Interview with CEO for Cigna MEA & SEA, Senior Executive Officer & Chairman of Cigna Insurance Management Services, and Board Member for Cigna in Turkey and India.
“The New Normal” has become a very popular phrase recently. And it’s understandable. With fast digital transformation, fast changing technological and economical developments and on top of that a pandemic, it’s easy to see why people talk about us now living in “a new normal”.
But focusing on “The New Normal” might distract us from what we really should be focusing on, which is “The New Norms”.
While “The New Normal” is describing a new world, “The New Norms” focus on how we will, or should, be behaving in a new world, and as leaders it’s much better for us to focus on how we behave vs how the world looks.
We, of course, need to understand how the world looks, but the focus should then be “so what changes in my/our behaviour do I/we need to do?”
I talked about “The New Norms” with Jerome Droesch who is the CEO for Cigna MEA & SEA, Senior Executive Officer & Chairman of Cigna Insurance Management Services, and Board Member for Cigna in Turkey and India. Cigna is a global health services company dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and peace of mind of those they serve. They have more than 180 million customer.
With a job where the responsibility is covering huge areas of the world where billions of people live, Jerome is accustomed to thinking of the world as a complex place. I asked Jerome what he had learned from working with both advanced markets like Singapore and underdeveloped markets, like Africa, and he replied: “You become more humble as you see the complexity of humanity.”
And then I started talking to him about “norms”.
A “norm” is defined as “rules or expectations that are socially enforced.”
One of the more important jobs of a leader is to introduce rules and expectations that are in-line with the values of the company.
Cigna has strong values around caring about their employees. (All companies say that, of course, but Cigna takes it more seriously than most.) It was one of the things that attracted Jerome Droesch to the company.
But what it means to care about your employees means different things in different times. When Covid-19 hit it was suddenly not possible for leaders such as Jerome to travel to the different regions he is in charge of. A lot of the day-to-day interactions between colleagues also became limited as people where forced to work from home.
Working from home became “The New Normal”, but for Jerome “The New Norm” became to introduce weekly, virtual town hall meetings to make sure that the employees felt safe, seen and that they got enough information about what was going on. Weekly virtual town halls had never been used before, but it became crucial in order to fill the need for communication and information that that was needed to fill the void that working from home created.
Jerome: “During the lockdowns the health of our people became more important than ever before. We needed new ways to communicate in order to give them comfort, spread the message about the focus on mental health and boost the confidence of the staff that we would all come out of this in a good way.”
Another example is how Zoom meetings have become the new normal, but The New Norm is that companies now allow for job interviews, executive coaching sessions and job evaluation meetings to be done via video calls instead of, as before, having to be done in person.
What is the “New Normal” in your industry, or in other words: What has your world changed into? And more importantly: What new norms do you as a leader need to introduce in order to thrive in this new world? Or in other words: What should you as a leader be doing?
It’s important to understand that to be a leader means that you need to be ahead of the curve. That means you need to be able to figure out what new norms are needed before the new normal is generally accepted and understood.
I asked Jerome how a leader should think in order to be able to do that. He said:
First: We study a lot. We do so many studies, both external and internal to get the data on where the world is, where it is heading and how people are feeling at the moment. The more you know the more you understand.
Second: It’s about empathy. I like to think: ‘If I was one of the employees in the organisation and the CEO sent out a message what would I like to hear?’. This is the hardest of the three to do well.
And third: Work as a team. It is easier to see how norms, and expectations of norms, are changing if it’s debated in a group. So have, what I call, “unstructured debates” where you go deep into how people are feeling.”
Jerome pointed out that the new norm that you introduce might be different in different cultures, and that many times the decision to change norms can be subconscious, but that there is a benefit to make it into a pro-active, conscious decision to be ahead of the game.
The main lesson from my discussion with Jerome was that: Leaders have to define the new norms before they become the new normal.
Hearing Jerome talk I got to think about how the Singapore government – on 14 April 2020 – made a decision to mandate everyone in the country to always wear. Compared to most countries that was quite early. Many countries never introduced mandatory mask for everyone, but Singapore did. A new norm became the new normal.
Foresight from the leaders had them introduce new norms before most people even understood that we were living in a new normal of a pandemic.
What new normal will your world see in the near future, and what new norms do you need to introduce to make sure that your employees are able to work effectively and in-line with your company’s values in this new world?
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