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Normalize the Abnormal

Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind and heart for quite a while now, and that is the simple things that we can do as leaders to normalize this shit show of a situation (being the pandemic) that we all found ourselves in. How we can normalize the most abnormal thing that, hopefully, any of us have to deal with in our entire lives.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on how to “pandemic” or how to “quarantine”. I've been working almost every day through this entire thing. Oftentimes, a lot longer than what I would consider normal hours because of the nature of my work. I don't understand firsthand what it's like to be stuck working at home trying to take care of the kids, put them down for a nap, do the home school and do a full-time job, all while leading your team. I will be the first to admit I have not had that experience, I do however understand trying to get a team to regroup and collaborate during a pandemic from different places. I'm talking physical places but also places that a zoom call can't reach; the mental and emotional places.

I want to talk about two things here-

1. how you can support your team’s work and

2. how you can support your team mentally and emotionally to get through a challenging time such as this.

As I mentioned earlier, we are talking simple, basic solutions right now. In a time of crisis, we tend to look for more complicated answers than we need to. We look for these grandiose ideas as leaders, these new exciting things that we can do to lead through the crisis. When it is more often than not the simple things that we don't even think about that are the correct answer. I'd urge you to go into this with an open mind and heart. The answer here is more simple than you may think. Take a couple of minutes to see how you can implement these changes in your organization because I guarantee if you are not doing the simple things, the very introduction of them is going to change the outlook of your people, make them respect you more as a leader, and humanize you. There is something to be said for having a leader who is a human, not a leader who is a damn robot, so let's dive in.

(Rather listen along? Tune into The Beyond Leadership podcast, now!)

All right, so first let's talk about how you can support your team’s work.

At the end of the day, every organization has a bottom line, a financial or work goal that you need to meet. I get that, so let's start there. The first simple thing that you can implement is team huddles. I am one thousand percent against a meeting for the sake of having a meeting, but if you have a team huddle where you are discussing new training or priorities at work, you're giving your team an outlet to discuss any issues that they're having, not just issues with the work but topics like “I have a connectivity issue with my internet at home and I need to switch providers is that something that we can accommodate” or “this program isn't working for me can we switch to zoom” simple things like this are going to be aired at these team meetings. It also gives you the opportunity to address your team as a whole the way you may have been able to do when everybody was in the office, maybe your team is in the process of coming back to work and some people are in a physical office and some people are working remote, maybe you work in network marketing business and your team has never been in the same place at the same time and you're used to this, but maybe you can add a couple of things to those team huddles for the sake of this pandemic that the entire world finds itself going through right now.

I have a friend who I work with very closely who holds team huddles every Monday morning. She has had immense success with her team because of these hour-long calls. Not only do they do our long calls every Monday morning where they discuss their priorities at work, but she also hosts regular training meetings where they're taking that opportunity to have someone on their team become a subject matter expert on a topic and then train the rest of the group on their topic of expertise so that everyone can share in that knowledge. As I said, she has seen incredible success with this format and it's actually something that I am trying to implement with my team in our office. I still have a lot of learning to do but we are getting there.

The next way that you can support your team’s work, and this is gonna sound like a no-brainer when I say it, is flexible hours.

Work to a standard, not to a time hack. I would be willing to place money on it that if your clients don’t ask you how long it took you to provide a product, your client just cares that the product was created and that it got to them completed. They don't care if you put in five hours or forty hours to complete this product. For most of us the vast majority we need to complete a product we don't need to complete X number of hours in an office, we're working not just for the sake of working. Chances are if you've ever been in an environment where you are

working in an office you know as well as I do that of your forty hours a week you spend let's call it twenty-five doing actual work and the other fifteen you’re reading the news, scrolling Instagram, walking around to go get water or coffee or waste time because your more efficient than a forty-hour workweek.

