If you’re like me, you’re probably more than ready to see 2020 in a rearview mirror. Let’s not mince words: this year sucked. A global pandemic, travel restrictions and lockdowns, protests and riots, quarantines, and ongoing economic crisis all made for a historically challenging year. And in many ways, it feels like the Covid Grinch is stealing not only Christmas but the entire Holiday season.
As I wrote in March, it is important to acknowledge the suckage without getting sucked into the negativity and pessimism.
Humans have a singular gift for turning obstacles into opportunities. As the year comes to a close, let’s look at some positive consequences of the pandemic.
Gratitude & Grace
As the pandemic reached the U.S. in the spring, The mantra for many, including myself, became gratitude and grace amid challenging circumstances. We decided to focus on what we could do rather than what we were not able to do. We developed a new appreciation for essential workers, adopted pets, and adapted to virtual family gatherings, remote work, and socially distanced walks.
In some ways, the pandemic was a great equalizer. Leaders and their teams faced the same challenges of working from makeshift home offices while the kids learned in the next room. We all developed a little more grace and compassion as we realized everyone was doing the best they could do under the circumstances.
As we move into 2021, it’s vital to maintain that position of gratitude and grace. The challenges created by the pandemic are far from over. As leaders, we must continue to show genuine appreciation towards people for their work while also extending compassion and understanding the challenges workers continue to face.
Better Engagement for our Remote Workforce
Historically the remote workforce has been overlooked and excluded from many aspects of organizational culture. However, as shutdowns forced even more employees to shift to remote work, leaders stepped up to the challenge. We became better at engaging our remote workforce, and we became even more intentional in our communication and focused on developing high-performing teams. Despite being physically apart, many teams have become even stronger.
Moving forward, let’s continue to focus on engagement and communication. Some businesses may return to a physical office in 2021, while others may permanently shift to remote work, and many more will likely implement a hybrid model. Regardless of where teams work, leaders must continue to intentionally focus on those activities that build trust, engage employees, and lead strong teams.
Improved Virtual Training
A remote workforce also led to a shift in training. With in-person options off the table, literally), facilitators learned to make virtual training more creative and effective. Participants also became more accepting of virtual training.
There is still a place for classroom training, but I suspect the days of an 8-hour “one and done” training are behind us. Look for hybrid models that create initial learning opportunities in person, followed by ongoing virtual experiences that reinforce concepts through practical application. Learning over time has always been more effective. The greater acceptance of virtual platforms makes it viable.
Businesses Focused on People First
It’s no secret that organizational success begins with trust. In the past, businesses too often relied on pizza parties and ping pong tables to build engagement – but shifting to a remote workforce removed that option. It caused companies to focus on employee’s intrinsic needs and how to meet them. Leaders became more approachable, and understanding and businesses focused more on their people and creating a people-first culture that transcended the physical workspace.
This year, I have seen more compassion and greater understanding from leadership as they got a real glimpse into their employees’ lives. If we can continue to carry that understanding into 2021, we can cultivate a work culture that continues to put people first.
In his book The Obstacle is the Way, author Ryan Holiday says, “In every situation, life is asking us a question, and our actions are the answer.” From the early stages of the pandemic, I have been amazed and inspired by the resiliency and resourcefulness of business owners and leaders. I’ve watched leaders dig deep and respond to the pandemic’s obstacles with resiliency, resourcefulness, and creativity.
As we move into the new year, this resiliency will continue to be vital as businesses face new challenges. I believe the best business strategy we can take with us into 2021 is an open mind, positive attitude, and ability to pivot quickly when situations change.
A colleague of mine recently said, “Crisis can be a great opportunity.” This is certainly true. We do though, have to be intentional about capitalizing on that opportunity.” As we move into 2021, let’s take time to focus on how we can carry the positive outcomes from this year with us into the future.