The Point of No Return

With the pandemic in mind, the question is, “When are things going to return to normal?”

I believe the simple answer is that they most likely won’t. Let me explain.

It takes big things to drive big changes. If a worldwide shutdown won’t do it, nothing will. Recent events have been on such an extreme scale there will be some fundamental changes to how people communicate, work, gather, share information, do business, react and interact in the future. Not that we won’t see some of our old ways again … but we’ve been given a dramatic shove toward thinking and acting differently.

We can expect less traveling, getting into cars, or planes, and more logging on. More time figuring out how to manage a household, while balancing teleworking, teaching school, streaming information, ordering groceries, seeing the doctor online, and avoiding our neighbors. Never have homes been castles with thicker walls.

We’re sheltered-in-place for now, but many may never really emerge. It’s just too easy to sit behind a computer screen, and much less dangerous. They’ll “keep their social distance, thank you very much.” In other words, “withdraw.”

Withdrawal from one another is not a good thing. Especially leaders.

So what does this mean for leaders?

Tech does a lot, but not everything. (First of all, it won’t get you a haircut.) The main point here is that technology, and I’m talking about technology as a communications / work tool, may connect you to websites, google searches, email, chat, databases, media sources, etc. … but it is still not a substitute for relationships. Real relationships.

Forget that at your peril. Leaders need relationships to succeed.

So, as you face the future, you’ll need to figure out where technology helps, and where it gets in your way. How it does you good, and how it does you harm. When you should be efficient online, and when you should get out of your chair and go meet people. Maybe you won’t be shaking hands, but you can’t be a stranger and still be effective.

Leaders must strive for an authentic, person-to-person persona. Not just a middleman in data transfer, but a human being with a real understanding and appreciation for those around them. Introverts arise. Leaders who become experts in relationships will never be alone or lack the support of their people and peers.

Author’s note: As I walked the trail this morning, people were keeping their appropriate social distance – most still looking over as they passed by, offering a smile and a greeting – while a few made no eye contact at all, and entirely ignored everyone else. Being stand-offish and distancing yourself will not work for leaders. Ever. You just won’t have influence with people when you need it. And you always need it. Make time, even when you’re busy, to get-to-know, understand, listen to and acknowledge others.

– Jerry Strom

Twitter: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on research by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find short insights on Twitter at #WordsofEncouragement.

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