Most of us, when asked to reflect on 2020, will quickly respond with “good riddance!” And there’s no doubt it has been the meetings industry’s most devastating year of our lifetimes. The economic losses, not to mention the personal ones, have been epic. It’s difficult to remember much more than COVID, civil unrest, divided U.S. politics and frustrating, ever-changing and uncontrolled conditions that have altered our ability to control our own destiny.
As we face 2021, the new year promises to be one of reinvention and hope. Among all the conditions that upset our world in 2020, there were many lessons learned, advances in technology, and examples of collaboration, generosity and kindness around the globe. As we face this new year of possibilities, we have an opportunity to choose how we will respond. Here are some bits of 2020 I encourage you to embrace.
The era of COVID forced us to consider and approach things differently. In many cases, we’ve had to completely empty our toolbox and rearrange or swap things out entirely. This creative and ongoing improvement mindset is a gift—hang onto it as things stabilize, and it will carry you beyond today and into tomorrow.
Flexibility and Adaptation
Cherish that critical skill—now likely a habit—of being flexible and adaptable. For those who have been able to objectively consider their situation and keep on top of circumstances and adapt to them, even create vision around these changes—these are the folks who have dealt well with 2020 and show great promise for 2021. We need processes and guidelines without question. But our ability to figure out how to ensure they remain relevant and support momentum will determine our outcomes.
New Skill Development
If we weren’t adept at using technology platforms before, we sure are now. From something as simple as mastering Zoom to the complicated backend of a virtual conference, we’ve all had to up our game. The creative ideas for executing safe and immersive experiences has poured forth, and there’s plenty of opportunity to learn and share best practices. Keep looking for these opportunities. The skills and talents you brought to the table a year ago may not be so relevant any more. Your value increases exponentially as you master being a cross-functional ninja.
Even before 2020, the cause of most business failures has been communication. It is at the root of all the relationships we have with those in our orbit—colleagues, clients, vendors. The strength of these relationships determines the magnitude of our success. When we go to the pressure of a problem, when we ask for or provide clarity, when we ensure systems and processes are in place to enhance and not blockade progress, everyone wins. When we keep things to ourselves, make assumptions, blame others or avoid issues, that’s when we wind up in trouble. Be intentional and purposeful in your communications, always. And when you think you’ve done enough, take it up a notch.
Keep an Eye on the Prize
As the ground continues to move beneath our feet, it can be tempting to get bogged down in triage. That’s important to pay attention to. But it’s even more important to focus on the long-term. Make sure your vision for success 5, 10, 20 years from now doesn’t get blocked by what needs to be addressed this week or next month. Keeping vision and hope ensures that values-based and data-driven decisions guide your work.
The ability to perform our work from anywhere we are has become commonplace in a matter of months. With that, we see new opportunities not only for our current workforce, but for the future—minds are more open to hiring people who don’t live where our offices are, and letting them stay there, or to enabling remote work when our existing talent finds themselves needing to move for personal reasons—family, health, etc.
Work When You’re at Your Best
Regular office hours have become a block of time we’re expected to be available, but we might need to shift our focus time to another part of the day because we’re also juggling life—from family issues to simply finding your optimum brain-use time. Finally, morning people and night owls can be on the rhythm that enables them to bring their best self and most creative thinking.
Focus on Wellness
Uncertainty, lack of control, isolation, loss and an abundance of negative messages surrounding us have affected wellness in a big way. This has forced us to figure out how to deal with the stresses that can either sneak up on us gradually or hit us smack in the forehead. In 2021, I encourage you to focus on wellness and promise your work will improve as a result. Get out for a walk. Meditate. Reach out to others. Check in on folks. Ensure there are boundaries so that your work-from-home doesn’t crush the sanctuary you should have there. Make sure you have enough margin in your life to think, vision, breathe.
Attitude of Gratitude
How you choose to respond to circumstances determines everything—how you approach challenges and relationships, and the outcomes of your actions. This is summed up well in a quote from Dr. Anil Kumar Sinha, who said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”