On this note, I will say that if you have ever said as a leader or as a boss that your organization is family-friendly, now is the time to put your money where your mouth is. You cannot claim to have a family-friendly business or organization and expect someone who has children to be working full time nine to five from home potentially without child care and still getting the same amount of work done in those same work hours as they were when their kids were at daycare or in school and they were in an office. It is it completely unreasonable expectation. There are businesses right now that are failing because they are not willing to be flexible with their work hours. specifically with their employees who have families. Those businesses might never recover, especially because those employees are going to then take a look at their friends who have jobs that their employers allow them to work from five to eight in the morning, from noon to two, and then from seven to ten PM. Is it broken up, yeah, but those are the employers that care about the work product and that standard and not the time. If you are one of those people that has a family, one of the easiest ways to show that you support your team members and your employees that also have families is to model that family responsibility. For example, from two o'clock in the afternoon to five o'clock in the afternoon we're doing home school, set those boundaries as I talked about a couple of episodes back and encourage your team to do the same. affirm their behavior and model it through your own that's going to signal to them that not only is this okay this is the new standard this is how we get through this thing and that's one of those things that's going to humanize you. It seems so simple to be flexible with your work hours, allow your team to be flexible with their hours, to model that yes family is a priority, you've said it for years so show it. Now is the time to prove that you actually believe in what you've been saying for the past however many years and that's going to go an incredibly long way in point number two.

Supporting your team mentally and emotionally.

If you allow your team to create those boundaries to mark what's important to them and to do both things you're going to have infinitely happier employees. If you try to force them into this box of doing things how they've always been done pre-pandemic, it's going to increase the stress level, diminish their mental health, and quite frankly make them want to quit your organization. So if you've taken the opportunity to actually get to know your people just ask them what they need. “do you need time off?” “do you need to flex your hours?” “do you need help finding child care?” and if you don't know your people for the love of god please get to know them. This is going to help you not just in the long run as an organization, but it's going to help build a sense of camaraderie which can be done over zoom and from afar. You can get that team cohesion and collaboration.

I'm also going to bring up flexible hours again, not just flexing their hours and their work time but supporting time off. Right now is the perfect time for people to be taking a vacation. Maybe they're not going to Disney world to go on their vacation however there are still plenty of things for them to do even if it just takes a break from work that's more than a two day weekend where they might feel an obligation to check email, or be on the phone or have whatever other obligations that they have. Give them an opportunity and let them know that you support them taking time away from work encourage them to take those weekends away from work and moreover look at their goals, their projects, their deadlines, and don't be afraid to have discussions that ended in those things changing. If

(because of the current circumstances) someone is away from the office or teleworking or part-time and part-time out whatever the case may be, there are a hundred different ways that this can look for a hundred different people, but take a close look at those goals to figure out what needs to be adjusted. What deadlines can be shifted, what deadlines cannot be shifted, what can be tabled for later because it's not the priority right now? doing this is perfectly fine as long as these new goals and adjustments are being communicated (dare I say over-communicated at times) with everybody in different places. Physical, mental, emotional places. Communication is key because without communication there's no collaboration, there's no way to move forward and sometimes it may feel like over-communication but if you simply acknowledge that right now what's happening is not normal, because life isn't normal, people are going to understand that they're going to be more willing to over-communicate.

I think at the end of the day we need to be two things as leaders, especially in a crisis. We need to be transparent and have empathy. Transparent meaning we need to show that we are learning WITH our people. Now is not the time to read all the books and get all the answers and put together a fancy presentation and present your findings to your team in three months. In three months you are going to be in a completely different spot who knows what the world is going to look like and in three months you are too late. If you are waiting until you have the answers, you are flat-out wrong. You need to be transparent daily, show your team you are in this with them, that you are learning with them, that you are leading with them. It's going to show you have empathy, it's going to show that you understand what they're going through and that you're going through it too and that's where the humanness is gonna come in.

When all of this is over I think we are going to see a stark difference between the teams who are able to come together, the teams who had leaders who were empathetic who are transparent, who were willing to be flexible and to accept this new abnormal norm and the leaders who wouldn't budge, the leaders who said “yeah I know it sucks we're all going through the same thing get over it” and hopefully it's hard to believe, but those people exist. We all deal with stress differently, how we as leaders can help our people deal with stress comes down to supporting their work, supporting them mentally and emotionally. If in your conversations you find that they need resources for mental or emotional support there are free resources out there and there are more things popping up every day in the midst of this pandemic. Show that flexibility, show that empathy, be transparent, and lead WITH them. I hope that you find yourself at the end of this on the right side the side with more cohesion, more trust, and with the team that wants to stick it through with you because if you can make it through this pandemic, come on how bad could 2021 be.



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