Common but Not Normal

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What are some ways you can fight back against the tendency to assume that what is common is normal?

When I look around me, I see both good and bad. Our society is full of positive components, like volunteerism, new and helpful technology, and breakthrough medical procedures that lengthen our lives. At the same time, I see lots of broken things—in organizations, families, education, churches, and government.

My concern for leaders is that we let what’s become common be considered normal. 

Let me give you an example:

I know of a company who recently hired a very, emotionally insecure employee. This new staff member is prone to suspect the worst in her bosses, to gossip about team members and negatively affect the culture of the office. I believe the job of her manager is to bring this new staff member up to the standards of the company, not allow her to diminish those standards. But, alas, it’s easy to assume that it’s just normal today. People are dysfunctional.

That observation is both true and false.

Many people are dysfunctional today. There is far too much abuse, divorce, addictive behavior, and hurt than there should be. It’s far too common. But leaders (in families or organizations) should not see this as “normal.” Normal must be healthy. We must always work to make things healthy. Healthy things grow. That’s our standard.

America is deep in debt. Sadly, the congressional super-committee failed to come up with any ideas to reduce our debt. It is easy for us to simply conclude that’s just the way things are today. In fact, we expect most households to carry large amounts of credit card debt.

The educational system in many states is broken. American students continue to fall behind in test scores when compared to other industrialized nations. Once again, we could assume it’s just the way things are today, and look to other venues to educate our kids. We don’t think we can really fix education.

Half of our marriages crumble into divorce. Sexual crime is reported in Washington D.C., among NCAA programs at universities, and in corporate America. Pornographic sites continue to top the list of Internet sites visited. Pedophilia has become an issue in the news today. One report suggests that since one in twenty men prefer sex with children it should be considered a lifestyle preference.

My response? This is far too common, but I refuse to assume it is normal.

So, here is what I am doing. I’m reviewing the broken elements in my life and the organization I lead. Then—I will force myself to ask: Is this problem normal or common? If I conclude it’s common, but shouldn’t be normal, I will construct a plan to nurse that element back to health. It may mean I must…

• Raise the emotional intelligence of a team member

• Adjust the financials, either the budget or the Profit and Loss

• Create innovative ways to approach projects and people

• Discipline myself to do what I don’t like doing

Will you join me in this pursuit? Let’s not settle for normal!

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