It’s been close to a year since the US experienced the effects of the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic. After a month or so of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, work-from-home, and shelter-in place mandates, the phrase, “New Normal,” was everywhere. It was a phrase that frustrated me because it was only half true. Our experiences were ‘new,’ but they certainly were NOT normal. Newsflash! They still aren’t. While we have come to expect certain conditions and find ways to cope, the reality is what are dealing with is still NOT normal.

It’s clear we are going to be dealing with many of the same issues of 2020 into 2021 and beyond. Here are FOUR steps leaders and individual contributors need to take to stay the course through 2021:

1)   Recharge your Energy: High levels of giving and serving others and not filling your own tank can lead to burnout (a topic for a future blogpost). It’s important as a leader and individual to fill your tank with meaning, connection, choices, boundaries, rest, and learning. Self-care is also incredibly important now to be at your best for those around you.

2)   Agree on Expectations. This is a workplace essential but maybe more important now. Agreeing on three to five of the most important aspects of your performance is key. It’s different from your job description. Clarify what is MOST important and how success defined. A quarterly review of expectations sets a good cadence and eliminates year-end surprises.

3)   Keep showing Empathy: Yes, we have all been dealing with the, “new normal,” for almost a year. But again, while most have adapted, the situation is not normal! Maybe we have become more accustomed to the inconveniences, but you only have to look as far as statistics around increasing anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout, and continued restrictions to know this is NOT normal. Listening to your team members and having empathy may be more important now than ever. We live in a society that is longing to be heard. Unfortunately, very few are listening.

4)   Continue to Encourage: It’s clear that we will be dealing with the “not normal,” for a while. It gets more challenging to be an encourager in the long run. And yet, as leaders or teammates it is essential to reinforcing positive behaviors and keeping a future focus.

We all hope and pray for things to get back to normal as soon as possible. It’s a voyage and not a day cruise. Recharging your energy, agreeing on expectations, showing empathy, and giving encouragement will keep you, your team, and your teammates on course for 2021.