Embracing the ‘New Normal’ within a Pandemic

Author: Peter Persuitti

For some reason I am resisting the term "new normal." I just don’t see that the other side of this black swan pandemic will be anywhere near normal. Maybe it will be abnormal!

What a tale of two cities we have witnessed within the third sector in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic storm. Some nonprofits are capturing the opportunity, expanding services, and have become recipients of new sources of funding. Others shuttered and worried about any future. What all nonprofits have in common is a marketplace (boards, staffs, volunteers, donors) that now sees ‘risk’ as front and center. How organizations going forward confront this risk could determine which ones thrive and which have no option but to consolidate or close.  

I continue to study and reference John Maxwell’s 2019 "LeaderSHIFT," as so much of what he outlines has manifested itself in this COVID-19 pandemic. We all have had to pivot as restrictions unfolded and our business continuity plans were tested. Yes, many may have had element of a local disaster in the past, but few could even imagine a global disaster confronting all locales.  An endemic natural catastrophe seemed more imaginable than a pandemic called Coronavirus. What this event created was great uncertainty. In his book, John Maxwell says, “Perhaps at no other time in recent history has adaptability been more important than it is now.” Adaptability is the ability to change (or to be changed) to fit new circumstances – and is a crucial skill for leaders.

Enterprise Risk Management thinking has always embraced both sides of the risk coin – things you should avoid and opportunities you should embrace. The COVID-19 pandemic has enabled many nonprofits to seek out options beyond their plans, identify, and seize opportunities. Much of this is just unfolding as we come to the other side of the shutdown. What perhaps is most heartening is the unfolding of the concept of risk as a culture and a mindset. And I think we have finally arrived. To have all constituencies ‘rowing in the same direction’ in managing the spread of this virus and focused on safe environments in all aspects will truly build confidence in all those we serve. Perhaps what will be so surreal about our new normal will be how our leadership feels more like a conductor of an orchestra than a soloist that no one is listening to.

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