The New Normal

You'd be lying to yourself if you weren't privately hoping for the stock market to stabilize, win back your losses and pick up where you left off last September 15, 2008. It gives me comfort to think this is just another blip in the big picture and all that's needed is time for the recovery. The prevailing wisdom is "let's just get through this." Although denial is a powerful emotion and an effective way of getting through difficult times, maybe "getting though this" is not what we should be striving for. If a crystal ball could somehow show that the next five years don't look much different from today, would you navigate your business decisions differently right now?

Management struggles with questions like: Is this the time to invest or be conservative? Retrench or expand? Do we shed more workforce or move forward with what we've got? It’s even tougher for those who don't know what management will choose to do next. Am I being leveled with or should I start looking for work elsewhere?

Regardless of our role, we need to find ways to focus on accepting the challenges ahead without becoming pessimistic.

Step One: Stop fixating on the business section of your newspaper (For those who believe "information is power", continue reading but remember bad news sells much better than good news!)

Step Two: Consider we're all adjusting to a "New Normal", which is the idea that things will never go back to the way they were. Navigating the new normal is the equivalent of hitting the reset button on your computer and starting with an entirely new set of expectations, balancing reality with a positive view of the future.

A Necessary Core Belief The irony of this very difficult economy is that with so many challenges facing us, including debt issues, job losses and people’s concerns at home, many of us will come out stronger. For those that do come out ahead, a common theme you will find is a view of the world centered around optimism. Not false hope but a sense that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Optimism drives ones sense they can make a difference no matter how bad things get.

Consider the following: Management across all industries are beginning to raise their heads above the fox hole and are asking “Who are the people we want to move forward with”? Today, there is as much an opportunity to stand out as a contributor than ever before. The key question in the face of this culture of pessimism (often driven by the news) is: Can you avoid getting sucked into negativity and remain aware of the challenges, while remaining positive?

Yes, being awake to the challenges surrounding us can be emotionally draining and difficult to deal with as one person. In business, we address this by focusing on teamwork, which is much more than a poster on the wall that offers pithy sayings how to get things done. Businesses in this new economy will fail if they don’t learn how to put real teamwork into practice. Think hospital emergency rooms as the model for effective teamwork. Behave with this sense of urgency and you’re more than halfway there.

If you can find ways to bring optimism and genuine teamwork to your organization (or a business you’re looking to join), you become part of the solution. Wait for things to change and hope for the best - you’ll probably find yourself on the sidelines with a reinforced view why things are so bad.