Real Lessons of 2020

10 organizational truths that shaped an unprecedented year

So what did we actually learn in 2020? Well, there will certainly be countless exposés on the year from a number of pundits. However, if you look closely, a few critical disruptors will alter the business and communications playing field for years to come.

They are:

  1. Science won – Pharmaceutical companies and the country’s leading scientific authority led the path forward toward an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, garnering trust and hope.
  2. Silos disappeared – The virtual working model invariably mitigated the corporate silos that exist in a physical environment.
  3. Culture endured – Speaking of a virtual working environment, organizational cultures strengthened, with values and purpose girding structure and system.
  4. Innovation flourished – Throughout confinement and quarantine with no travel, companies found new, different and ingenious ways to conduct business, engage employees, cater to customers, and develop products and services.
  5. Empathy reigned supreme – Leading, managing and working with each other shifted to a more humane and respectful reality.
  6. The workday didn’t end – On the downside, it was very difficult to get away from work as the days and weeks tended to blend together.
  7. Leadership came from different places – In a virtual world, we experienced confidence, direction, strategic thinking and diverse perspectives from almost everywhere in the company.
  8. Agility didn’t slow – Organizations actually gained speed during the pandemic as their workforces found ways to accelerate, grow and survive.
  9. Connectivity happened in a box – We connected inside a Zoom or webinar box for much of the year, learning about each other, talking about personal issues, and exchanging information in ways not imagined before the pandemic began.
  10. Organizational confidence suffered – Having said all that, organizations have experienced a diminution in confidence, fortitude and progress.

A Precursor for 2021

Much of what we went through this year will in fact be a once in a lifetime occurrence. Heading into 2021, there are four specific initiatives for leaders and communicators to consider:

  1. Re-Introduce the Company – One of the most important priorities for almost any business – large and small – is to evaluate and reposition its business in 2021 so stakeholders can once again discover its value.
  2. Reiterate Values and Purpose – Given how society survived a pandemic, doubling down on values and purpose will buttress company culture.
  3. Revisit Managerial Tenets – Respect. Dignity. Listening. Sharing. All of these skills were on display this past year as people searched for humanity amid a global crisis. Incorporating such tenets into your leadership model is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
  4. Reorient Work-Life – Individuals will need to rethink work-life orientation leaving ample time for personal life to reduce stress, friction, depression, etc.

Coming through the year we’ve just had is no easy feat. But while our lives and our work were disrupted, we were able to disrupt the disruption through perseverance, strength, smarts, collaboration and selfless behavior. If nothing else, 2020 taught us we can thrive and adapt when things go awry.

Here’s to a safe, healthy, productive and meaningful 2021!


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Gary Grates
Gary Grates

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