Episode: How to Adjust to the New Normal

Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.

Larry Wilson: And I’m Larry Wilson.

Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. Today, we’re talking about a slightly different aspect of crisis leadership: How do we adjust to the new normal?

Larry: Michael, I think the normal part is what we’re all puzzled over. We know it’s new, but where is this new normal you speak of?

Michael: That’s so true. You wonder where it is.

Larry: Crisis after crisis. We’re still dealing with the pandemic, and that’s affecting businesses. It’s going to for months, maybe years, into the future. The current reopening of the race discussion has had implications for business leaders just as much as for civil leaders and for all of us. I think every week we hope this will be the week we’re back to normal, but it really isn’t, and it’s a really challenging time, especially for leaders.

Michael: Yeah, especially. We’re so used to just fixing stuff. You know, something shows up on the horizon that’s a problem, we fix it, and then we’re on to the next problem. Unfortunately, this is one of those problems that keeps showing up day after day after day, and you wonder, “Are we ever going to get to the end of this?” or “Is there anything I can do to affect the outcome?”

Larry: Okay, Michael. You promised to tell us when things were going to get back to normal. Let’s have it.

Michael: Okay. The simple answer is this, and some of you aren’t going to like it: we won’t. At least not the old normal you’re thinking about. Here’s the deal: a true crisis doesn’t just bring about an interruption; it brings change. I want you to think back to 9/11. Probably everybody listening to this is old enough to remember it. The world changed in an instant. In that one moment, everything changed. It has never gone back to the way it was. A mild recession is a problem, and over time it clears up. Things improve. It certainly did then. It did in the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. But the problems we’re facing now are crises, and they usher in a new normal. Things never go back to quite what they were before.

Larry: So, when this is over, things will be different, but we will reach stability.

Michael: Maybe. Maybe not. In fact, I would say, probably not. So, just a little historical context. Since World War II, we’ve had the luxury of 75 years of mostly uninterrupted stability and economic growth. I mean, that’s literally a lifetime for most people. Look at world history. You’re going to find that that’s very unusual, highly unusual. Globalization and technology are bringing us to a time when rapid change can happen more frequently.

For example, if you look at COVID-19, that would not have spread so rapidly 75 years ago. Why? Because people didn’t travel nearly as much. Before the pandemic, we were shuffling large parts of our population all over the world all the time, and that’s a luxury. It’s a good thing when it works until you have a pandemic, and then it becomes a vehicle for transmitting the disease. So, I don’t think things are necessarily going to be as stable as they were before.

We have better healthcare, longer life, prosperity. All that’s good, but we’re also vulnerable today in a way that we’ve never been before…to terrorism, cyberterrorism, climate change. All of these kinds of things create some instability or the possibility for instability. Here’s the point: if we’re going to lead into the future, we have to embrace change. I know that’s difficult for some personalities, but I want to show people how to do that, how to lean into change and embrace it, because it goes a lot better when you do that than when you try to resist it.

Larry: Unlike some of us, you sound strangely upbeat about the future.

Michael: Well, I am. I thrive on change. I love change. I guess I’m naïve enough to believe that change brings the possibility of improvement and growth. I’m very optimistic about the future, and I think there are some unintended consequences of what we’ve experienced over the last few months that are going to be great for creating a better and bigger future for all of us.

Larry: So, today we’re saying that you can lead with confidence despite the uncertainty surrounding us by asking three key questions. Let’s get to the first question: What will you keep doing that you started doing during the crisis?

Michael: The crisis sort of forced us to institute changes in our business. Some of us got leaner. We maybe reduced a product in our product lines or eliminated a service or cut spending. Maybe some of us even went through layoffs. Some of us introduced brand-new products. We introduced our Leading Through Crisis course. Most of us had to begin or intensify working remotely.

Thankfully, at Michael Hyatt & Company, we’d had experience working remotely for a number of years before we ever had an office space, and even before the pandemic, our office space was a coworking space, so nobody was required to come in. We did a lot of the working remotely. But you also had a lot of restaurants in the pandemic, others who had to focus on curbside or contactless delivery, and we started recording podcasts remotely and livestreaming some of our events. All that was good.

Some of these changes may have been good, some of them may have been long overdue, but here’s the thing: crisis accelerates decision-making. There were probably some decisions you made in the middle of this pandemic that you probably should have made months ago, maybe years ago, but with the accelerant of the pandemic (that’s really what it was: kind of a catalyst, an accelerant), it forced you to make decisions you should have made earlier.

