20 Reflections on 2020
Year of the Human? Year of Reimagining Leadership and DEI? Year of Rethinking Sustainable Work and Workspaces?
Staring into the abyss of a crisis, forces us to reevaluate our priorities and how we live. 2020 was that kind of a year, for all of us, all at once. Did it make us rethink our world, how we coexist, how we are shaping the future, and the choices we are making?
Are these on your mind too?
Year of the Human
We had a unique window into our colleagues lives, their challenges and joys. Who we are, at home and at work, have never been more blended, than they are today. The compartmentalization of our lives fell apart, as our worlds collided into each other, and we saw the talent, resilience, fears, doubts, politics, environment and social activism, personal identity and values, family, community, obligations come together, to reflect the multidimensional complex human. And we learnt that;
- We are more similar than we are different. Seeing people as individuals, and not a demographic helped us find common ground, see how complementary our strengths can be, and value our differences.
- Our definition of what is ‘professional’ and ‘acceptable’ at work have evolved…finally.
- ‘People are our greatest asset’ has finally become more real than rhetoric, and companies created the infrastructure, policy, flexibility, wellness and learning support, etc, to help their people.
- We demanded that companies take a clear stand on ethical issues that matter to us, as well as greater clarity of purpose, intent and accountability.
Year of Reimagining Leadership
Leaders came under the burning glare of a million spotlights, in an instant, as our world changed. We saw exceptional leaders step up, be vulnerable, be authentic, be transparent, be accountable and be driven by care and concern for their employees and customers. Whether it is our healthcare and essential workers going above and beyond in service of people everyday, or CEOs taking pay cuts before impacting their people, CIOs and their teams standing up complex infrastructure and support overnight, CHROs and their teams creating policies and support systems real-time, or restaurateurs serving communities and providing jobs even when their business declined, they all led from the front.
The 4 differentiating qualities of the best leaders in these times are:
- They are redefining what strength looks like in the new world. And it is all about vulnerability, courage, and resilience.
- They are living their Purpose and it is evident and transparent that they are using Purpose and values as the cornerstone of their decisions. They are integrators. They are able to build unlikely partnerships across disciplines and get the best minds solving the biggest problems, for the benefit of humanity.
- They are Empowering their people, and inspiring innovation and new ways of solving problems, enabling and helping people deal with change
- They are redefining who is a hero. Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, essential workers in labs, factories, retail, transportation are the everyday heroes. They showed us that it is about service, thinking beyond yourself, and bringing hope to so many.
Year of Rethinking Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
It took a pandemic to show us how intricately intertwined our lives have become, across the globe. The common thread between the stories of heartbreak and hope, between those who caught the virus and those who fought it bravely, is their diversity. We finally realized that;
- Platitudes and rhetoric got hollow really quickly. Token diversity, token commitment, small donations became obvious as a proxy for inaction.
- Our hyper focus on Unconscious Bias, and setting D&I targets, haven’t yielded enough results. Results need action. Empowering frontline leaders, giving them tools and holding them accountable, is the path to progress.
- An ally is not a bystander, but an activist, who drives for change by your side.
- How we treat others, shows us who we are.
Our only hope, to solve the greatest issues of our time, is to figure out how to synergize our diversity to create value for the world — our survival depends on it.
Year of Rethinking what is truly important for our World
It has been heartbreaking to see the devastation caused by Covid19. No matter which country the virus traveled to, it had impact beyond her shores, spreading to other countries and continents, without regard to nationality, race, socio-economic status or religion. We were unified in our experience of this global horror, and its impact.
It has also been immensely inspiring to see greater global collaboration in knowledge sharing and support, the unique collaborations between government, academia and companies to develop vaccines and treatment. So while any country may have been impacted by the virus, no country could have survived without the support of others. It raises 4 fundamental questions;
- How can we solve the largest global issues of our time? Our lives are inextricably interconnected, interdependent and international. No one country, company, government, academic institution, can solve the largest challenges of our time, on their own. These complex problems are going to need global talent, commitment and collaboration on an epic scale.
- How do we value work that saves lives? There is a ‘water-diamond’ paradox in the world of work, where healthcare workers, and essential workers, the everyday heroes who saved lives, face immense hardships and aren’t well compensated. Does their pay actually reflect the criticality and value of the work they do? And if not, what are we going to do about it?
- Does capitalism need to be more sustainable? Wealth cannot buy immunity from a pandemic. Rising inequality in education, healthcare, housing, and income, poses a challenge to society as a whole, because we live in an interconnected, not insulated, world.
- Is our approach to our environment sustainable? The silver lining of working remotely is that we saw city skies clear up, nature and wild life in the unlikeliest of places, and we got a glimpse of what’s possible, if we try. Are we willing to try?
Year of rethinking a sustainable Future of work and workspaces
Covid-19 forced us into the largest experiment of remote working in human history. It surfaced unique challenges we couldn’t have dreamt about. It has also challenged our pre-conceived notions and paradigms on how and where work needs to be performed. We learnt that jet setting around the world isn’t as critical to our jobs as we thought, large scale meetings and conferences aren’t the most productive, and meeting face to face isn’t the only way to get work done. We have been pleasantly surprised at just how much can be achieved remotely without missing a step.
This remote working journey has been a proof of concept and a glimpse of what is possible. Will it inspire us to go beyond, and explore even more radical ways of attracting the best talent from anywhere in the world, choosing to work from a place in the world that they love and that inspires them? At the very least, it has raised 4 questions;
- How can we create a sustainable work environment that is flexible, and provides for collaboration? We are dealing with incredible stresses and competing priorities. While we did go remote, the nature of work, or how we do it, or how meaningful it is (or isn’t), the layers of approval, the over engineered processes, did not change. Will we rethink work itself?
- How can we make mental health and well-being a priority for our people? How responsible are companies for ensuring that they contribute to well adjusted humans who create positive impact?
- How can we do more experiments and pilots that help us find better work solutions that inspire people? For example — how can we help our people volunteer, serve in their community, be there for their family, find their personal purpose and passion, etc.
- What does empowerment mean in a remote working world? WFH made a lot of leaders uncomfortable, because they felt a loss of control. They added on millions of additional reviews, ignored boundaries, and imposed on their people’s time, well beyond office hours, leading to significant stress and burnout. How can we foster trust in a remote setting?
What are you thinking of, as you look back at 2020?
Join the conversation in the comments section!