This time final yr, I used to be optimistic about beginning 2020, excited to enter each a brand new yr and a brand new decade. Like different company leaders, I finalized visions and deliberate to maneuver alongside conventional pathways of success. However for all of us, these pathways would rapidly change right into a highway that wound by way of difficult, unsure terrain.
Even because the world ramped as much as struggle the COVID-19 pandemic, company leaders would discover different insurmountable challenges ready within the wings—akin to an financial downturn, racial unrest, and one of the vital vital elections of our time.
Nonetheless, as I look again on 2020, I see a yr of nice reflection, awakening, and resiliency. Listed here are the highest 5 company management classes I discovered in 2020.
Constructing transparency, communication, and connection
Most leaders try to create clear work environments that provide open communication and genuine engagement between workers and administration. The trials of 2020 rapidly put this dedication to the check. Whether or not dealing with COVID’s financial impacts or with protests about racial injustice, leaders needed to discover methods to rapidly talk and genuinely have interaction with workers. Constructing transparency and connections proved important to the heart beat and survival of organizations and their folks. As leaders discovered themselves addressing monetary impacts with layoffs, or managing digital groups of overworked and confused workers, they had been pressured to faucet their emotional intelligence (EI) by connecting extra deeply on a human degree. We noticed company leaders placing “enterprise as regular” messaging apart and stepping up by having trustworthy and hard conversations and listening periods on subjects like race, politics, and the significance of voting, little one care, psychological well being, and worker monetary burdens.
Lesson discovered: Having a excessive EI IQ that takes into consideration empathy and compassion can go a great distance in management. From workers dropping family members to COVID-19 to women leaving the workforce at alarming charges to coach and care for youngsters, 2020 taught leaders to rapidly tackle points, have considerate plans, and put assets in place to assist the holistic well-being of their folks.
Redefining agility and belief
An ongoing company management pattern has concerned constructing agile organizations. This yr demonstrated the significance of agility in a very vivid manner, as firms of all sizes needed to combine inventive options to implement transitions of individuals and their work environments. Having to scale up and transfer whole company organizations remotely in a brief time period as COVID took over the globe proved difficult, however doable.
Lesson discovered: Agility is not an possibility. It’s a requirement for fulfillment. To maintain agility, firms should belief their workers and shift away from conventional office and work-setting fashions. Workers have earned that belief, demonstrating that jobs and capabilities that their leaders had lengthy thought couldn’t be accomplished exterior of the workplace might, in actuality, work on a distant foundation and at a extremely productive degree. Via this expertise, company leaders gained extra confidence of their groups’ abilities and skills. However constructing an agile group by no means stops. True agility requires constructing versatile enterprise fashions that contain enhancing present infrastructures, creating new working fashions, and buying applied sciences that improve productiveness.
COVID-19 redefined the thought of company work/life stability. Whether or not coping with screaming youngsters whereas on work Zoom calls, or caring for an aged member of the family, dad and mom and caregivers felt and proceed to really feel the challenges and burdens of balancing work and household. I vividly recall holding a briefing for a consumer, just for my 4-year-old to interject with requests for apple juice and Paw Patrol. Like many working parents attempting to maintain it collectively, I apologized, acquired the apple juice, and proceeded with my temporary.
Lesson discovered: This yr taught leaders the significance of tapping into their emotional intelligence by demonstrating extra consciousness, compassion, and adaptability. There isn’t any such factor as true work/life stability within the age of COVID-19: It’s all intertwined, and workers are attempting their greatest to maintain afloat and carry out. For leaders, being versatile and inspiring workers to set clear boundaries (e.g., by modifying each day work schedules and taking staycations or mental-health days) is important to creating a cheerful and wholesome work setting.
Redefining influence and allyship in range
Racial and civil unrest boiled over in 2020. It pressured leaders to take a tough take a look at their range, fairness, and inclusion (DE&I) packages. It’s a check that many didn’t move. Some corporate leaders publicly claimed they had been unable to seek out various expertise. Others adopted optical allyship stances, like the businesses that posted symbolic black squares with out backing them up with motion plans. These gestures illustrated leaders’ lack of transparency and dedication to nurturing range in any respect ranges. And this yr’s occasions confirmed that leaders have rather more work to do to deal with workforce parity, for ladies and for workers of colour.
Lesson discovered: Leaders discovered that change begins with empathetic understanding, addressing private bias, and redefining targets with a purpose to allow significant outcomes the place range is worried. Whether or not they had been redesigning DE&I motion plans, launching new recruiting fashions, or being intentional about partaking workers from various backgrounds (by way of teaching or mentoring, for instance), some leaders confirmed that they will do the work to maneuver the needle round range. However 2020 proved that these leaders should be accountable and wish to be part of main the change.
After publishing the piece “Why I’ve decided to stop playing the ‘safe’ Black professional role in corporate America” in August, I underwent an awakening of my very own on what it means to embrace genuine management in 2020. To be fairly trustworthy, main from a spot of vulnerability and fearlessness is usually lonely, and but it’s extraordinarily gratifying and completely essential. Fearless leaders aren’t apprehensive about “staying on message” as a result of it’s on pattern or makes others really feel comfy. Fearless leaders push and encourage folks to assume, mirror, react, and embrace accountability.
Classes discovered: To guide in 2020 and past, you should be clear, construct genuine connections, and reveal braveness together with your workers. You need to be keen to face up, have arduous conversations, and ask powerful questions, even when meaning voicing an unpopular response or opinion. This yr taught me and different company leaders to be resilient, acknowledge flaws and challenges, embrace the unknown, and create collaborative secure locations the place we are able to construct long-lasting and sustainable options—not only for the current, however for our future.
Katherine Thompson is a enterprise transformation and organizational change administration professional. She works with private and non-private sector shoppers to implement Agile software program platforms and IT-modernization packages. The views on this article are that of the writer.
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This story was initially featured on Fortune.com