The Great Reset: A Collective Transition

By Pam McLean, Ph.D.
March 03, 2022
Crosswalk button affixed with a sticker saying, "push to reset the world".

Let’s face it, we are all ready to wake up to a bright neon sign flashing “post-pandemic time is here”.  We feel beaten down by the yoyoing of surge after surge. Worn out by all the necessary precautions; for many working parents – hair pulling, mind numbing months and months of adaptations. Too many small businesses and industries mightily impacted, and far too many lives have been lost.    

The epidemiologists reassure us, we are inching closer. In the coming weeks and months, the challenges and absurdities of this time will begin to recede, and we can step back and assess what we’ve learned, lost, and in some cases, gained—to step forward with clear and deliberate intentions.

The Cost of a Simple Rewind

Yet, our old pre-covid routines have been altered. Try as we may, we can’t rewind and recreate life as we lived it prior to covid; and the path ahead is far from clear on so many fronts. Just the act of deciding when to return to work, who needs to return to the office, who will be allowed to remain in a WFH status is complicated. In pre-covid days, working in-office with limited flex schedules was the norm in most companies; today, that roadmap is complicated new territory.

Transitions Happen

Hudson’s well-known transition and change model has always been reliably helpful in times of change because it highlights the natural ups and downs in the life of an individual, a team, and organization. The cycles of changes in our lives are unique to each of us.

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We have those periods of time when things are humming, we are aligned and feeling deeply on purpose; it is a particularly satisfying time most of us would like to bottle! It might be that our team has all the right players, our goals are aligned, our challenges inspiring, and we are on fire about what is unfolding. Engagement scores soar in these times, leadership is united, and the business outlook strong and steady.

Then there’s the reality that natural ‘out of sync’ times exist when we need to make adjusts that enable us to return to a sense of purpose. The challenge is waning, the work is humdrum; or the business climate has shifted, and signs of weakening retention, and a drop in engagement scores are showing up—all are signals modifications are needed. 

There are also those rare times when our identity shifts in significant ways and we cannot recover the old identity. We need to step back and create a deliberate pause to repurpose, set fresh sites and new strategies, define a new sense of mission, a redefinition – it might be a new leader comes onboard with a bold new vision for the unit or organization. It could be the result of a merger or acquisition that demands a repurposing of the entire business.

Students of the transition and change model know that we never have an opportunity to rewind. We are always moving forward through the cycle. It is progression through transitions, via small adjustments or major shifts, that brings us back to our state of alignment.     

The Great Reset

I think the high anxiety level we are seeing now is the result of people not knowing what to expect in terms of requirements and experience. We are going to need leaders with the stomach for experimentation and continually responsive adaptation.” 

Until this extraordinary time, the cycles of change have been individualized or focused on a particular team. A unique path for all.  This moment is different. We have never been here in one hundred years!  Across the globe humanity has a shared pandemic experience. In these times, we need to add a new element to the cycle of change to address this moment we’ve all shared.    

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We’re calling it The Great Reset. This is a time to intentionally and collectively pause before rushing forward; a time to assess and reimagine before lurching into post-covid times; a time to create a golden leadership moment for ourselves and our teams to create something different for the future that harnesses what we’ve learned, lost, and gained; a time to truly understand how we’ve changed before charging through this state of transition.

What We’ve Learned, Lost, & Gained

Just a couple of weeks ago I asked a leader what she had learned through this pandemic, a woman with a hefty leadership role, two small children and like many, working from home throughout these two years. She immediately had an answer—agility and keen awareness of what matters at work and at home. I asked the same question of a colleague who had been doing a work commute for several years that took 2 hours out of each day. He told me he left home before his kids were out of bed and returned in the evening in time to kiss them goodnight. He said he learned about getting clear on priorities to be at his best at home and at work. Covid has been a teacher of sorts and we’ve all learned, been mightily disrupted, and experiences losses—big and small.

How We've Changed

For many of us as leaders and individuals, our learning has been profound, our values have been re-examined and it would be a lost moment—lost opportunity to hold onto our gains—if we didn’t create a deliberate step between pandemic life and the emerging post pandemic to create a reset like none other we have known.

From the largest organization to the most personal situations, we have experienced deeply unsettling daily life through the past two years. Our pre-pandemic assumptions and conventions have been disrupted and upended. If we try to return to much of what was, we will deny ourselves and our teams a rare moment in time to learn, grieve, reimagine, experiment, and deliberately reset our values and vision for the post-pandemic times ahead.

How to Prepare

The Great Reset invites us to actively learn from this moment in history and deliberately prepare for the post-pandemic phase ahead on all fronts and in all ways. In the wise words of a friend and colleague, “I think the high anxiety level we are seeing now is the result of people not knowing what to expect in terms of requirements and experience. We are going to need leaders with the stomach for experimentation and continually responsive adaptation.” 

Below is a collection of Great Reset questions for you to continue to add to. Reset questions allow us to acknowledge where we’ve been and what we have lost, learned, and grown from; to create a deliberate reset in our lives that embraces the need to pause; to listen and to experiment as we step forward. 

Your Personal Reset

Our most personal learnings are unique to each of us, and our circumstances vary widely; yet we’ve all been changed by this two-year pandemic life we’ve been leading. What are key reset considerations for you that capture your deeply personal experiences and create a path forward that is purpose driven in new ways?

  • How have my values and my sense of purpose shifted over these pandemic times?
  • What changes have I made in aligning home and work that I want to hold onto going forward?
  • What are my most valuable learnings I want to hold onto and incorporate into my life as we shift into a post-pandemic world? 
Your Leadership Reset  

No commutes, little travel, a WFH world and what have leaders and managers learned? More than we ever imagined. What are key reset considerations for you as a leader?

  • How has this pandemic changed me as a leader?
  • What have I learned about leading during this time that has changed my perspective?
  • What are my most important learnings I want to hold onto and incorporate into my daily life as we shift into a post-pandemic world? 
Your Team Reset

Many teams have been meeting virtually throughout the pandemic.  No in-person team meetings, no lunch gatherings or chance meetings in the hall. New hires, retirements, and everything in between have occurred in a virtual environment. Where have the wins surprised you and what have you found to be your biggest challenges as a team? What are key reset considerations for a team?

  • What have we learned as a team that we want to continue to cultivate post-pandemic?
  • What are the old beliefs we are ready to retire?
  • How do we rejuvenate, restore and step into a new phase as we step out of the pandemic?
  • How do we want to interact and collaborate as a team?

Unusual times call for new approaches that allow us to openly share our experiences, explore our learnings and create experiments for tomorrow that are responsive to these times.

About Author
Picture of Pam McLean, Ph.D.
Pam McLean, Ph.D.

Hudson's Founder & Chief Knowledge Officer, and a preeminent authority on coaching and transition and change in the adult journey, Pamela McLean, Ph.D. has been at the forefront of the field of the emerging field of coaching for the past 30 years.