I’ve talked to a lot of our business coaching clients who have felt like that was a good thing. I can think of one example in particular, where some of our doctors in our program got into telehealth. It’s something they’d been talking about for years, never had to put into practice, never had to implement, but with COVID they did.

That became a good thing, because it gave them a new capability…the ability to process more patients. It was better for some of their patients. In fact, some of them told me that some of their patients have said they never want to go back to in-office visits unless it’s necessary because it’s so convenient to not have to fight traffic, not have to go into an office and sit there and wait for your appointment.

Larry: Along that line, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, has said, “This will go down in history as a turning point for the way people work and learn. We have a time machine as China navigates its return back to work, and we’re not seeing the usage of Microsoft Teams dip.” In other words, people are continuing to work remotely or to use a different kind of tool even though they can return back to a traditional office. Let me ask you something. Do you think remote work is one of these changes that will be here to stay for many or most companies?

Michael: Well, here’s what I don’t think it means. I don’t think it means that suddenly everybody is going to go to remote work and in-person meetings are going to be over or even commercial office spaces are going to be over. However, I think a lot of corporations have discovered a new capability, that they actually can be productive, they can be focused, they can achieve results remotely, and that opens up all kinds of possibilities.

I have a friend in Portland, Oregon, who runs a business. His lease was up in the midst of COVID, and he decided, after 20 years in the same office space, not to renew it. He has a team of about 40 people, and they just discovered, “Hey, we don’t really need this. This is overhead that adds cost, but there’s no real benefit. We can still continue to get together from time to time, but most of the work we do is individual with clients, and we can do that remotely.” Larry, I think even in Indianapolis, you had a story of a big company that decided they were going to eliminate their commercial office building and go remote. Is that true?

Larry: I don’t think they’ve fully made the decision yet, but my brother works for a company that’s involved in heavy manufacturing, and orders are way off. It’s going to be years in recovering in that market sector. Their complex has occupied a city block in Indianapolis, and they’re all working remotely now. They had a huge number of layoffs worldwide, and my brother said, “I can’t see us really ever going back to that space. We can’t fill it and we don’t need it.” That’s a big change for a major employer in our city.

Larry: So, what happens during a pandemic is everybody gets stretched to the limits. You try new things, you experiment with new things, and in some cases, you have to exclusively do remote work. I do think that will kind of come back. It’s like elastic. You stretch it out to the edges, and then it’s going to come back, but it’s never going to return to the normal it was before. There’s always going to be a component of remote work, because people have experienced it.

I’m not saying that remote work is perfect. Zoom fatigue is something we talk about and laugh about in our company. Like, last Friday, I was on one six-hour Zoom call coaching our BusinessAccelerator coaching intensive with one of our cohorts. So, six hours there, and I rolled right into… I had an hour break, and then I rolled into a three-hour Zoom board meeting that didn’t have any breaks.

That was tough. After nine hours on Zoom, my eyes were just glazed over. I hardly knew my name. I staggered out of that and went, “I never want to do that again.” So, it doesn’t mean we have to exclusively do it. I think we’ll return to something that’s more than what we were doing before the pandemic but probably not as much as we were doing in the midst of the pandemic. Does that make sense?

Larry: Sure. It really does. We’ve been talking specifically about remote work, but I’m sure there is a range of other changes people have implemented. How do we make this calculation about what changes may be here to stay?

Michael: Well, I think it’s worth mapping those out, like, looking at some of the changes you’ve seen in your own business and which of those can go forward. I’ll give you an example. Because of COVID, we had to start doing our BusinessAccelerator coaching intensives, which we do once a quarter… Typically, before COVID, people flew in in cohorts of 50. They met with me or one of our other coaches for a full day, and then the next day it was a different cohort.

We went through that cycle, about 9 or 10 groups, and then everybody dispersed, and then we’d come together at the next quarter. So, we decided the show was going to go on. We had to do it virtually. I think it was a pretty good experience. It wasn’t the first two times we did it, but we learned from that, and this last time we did it, which was just last week, I think it was a pretty extraordinary experience for a virtual experience.

But we said, no, we don’t want to continue that going forward. We want to have that capability, so if there’s another pandemic or something else happens we can do it virtually, but we still see value in in-person meetings. People love to get together and network. They love the informal socializing time and that networking time, so we don’t want to miss that. So, we made the decision that virtual was not going to last in that context. We were simply going to use it as a tool when it was necessary.

Larry: The first question in leading with confidence despite an uncertain situation is: What will you keep doing that you started doing during the crisis? That leads to the second question, which follows very closely on its heels: What will you not restart that you stopped during the crisis?

