Disruption and change – these words seem to be everywhere right now. The COVID-19 virus has been disruptive and a big change for most individuals and for businesses. For some, the change has been relatively small although inconvenient. For others the change has been huge and life altering. So much varies with circumstances – childcare or school needs, telework capability, aging parent care, knowing how to cook, etc. These circumstances can make adapting to the change much more difficult. My colleague Robin always says, ‘For some people, change is a walk in the park. For others, it is a crawl through broken glass.’
So, what do we do? How do we resolve the change and adapt? Is it possible to create something better because of the change so that we thrive instead of just survive? We are seeing different ways people are responding to change during this pandemic. Some people are outright rejecting the change – they are holding their breath and hoping it goes away. This is typically a default response to change. We wait, perhaps suspend a little of our ‘normal’ habits and see if the change will actually impact us. Many people desperately want this public health situation to be that type of change – where they can wait and ignore it, with things returning to normal. Some people are acknowledging that a change has happened but dismiss that it will happen to them. They believe that the change will only happen to other people and other businesses.
Unfortunately, neither of these attitudes towards this change is helpful. The disruption is lasting a long time and doesn’t currently have a concrete end date. This, coupled with the short, and long, term implications for day-to-day activities, means that the ‘just waiting and ignore it’ or ‘pretend it won’t affect me’ strategies aren’t going to work. We can’t hold our breath and wait – we’ll all be blue. We can’t pretend that it won’t affect us – it is affecting everyone in some way. We must resolve the change and adapt – as individuals and as businesses.
The path of resolution and adaptation is the one that can give us a future that is workable. This path acknowledges the change, works through the change, and creates possibilities for the future. With this path, there is a recognition that things are not going to go back to the way they were before the pandemic, and so the ‘next normal’ must be created. Take business re-opening as an example. Just throwing open the doors isn’t going to get people to come back. There are concerns, whether you believe in them or not, about personal safety and the risk of exposure. If patrons are not confident that they, and their families, will be OK – they will continue to stay home.
Two local restaurants brought this handling of change into sharp focus for me. The first restaurant’s owners denied that there was a health issue and just got angry. They opened their doors for eat-in service, against the public health directive. They were pretending that nothing had changed. People flooded in with no masks and no distancing. A patron there for takeout turned around and left after he saw the crowd. The restaurant has since had their business license suspended. It is yet to be determined whether the business will survive.
The second restaurant sent an email to me that arrived the morning that restaurants could re-open. They began by greeting me as a ‘valued customer’ and hoped that my family and I were safe and healthy. They said they wanted me back as a diner and they understood that I likely had concerns about safety. They then described what would still be the same as before (great food and service), what would look different (fewer tables, one-touch menus, servers in masks), and what would be brand new (outdoor, roof top terrace). This business is setup to thrive.
It would be simple to dismiss the response of the second restaurant to size or money. But size and money don’t guarantee adaptation to a change. I believe it is because the restaurant leadership resolved the change. The process is to not deny the change and not fight the change but express how you feel about the change. Once the emotion is expressed, the fog clears away, and creativity and possibilities are unleashed. Individuals, and businesses, can then shift from being reactive to being proactive by asking which possibilities will work best in the ‘new future’ and what ‘next normal’ will they create for their patrons.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin. Every individual and every business has this opportunity to be proactive and not wait. Decide to not just survive but thrive. Adapting to a change isn’t rocket science, but it does take intention and commitment to do the change resolution work. Be deliberate and resolve the change now. It sets you up for possibility and creation – for your next normal and success.
Let us know how we can support you and your business in seizing the opportunity to resolve the change and create your future.