Enabling GROWTH in a post pandemic world

I don’t know about you, but the past two years have been anything but comfortable. In the past two years everything that we understood about organization culture, the role of technology, the importance of human connection, the meaning of growth, was upended. Let me explain.

In traditional terms, when we talk about growth, we almost always refer to an increase – in size, scope, or profitability. At work we strive towards the next promotion, the next big pay bump, the climb up the corporate ladder and the change in title. At home we measure our achievements by the size of our dwellings, the number of gadgets, the increasing height and improving grades of our kids. If you are not growing, you are not succeeding.

Redefining Growth

We are in a constant state of flux, chasing the next big goal. Then, an unassuming virus abruptly brings everything to a stop. And being human we grieve our life before Covid, going through all five stages of grief.

For a culture obsessed with growth (and success), COVID-19 was a rude shock. But as many parts of the world try to turn the page on the pandemic, we are finding out that getting back to work is equally hard. Before the pandemic, the conversation centered around people vs. the machines. In many industries employees were worried about technology making their jobs redundant. From an organization’s point of view, the emphasis was on building efficiencies, cutting costs and maximizing profitability.

After COVID, both employees and employers have come to realize that something fundamental has changed. Long-held beliefs about productivity, flexibility, employee morale, company culture etc. have been shattered. Technology has leap-frogged multiple stages of development to allow remote work, collaboration and communication across vast geographical locations and time zones. There is a shift in the balance of power. Organizations were forced to reckon with their dependability on employees and their continued loyalty. A lot of the things that we thought impossible are not only possible, but probable.

GROWTH: What does it mean to you?”, that was the topic of our first #forthrightconversation. Not surprisingly, growth means different things to people, at different stages in life. But the pandemic has sparked many a conversation on our purpose – in life and at work.  Why do we do what we do? 


Enabling Growth

Throughout this period of change, organizations have continued to evolve and adapt to circumstances way beyond their control. For many organizations the pandemic has been a catalyst in an increased awareness in employee wellbeing and work/life balance. But all this change has also forced us to reflect upon, and perhaps redefine, words like growth and success. For example, does growth always equate to success? Or can the lack of success be a motivation for growth? Can I be growing, even if I find myself plateauing? Does the absence of growth signal failure?

As a coach I have come across these questions many times. Many of my clients have found themselves at crossroads in their personal and professional lives. If you are a leader struggling with these questions, this is what I have learnt:

Create a culture that enables growth

Enabling growth is an act of generosity – by the individual and the organization. It means setting aside our critical beliefs and judgmental attitudes. As leaders, it requires that we provide the psychological safety that allows our team to make mistakes and learn through those mistakes. This is not easy to do, especially in times of crisis. It requires patience, long-term commitment and continuous affirmations for your team to truly adopt a growth mindset. But it is worth the effort.

Growing for the sake of growth is not really growth

Growth is not just a number, a title or a KPI. It is not a box to be checked off. Many times, we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to other people’s parameters of success. Companies call this process benchmarking. There is nothing wrong with that. But it narrows your focus to those parameters and limits your growth to what others define. Growth is not a linear process. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

French thinker Montesquieu, explained it beautifully, “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult since we think them happier than they are.”

Growth does not happen in a vacuum

Building on the previous point, sustainable growth requires support, encouragement, and more importantly resources. Some of my clients were identified for growth and fast-tracked to the next phase of their career. But they received little to no support on how to make that transition. This is especially true when organizations are trying to hire/promote to meet a diversity requirement. While we applaud the efforts to increase diversity in our teams, growth in name only does not help anyone. If you really believe that an individual will add value to the org, set them up for success. Give them the resources that will enable them to excel in their next role. This includes, but is not limited to, personalized coaching, support forums, shadow development paths, non-judgmental mentors, and most importantly a leader who understands that their leadership style may be different from that of their direct reports.

A little empathy goes a long way

One of the great realizations from the pandemic is that we are all human, and so much is out of our control. All of us have had to adapt to an ever-changing reality and change the way we live and work. Prolonged shutdowns, working from home, zoom calls while managing our children’s education at home, sickness and loss of life – we have weathered the pandemic collectively. Covid-19 reminded us that we are all in this situation together. And it allowed us to be less judgmental and a little more accepting of other people’s reality. I hope we can all hold on to this sense of empathy, long after the pandemic is over.

In conclusion…

CHANGE is inevitable, GROWTH is optional.

~ John C. Maxwell.

At times like these, when we are faced with dissonance and ambiguity, I have always believed that we GROW through what we go through. Success and failure are both pitstops on our journey of personal growth and change. Pandemic aside, there will be many more crises that we may have to face. It is up to us, as individual leaders, and organizations, to enable a culture that is comfortable with ambiguity and embraces change. Only then will we be able to grow as a community!


This article is a continuation of conversations around growth & leadership. It was written with contributions from my esteemed colleague Prashant Menon.

2 Responses

  1. Great insights .
    Growth I think is no more optional. If I do not grow, someone else would replace me. That is what I have learnt in recent times. Hence growing is becoming essential for survival. For me learning has become synonymous with growth. I grow because I learn. Growth to me is not necessarily vertical. Its like a tree. A tree grows vertically for few years but then it grows laterally by branching out. By giving fruits and going through various cyclic phases. Am I helping others, am I reaching out to others, am I making a positive difference to other’s lives. If I am doing all of this or some of this I feel I am growing.
    Death anyways is inevitable.