By: Ruthie Feinstein, VP Insights & Engagement
Anyone else getting irritated by the ‘catchy’ and overused pandemic catchphrases? The “new normal” is one I’d love to never hear again and p.s. – it’s not even accurate. There is nothing normal going on here. Normal implies “regular” or “routine”, but our daily routines, rhythms and expectations have vanished. We are living day by day, sometimes hour by hour and I’d do anything for a big ‘ol heaping cup of normal starting oh…yesterday.
I work hard to stay positive and hopeful personally and professionally, and I do have some really good days. But there are days I am just exhausted. Exhausted in missing what we’ve lost, exhausted in the newness of it all, exhausted in trying to navigate the flood of news and stats and structureless days.
And at times, I also feel sad and anxious. Sad and anxious for the physical and mental health of my family. Sad for my kids, worried about how this is affecting them short and long term, sad for what they’ve lost (even in the midst of what they’ve gained: cleaning toilets is good for the teen soul). Sad and constantly scared for the health and needs of my elderly parents and generally living with this subtle, underlying wave of angst.
I constantly question personally and professionally: What will this look like on the other side? Will we ever get back to “normal”? Will we be better for it?
Thankfully, I just listened to this podcast Adapting to Our Changing World that nudged me to “yes”. Yes, we will be okay, and yes, we will be better for it.
This podcast features Dr. Amelia Franck Meyer, a dear friend and colleague of SIVO Insights. Amelia is the CEO of Alia Innovations. Alia’s mission is to drive transformative change for the people and systems entrusted with the welfare and care of children. Amelia and her team have since applied their expertise to organizations for workforce wellbeing, leadership development and coaching.
I promise business leaders at all levels will feel inspired with practical advice to establish a sense of safety for yourselves and your teams.
For those of us in the human insights profession, I also noticed an important parallel to the work we do: the power of human connections.
As qualitative researchers, it is our job to authentically connect with people to gain insight into their lives, gain texture around the choices they make, their values, what is truly important to them. Through deep and layered conversations, acute observations, stories and experiences, we help clients see people as more “human” vs. data points.
To do this successfully, we artfully establish trust and reliability, so people feel safe opening up. We show vulnerability and a real respect for their points of view. We are genuinely open-minded and curious about what they have to say. Most importantly, we feel and show empathy as they graciously invite us into their lives.
I now recognize these characteristics in the workplace, in ways like never before because of this universal pandemic. Our guards are down and our vulnerability is up. Two months ago, I NEVER would have showed up on a Zoom call without makeup, with my dog on my lap or pausing mid-thought to make sure the house isn’t burning down as my younger daughter makes her own lunch. I see make-shift offices in messy kitchens, cranky babies, laundry hanging in the distance and tons of personal artifacts. Glimpses into people’s homes and their lives. We are making the time for real conversations around how we are really doing, exposing a full range of emotions: the good, the bad and the vulnerable.
What was once considered ‘unprofessional’ is now considered profoundly human and real. The connections we are making are deepened – and this is a very good thing.
We are in this exhausting, worrisome, devastating trench together and we will crawl out of it together. This pandemic is the great unifier and it is bringing more humanity to our work life.
From this, we can choose to NOT go back to what was “normal”. What if we internalize and embrace this increased level of empathy for who we are as individuals, parents, partners, children and friends and bring those nuanced aspects to work in addition to our skills and expertise? What if we choose to redefine what is “normal”? I believe this new level of humility, trust and respect can do wonders for productivity, loyalty, creativity and innovation and we can all be better for it on the other side.
Ruthie brings over 20 years of senior leadership experience in consumer insights, brand strategy and marketing communications to her work at SIVO Insights. She has deep empathy for client needs, high partnership standards, and an eye toward meeting business objectives. Ruthie is a seasoned moderator and strategist whose warm, approachable style makes consumers feel they are talking to a friend and results in deeper insights. Her strong relationships and strategic influence have shaped positioning, innovation, and growth strategies for blue-chip brands across food, technology, entertainment and retail.