things differently rather than trying to do more things. Look for opportunities to grow others by asking them to collaborate on new ideas. Identify activities with minimal value that can be discontinued, and engage everyone in watching for signs of the emerging spring.
The sun will shine again. Rebirth will happen. Now is the time to prepare for the economic spring. Cue The Beatles.