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By Chuck Mulidore
"This is the way we’ve always done it” is a familiar refrain you may have heard when you asked your team at work why something is done the way it is. Perhaps you took over a new position and you think there is a better way of doing something. But, since you just arrived, you ask that question. Many on the team may not even know why they perform a certain task or submit a particular report; they’ve, well, just always done it that way!
Critical thinkers have to look at every task, report or function and question why it is done the way it is or if it even needs to be done at all. Looking at this another way, critical thinking is leadership. And at this time, leadership matters more than ever!
As I write this column for our great magazine, The Postal Supervisor, the world is in the grip of a global pandemic the likes of which we have never seen in our lifetime. The very way of life we take for granted has come under threat; the planet is engaged in a worldwide search for a solution. A solution we know will come, but we do not know when or at what cost.
In the meantime, we have been doing all we can to isolate ourselves as best we can—social distancing—as a means to slow the pace of the pandemic. Yet even in the midst of this global threat, the nation is filled with heroes who sacrifice for the common good, who risk their lives so all of us can continue to function as a nation and a society.
The U.S. Postal Service is filled with such heroes—clerks, carriers and mail handlers—all at the front line and led by proud EAS employees in all functions who manage these operations and keep the Postal Service delivering on its constitutional mandate to bind our nation together. We thank and hail these essential heroes!
Yet we also know that returning to normal may take quite some time. We may never return to the pre-pandemic days of what constituted normal. There may very well be a “new normal” where we must adapt and challenge ourselves in ways never before imagined so we can continue to thrive as a nation in the face of global health threats.
Momentous events tend to reshape the world and our lives with them. Certainly, the coronavirus pandemic is such an event, so we must begin now to plan for how our world will look and how we will fit into that world. Critical thinking will be required to redesign our workplace and our social interactions in those workplaces. A collective vision for a new workplace may require barriers between us, more remote work, less physical interaction, possibly staggered times of work and maybe even reimagining what our work will be!
The U.S. Postal Service has been in the throes of constant change now for many years, trying to reinvent itself in the age of social media, the internet and declining mail volumes. We must ask ourselves, “Is the Postal Service up to this task, an epic undertaking that may well define whether an essential American institution can survive after the pandemic begins to ebb?”
We know change is difficult. What will take us from “the way we have always done things” to “the way we must do things now?” The answer is leadership. Only leadership can fill the void of what we once did to what we now must do. Who will provide that leadership?
Of course, you know: It is the EAS employees who always have provided leadership in times of need in the Postal Service. We must set the table for the inevitable change that will come. EAS employees must provide the vision and the roadmap for the workplace of the post-pandemic U.S. Postal Service. We are essential to the future of our organization; we are the leaders.
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
As we face down the greatest horror we have seen in our lifetimes, our leadership will matter. As we rebuild our work lives, our leadership will matter. Collectively, we all must step up together and do the thing we not only must do, but will do. Leadership matters.