Michael: Some things have been put on hold by the crisis we’re in, especially during this time of pandemic. Face-to-face meetings have mostly been moved to Zoom. Large-scale gatherings have pretty much been suspended, though that’s changing in stages. A lot of retailers had to suspend brick-and-mortar sales, and they got very creative in the midst of this.

Best Buy, for example… I’m always going there for electronic components I’m using in my studio or various things around the house. What they had was a situation where you shopped online, and then you would go through almost like a drive-through and pick up the thing, so you didn’t have to wait on Amazon to deliver it. You could still get it in a timely fashion. But they had to completely reengineer what they were doing.

A lot of brick-and-mortar restaurants found themselves in the same situation, that they could deliver with curbside service. I’ve talked to at least two restaurant owners who have decided to completely shift their model to that. They’ve completely reimagined how they deliver food and what their business model is. So, these are some of the kinds of things people stopped and have decided they’re not going to restart once the pandemic is over or once we move on to greener grass.

Larry: Jeff Richards, partner of the venture capital firm GGV Capital, said, “I travel over 200,000 miles a year for work.” I think he has got to be Gold or Platinum on somebody’s mileage partnership. He said, “Now that doing board meetings, interviews, and other mission-critical meetings via video chat has become normalized, will I reduce my travel? I don’t know, but I definitely think it’s a behavior shift that will stick.” I think that’s going to be the same for a lot of people, because it’s going to cut down on travel costs so much. Do you have any other predictions of things people are just going to stop doing?

Michael: Well, let me just say with regard to that example you gave, I don’t think that virtual experience has to be 100 percent of the in-person experience in order for people to want to do it. For example, there are a lot of meetings you go to… For example, I would fly from Nashville where I live to Los Angeles for a meeting.

If I could get 80 percent of the experience without having to travel and take three days out of my life…a day traveling out, the meeting, and then a day traveling back…that 20 percent extra, in many cases…not in all, but in many cases…is not going to be worth the additional investment. And it’s not just the investment of money; it’s the investment of energy. What else could I do with those two additional days of travel that if I were in the office I could put to good use?

Again, I’m not saying all travel is going to go away, but I can tell you, internally at Michael Hyatt & Company, we’ve looked at travel for the rest of the year, and we’ve said, “You know, we just don’t see ourselves traveling that much for the rest of the year.” And as we put together the 2021 budget, we’re probably going to have the same perspective.

People wonder if we’re going to have large indoor gatherings. I could see certainly sports arenas opening up, because you’re outdoors and there’s a little bit more safety with that, but inside, like movie theaters… I don’t know what the future is going to be. You couple that with the fact that people have gotten very used to watching movies on Netflix or Apple TV or some other online streaming platform. Again, you ask yourself the question, “Maybe it’s 20 percent better if I go to a theater, but is that worth the investment of time and the risk to me and to my health?”

Other things, like shaking hands. Are we going to go back to that? I kind of hope so, but we certainly have a new awareness about hygiene and the importance that has on our health, not just for COVID but for flu and other kinds of communicable diseases. I think there are some of those social customs, some things we’re rethinking.

Even one of the things, to kind of talk about the whole conversation on race… I don’t think that’s going back to where it was. I hope not. I think, as a result of that, there’s a new awareness, a new willingness to participate. Certainly not on everybody’s part, but I think there’s a conversation now, a national dialogue, that we’re not going to go back to where we were before. It may not be as far as we need to go, but I think we’ve taken a big leap forward over the last several weeks, and I really hope it doesn’t stop until we’ve effected real change that matters.

Larry: Either way, because of both of these crises, there will be some permanent changes to the way people are doing business, and this is a time to take stock of that and recognize that. Again, the question: How do we make this kind of decision to go back to what was or to just drop that and find new ways of doing things?

Michael: I think that’s where we have to not have the past as our sole reference. It’s good to reference the past. It’s good to take stock of the present, but where we really want to be, as leaders, is focused on the future, and it comes back to vision. Given my current vision and reality and given the new capabilities we’ve gained or the new skills or even the new technology we’ve gained as a result of what we’ve experienced over the past few months, if I were starting my business today…

This is a great question for all leaders to ask. “If I were starting my business today, what would I do differently? How would I construct it? Would it be remote? Would it be coworking? Would it be in-person working? What would be part of the strategy? How would we rethink the strategy of how we get our products to market, how we contact our customers, how we relate to them, what kinds of services and products we even create? Whatever we’re considering, is it in the best interest of my customers or my team given the current reality and given our new capabilities?”

