As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” As we look back upon the year 2020, hindsight reveals some incredible lessons that we should carry forth in 2021 and beyond. I wanted to share eight lessons from 2020 related to organizational wellness for individuals and teams. Here I share the first four in Part 1 of this two-part blog post. I encourage you to consider these lessons as you “CEEK a Better Way” in 2021 and beyond.
1. Adversity Tests (and Reveals) Character
I think it is safe to say that every organization around the world was somehow impacted by the global pandemic and/or the associated economic downturn. The circumstances of the past year afforded workers, clients, consumers, and the general public the opportunity to assess whether organizations, and their leaders, practice what they preach. I was thrilled to see that many organizations stepped up to the plate. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) highlights a few examples where companies increased sick leave, offered work from home reimbursements, implemented new wellness programs, and proactively built new rituals and policies to support their greatest asset. Unfortunately, other organizations prioritized profit over people – we’ve seen what can happen when that is the case. When adversity hits – use your stated core values to guide decisions. While it can be a difficult tension to manage, prioritize people over profit. It will pay long-term dividends.
2. Leaders Take Decisive, Values-Driven Action
In the midst of difficult circumstances, leaders often delay decisions and put a positive spin on the situation to avoid disruption. While perhaps financially beneficial in the near term, this can come at a significant cost in the long-term. As conveyed by Harvard Business Review, “It takes a unique kind of leadership to push against the natural human tendency to downplay and delay.” NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, represents a great example of decisive action, driven by value priorities. Even before the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, he made the difficult decision to suspend play. He prioritized the health and well-being of not just the athletes but, more importantly, the consumers of the NBA product. While this was a costly decision in the near term, I believe it served the NBA well in demonstrating the health and safety of its fans and athletes as a priority. If you use your values as a filter for difficult decisions, you are better able to make timely decisions and take decisive action.
3. Rituals Can, and Should, Change
CEEK helps our clients develop Intentional Culture PlansTM to promote organizational wellness and engagement. The specification of recurring rituals (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly) that are a tangible reflection of the organization’s core values is a key component of the Intentional Culture Plan. While we profess that core values should remain relatively stable within any organization, 2020 taught us that it is important to revisit rituals at least yearly and when circumstances, like a global pandemic or social unrest, disrupt normal operating procedures. Many organizations proactively sought new ways to engage and inspire their teams when transitioning abruptly to remote work – walking meetings, virtual happy hours, online message boards, etc. Because we pride ourselves in our ability to have and facilitate difficult conversations, we committed to a new ritual to promote and facilitate an annual seminar on the topic of unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, and systemic racism. Revisit the rituals in your organization. Adapt to current circumstances. And always align to your values.
4. Flip the Script
Amidst the chaos of the weeks that followed the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, I found myself reverting to a state of “urgent response.” I rarely planned my day’s activities. Instead, I simply accommodated the never-ending influx of meeting requests, emails, notices, pop-up messages, webinars, new feeds, etc. I found many of my coaching clients operating in a similar manner. In the past, I encouraged myself and others to schedule time for that which is strategic and important but not urgent. Screw that. In 2020, I learned to “flip the script.” Instead of scheduling time to focus on important things without disruption, I encourage you to schedule time to focus on disruption. Block off time on your calendar to respond to emails, return phone calls, post instant message responses, or even peruse the news. This simple shift of mentality and focus will help you keep your eye on the ball – the driving purpose of your organization and/or that which you love to do. Do this successfully – watch your engagement and productivity soar.
In spite of the adversity, I am grateful for the year that was and the many lessons that we have learned. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my top 8 lessons from 2020. I hope you find some wisdom and knowledge to carry forth in 2021 from these and lessons of your own. May you take action in 2021 toward organizational wellness and personal fulfillment. CEEK a Better Way!