I’m afraid my children will remember COVID-19 as one of their favorite times because Dad was home.

The statement above is etched in my mind as one of the stand-out moments of 2020. This crisis has forced many of us to pull the brakes. Several of us have been asking ourselves small questions with big implications. What’s really important to me? Who’s really important to me? How do I really want to spend my time and with whom do I want to spend it? Do I want to keep doing the work I’m doing? These small questions with big implications will have a major influence on life after COVID-19. 

One of the major themes we see emerging among the many professionals we educate and coach is the total rethinking of all existing relationships. Post COVID-19, I’m expecting widespread reshuffling of talent, priorities, resources, and relationships.

People will remember the actions others take now. Those who take self-serving actions will not be remembered fondly. Those who focus on creating value for others will be kept in high esteem. Companies have been implementing two general strategies: Bottomline vs. Frontline. Those ones that have adopted the Bottom-line strategy have focused on cutting cost with little regard for employees. Companies that have taken a front-line strategy have chosen to engage their employees and have worked hard to keep as many people on as possible.

The pandemic has revealed who is self-serving and who is focused on creating value for others. Those companies that treated their employees as disposable will lose their best people to the competition. From my coaching sessions, I know that people are already searching for new opportunities. They’re rethinking their priorities and their relationships. 

Too often, companies focus on just one stakeholder: shareholders. There have traditionally been five stakeholders: shareholders, employees, the communities where employees live, customers, and suppliers. When you have a good engagement strategy, you engage all stakeholders, not just shareholders. In recent times, there has been a trend towards businesses over-emphasizing their focus on shareholders. When you fail to serve all stakeholders, though, you decrease your capacity to bounce back, adapt and transform. 

The most important stakeholder will be the communities where employees live. It’s clear, at least for the knowledge worker, that it’s possible to work from home. That debate is over. The problem is that many people don’t want to work from home or simply cannot. They may have children at home, live in a small apartment, want to socialize, or have a host of other good reasons. This is where the largest resource shuffle will occur. Services like coworking spaces in the communities where employees live will become increasingly important. People no longer need to do long commutes, and that changes everything.

The politely disengage strategy. I began this reflection with a quote from a client I’m coaching. At the start of the pandemic, he said, “I’m afraid my children will remember COVID-19 as one of their favorite times because Dad was home.” This client has built an ecosystem business where he helps others create considerable value for the people they serve. The crisis has made clear to him who he will continue to work with and from whom he will be politely disengaging. The first relationship he plans to disengage from is one of his most profitable. 

Once the dust settles, my client and many like him will be looking for new relationships. They will be looking for people focused on creating value for others. The word is now out. Post-pandemic, people will be redefining their relationships. Get ready for the post-pandemic shuffle.

What are you rethinking today?