A great exercise is to revisit your vision script, if you do what I suggest in my newest book, The Vision Driven Leader, and create a vision script for your organization. It’s worth revisiting. I’ll give you a concrete example. At Michael Hyatt & Company, we have about a four-page vision script. Larry, you were on the call yesterday. We had a Zoom meeting with our team, and we went through that in detail. I read the entire thing to the team, because I think vision is important to stay focused on. It’s our north star.

One of the things that quickly became apparent to Megan and to me and to the entire executive team as the racial issues unfolded was that we need to have a more robust statement in our vision script about diversity. We kind of make mention of it. We actually use the word, but it is nowhere near what it needs to be, and with new awareness and ongoing education on our part, we’re becoming aware of so much more that needs to be included.

We may not be able to effect everything in the world in terms of creating more justice, more equity for everybody, but we can certainly do it inside our company, and we can have influence on our platforms and with our customers and with our clients, and that needs to be part of our vision script.

Larry: Let’s move to the third question leaders can ask to navigate the new normal: What does the new reality make possible?

Michael: I think you have a choice when you’re thinking about the future, particularly when you’ve gone through a rough patch like we have now. It’s very easy to fall into a scarcity mindset and focus on everything we’ve lost. Certainly, that could be a helpful exercise: to mourn that, to grieve it, to lament it. But at some point, you have to turn the corner and say, “But as difficult as that was, what does this make possible?” My wife loves to ask that question.

There are a lot of things this has made possible. It’s one of my favorite questions. If you consider the fact that problems are really opportunities in disguise… Our clients, our customers, have more problems today than ever before, and if we’re in the business of solving problems at a profit, which is what entrepreneurs and leaders do, then we have more opportunity than ever before.

The future is all possibility. Why? Because it’s a blank slate. It has not been written on. There are all kinds of opportunities in all kinds of crises and all kinds of markets. You find winners and losers everywhere, but it has to begin with our mindset in terms of how we think about the future. I want to take the position that the future has not yet been written, that it’s blank, that we can create what we want, but we can’t drift into it. We have to design it.

Larry: I love that mindset. Frankly, it’s one of the things I like about working here at Michael Hyatt & Company: an intense future focus, which is always exciting. I read this quote from Michael Masserman, who is an executive with Lyft, the ridesharing service. He said this, among other things: “There will be an opportunity for governments, as well as key advocates and stakeholders, to consider reshaping our cities to be built around people and not cars.”

Talk about taking a crisis and making it visionary. This could be an opportunity to reshape the way we think about public transport, about commuting, about the design of urban spaces. Kind of an amazing thing. Can you think of other examples of businesses or sectors or places where there might be opportunity where people are seeing only problems?

Michael: Yeah. One of the things we’ve learned from our friend Phillip Stutts, who’s the president and CEO of Win Big Media (we’ve had him in to talk to our BusinessAccelerator clients a couple of times)… He’s a data geek, and he’s the only guy I know who has done marketing surveys of what consumer sentiment is post-COVID.

One of the things that has happened is that there has been an intense focus on local. People are less likely to travel. They’re more focused at home, more likely to engage with local vendors. That was kind of a trend we were already seeing, but it has been accelerated or amplified as a result of COVID. So, I think we could see a resurgence of local retail, local restaurants, all of that.

Another change is if you have embarked on remote work, if you do see that it’s not required that everybody be in the office at the same time, all of a sudden, you have a huge worldwide talent pool. Many people have discovered that in the past. There have been some limitations to it. We’ve discovered the limitations on that side, but if you’re open to remote work, if your people can truly work remotely, then you have a huge talent pool. You can go anywhere to get the people you need.

If you’ve discovered you can deliver your products differently, like online or curbside or home delivery, you’ve opened up a huge market. My family has gotten more interested and more dependent upon takeout food. It’s a way for us to support people in the restaurant industry. It’s a way for us to make our lives a little easier because we don’t have to do the food prep. So that has been a good thing I think a lot of people have discovered as well.

Home delivery. There’s less and less reason (to kind of go back to that quote you were mentioning, Larry) to get in the car and go shopping when I can have almost anything delivered to my home. And I’m not talking just about Amazon, although that’s the most obvious example. Here where I live, there are all kinds of grocery services. In fact, every major grocery store will allow you to shop online and have it delivered to your home.

I’m a two-car family, and I’m asking myself the question, “Do I really need two cars?” About the only thing I have to get in a car for today is to go to church, because that’s not within walking distance, but pretty much everything else I can walk to or I can have delivered. I think to your point, that could remake US cities. That could have an impact even on climate change. One of the things a lot of people have noted as a result of COVID and less travel…air travel, car travel…is that the levels of pollution have plummeted.

