What does the 'new normal' mean for your organization's culture?

Karen Natzel, BridgeTower Media Newswires

Change has been thrust upon businesses in 2020. With recognition that we won’t be returning to “normal,” the conversation has shifted to definition of a “new normal.” More people are learning how to be productive from their makeshift home offices, collaborating via videoconferencing, and keeping team members informed with regular status reports. We are figuring out how to move forward together.

Ever the optimist, I see the post-pandemic business chapter as an opportunity for people to build a thriving culture anchored in what matters most to them. Imagine an organizational culture that is even more cohesive, transparent and inspiring to you and your team; a workplace that prioritizes humanity in the quest of delivering value to customers.

A common thread during the pandemic is the experience of increased uncertainty, stress and anxiety as well as decreased focus and control. I’ve witnessed the growing hunger for community and connection as we navigate isolation and chaos. A silver lining is that the coronavirus has helped us see how important our work can be in giving us a sense of purpose and contribution. People want to know that what they do makes a difference; they often define their professional worth by the value they can bring. While this pandemic has uprooted our norms, amplifying both our strengths and weaknesses, it has opened a portal for strengthening the bonds of our work community.

Vision illuminates purpose; values inform how to get there. A compelling vision of who you are, where you are going and why can provide the much-needed focus and clarity to ignite and align action.
(Note: Google searches for “How to get your brain to focus” have increased 300 percent since February, according to Thrive Global.) A shared belief system defines the attributes by which we agree to conduct ourselves. The driving philosophies behind one’s management style shape the essence of the organization’s identity and reputation.

Being clear on these attributes helps bring focus to our days and informs how we show up, make decisions, treat each other, and realize job satisfaction. Vision and values, like a map and GPS, provide a pathway with waypoints on how to navigate the daily choices we face. Our shared values, philosophies and priorities help us understand how to channel our energies. They become the integrated, shared character of our professional tribe.


The value of generosity

I recently listened to organizational psychologist, author and Wharton School professor Adam Grant being interviewed by Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast. The discussion highlighted that “we can find meaning in any work when we perceive ourselves to be of service.” Grant’s book “Give and Take” explores why helping others drives our success. He explains, “To enjoy improving the lives of others without expecting anything in return does not have to compromise your professional success.”

Grant’s legendary generosity is best illustrated in how he gives “microloans” of his knowledge, skills and connections to colleagues, students and even strangers. He notes this sharing can transform us, others and our workplaces. When we receive the unexpected gift of generosity, we want to pay it forward.

Being generous – sharing of knowledge/information, expanding networks, providing opportunities for growth, listening, being present, providing feedback, and asking tough questions – is not just about being helpful; it’s about believing in kindness and grace. Being generous does not equate to ignoring issues or concerns, nor does it require you to be soft on accountability. The kind of generosity I am describing allows for errors by creating space for learning.


Integrity of the culture

Employees don’t learn by listening to what you say; they learn by observing what you do. If there’s an integrity gap between the two, people will trust the actions over the words. If you are consistently aligned with what you think, say and do, you build trust. The beauty of cultural transformation is that it must be genuine. You just can’t fake cultural integrity.

As we try to understand the new norms of this pandemic, we are faced with the choice of wearing a mask in social settings. I find it ironic that people resist wearing a mask, yet don’t think twice about donning an invisible mask in the work environment. Being authentic requires taking off the invisible mask and embracing the risk of being seen as we really are. That is the very place in which we can build true camaraderie and dynamic teams.

Bonds at work are possible when there is mutual trust and respect. Invest in the relationships and you form a loyal, tight-knit team.


Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or karen@natzel.net.