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6 Lessons Learned in 2020 to Heed in the New Year


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While it’s common to pause and look ahead with a few predictions about what surprises the new year might have in store, this year feels slightly different. I think it’s fair to say no one expected 2020 to turn out like it did. Regardless, there are still lessons we can take with us in the new year. So, how do you prepare for what lays ahead and the surprises that will likely come with it?
1. Accept that nothing is constant
We live in a world of change, but sometimes, we forget that. However, 2020 was a blunt reminder of that reality and the need to be better prepared. We need to recognize that and remember that complacency is the real enemy. It’s easy to be complacent and fall into a routine, but we need to make sure we are continually challenging assumptions and what we take for granted.
Expecting the current landscape to remain indefinitely has doomed many corporations over the years. The ones that now think this alleged “new normal” will remain forever are in for a rude awakening —don’t be one of them.
2. Prepare for the unexpected
In the world of crisis communications, one of the paramount goals is to develop a plan that anticipates the unexpected. We need to let that kind of thinking permeate our daily approach. If we take this approach, we can take the unexpected in stride, and we can pivot to a new direction needed for the moment. It’s impossible to anticipate every challenge we might face, but if we change our mindset to anticipate challenges, we’ll be better prepared to tackle them — no matter how unexpected they might be.
3. Be agile
I’ve written a lot about the role technology plays in an organization. Without technology, I dare say most companies wouldn’t have been able to move to remote working. But many organizations found their technology stack didn’t stack up. They had to roll out new solutions on the fly to enable continued connectivity and collaboration, but their choices might not be ideal for future needs.
Now is not the time for companies to stand pat and expect the current solutions to work indefinitely. Instead, leaders should take stock of their approach and think about how it might serve them moving forward and whether it’s possible to augment as a situation may dictate.
4. Recognize the importance of the team
Before the pandemic took hold, I wrote a piece about the importance of focusing on the team in 2020, a notion that is as crucial as ever. “To be successful, organizations should stop focusing on the ages or generations of their workers and start focusing on the people who drive our business success,” I noted in that piece. There is no returning to normal; there is only transitioning to the “next normal.” You need to make sure the team in place is the right one for the road ahead.
5. Experiment
At the start of 2020, I wondered how many organizations would have been willing to let their entire team work remotely? When they had no other choice, businesses made it happen. They didn’t necessarily have the systems or protocols in place, but it worked. They learned along the way, and they refined their approach as necessary.
We need to make sure we don’t lose this spirit in the new year and moving forward. We don’t know what the future holds, but if we’re willing to face it head-on, we might find what we’re made of, and we might even surprise ourselves.
6. Stock up on valuable commodities
While stocking up on essentials in 2020 meant hand sanitizer and paper products, in 2021, businesses should make sure they have the essentials, including flexible work arrangements, the right team and the right technology. Empowering the team with the right solutions and tools will allow them to accomplish even more in 2021. We can’t say for sure what 2021 will surprise us with, but I’m confident the lessons learned in 2020 will resonate in 2021 and beyond.
Let’s hope we’re not having a similar conversation at the end of 2021 about the need to prepare for the unexpected!