Larry: I also read that one of the industries that’s having a big resurgence right now is drive-in movie theaters. So, if you’re looking at the crisis and seeing only problems, you’re just not thinking hard enough. If the drive-ins can come back, I think anybody has a chance.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. There are all kinds of people who are thriving in this environment. I think also of people who are fitness trainers. There have been some who have just said, “Well, I can’t work with people in person in the gym, so I guess I’m out of business.” I have a friend who decided, because he couldn’t serve his clients as a result of the gym being closed, to take a job in a completely different industry. He got out of what he loved to do something he didn’t like so much.

I honestly think (I would say this to him if he were present) it’s kind of a failure of imagination. My trainer, Lisa Hisscock, at has been doing virtual training for her clients for years, so I never see her face-to-face. I only see her on Zoom. She meets with me once a month. We talk about my progress. We use an app she provides called Trainerize, and everything is logged there.

She knows exactly how much I’m sleeping, whether or not I’m working out, how many miles I’m walking, what kinds of weights I’m lifting, all that stuff. So, I’m able to get the same results at a fraction of the cost, she’s able to deal with a lot more clients than she would have in a traditional manner, and nothing was interrupted as a result of COVID. My workout program, my fitness program, went on without the conventional face-to-face.

One of the questions we can ask ourselves, even with our existing products and services, whatever they may be (this is kind of on the opportunity side), is “Why are our products, why are our services, more relevant than ever before?” I saw a lot of memes on Facebook where people said, “The dumbest thing I ever did for 2020 was buy a planner,” because if there was anything that disrupted our plans, it was what we’ve experienced so far this year. And it has not just been COVID.

I would argue that something like the Full Focus Planner, which is our product, is more necessary now than ever, because so many people are trying to work out of home where there’s an avalanche of distractions and interruptions, and anything that can keep you more focused is a tool that’s helpful and useful. So, we had a whole campaign that was all about that with the Full Focus Planner. Our sales are not only not down; they’re up because of people’s need for focus in the current environment.

So, you might start, if you’re a business owner or a leader, by asking yourself the question, “Why are our products or services more important now than ever, more relevant now than ever?” and literally come up with a list, and then change your messaging, whether it’s advertising or on your website or wherever, to speak to the current situation. You don’t want to be tone deaf. You want to take into account the current situation and make your products more relevant. That all by itself will open up possibilities.

We did the same thing with our coaching program. I’ve always believed in coaching, and I said on our webinars to prospective coaching clients, “Sometimes we think coaching is a luxury, but the truth is coaching enables you to avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes and go farther faster. But if it’s necessary when we’re not in crisis, business coaching is even more important during a crisis when you really can’t afford to make a misstep, when you need some sort of third-party counsel, somebody who’s a coach who can advise you in the midst of this, so you can avoid the common mistakes and actually accelerate your business and end up on the other side of this crisis in better shape than you went into it.”

Larry: Along that line, Michael, our Full Focus Journal has been more valuable to me than ever before. I don’t think I’ve missed a day of journaling in the last four months, so I have been burning through these and reordering at a furious rate, because journaling has just been so valuable during this time.

Michael: I love to hear that. Awesome.

Larry: Well, today we’ve learned that you can lead with confidence despite the uncertainty of the current situation by asking three key questions:

  1. What did I start doing during the crisis that I’ll keep?
  2. What did I stop doing during the crisis that I won’t restart?
  3. What does the new reality make possible?

Final thoughts today, Michael?

Michael: I started by saying this is fundamentally a mindset issue, and I want to come back to that. It is. I would just ask you, as you listen to this episode, to notice inside, as you think about change and as you think about the future, what the emotion is. Do you feel a sense of dread or do you feel a sense of excitement? Only you can shift your perspective. I think the way to do that is to focus on the opportunities that change provides.

If you’re naturally resistant to change, I want to encourage you to get off your heels, get onto your toes, lean into it, and ask yourself that last question: “What does this new reality make possible?” Your attitude toward change will be picked up by the people you lead. If you’re resistant, they’re going to be resistant. If you’re expectant, they’re going to be expectant, and it’s really up to you to set the pace.

Larry: I think that’s so true, Michael. Thank you. This has been a really encouraging conversation, and I hope our leaders feel that way as well.

Michael: Awesome. Thank you, Larry. Thank you, guys, for joining us today. We’ll see you right here next week. Until then, lead to win.