While there is value in self reflecting at the end of every year, 2020 perhaps stands out as one of the most tumultuous in recent memory – and therefore, a year that is all the more important to reflect upon.
Now, drawing towards the end-of-year shutdown, it’s time to stop a moment and look back on the previous months to determine how you reacted, what you might change and how you’ve grown as a leader. These are the four questions to ask yourself at the end of 2020.
1. What did I learn this year?
COVID-19 has made 2020 the year of change. Australia’s executives and senior leaders had to work around the clock to keep up, if not stay ahead. The strict nationwide lockdowns – and their aftershocks – were unprecedented, and few organisations had a business continuity plan in place that could handle the sheer scale of change.
So now, as we look back, carefully consider each of the major events of 2020 and how you’ve learned from them. From the Australian bushfires to the first case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, December, through to the beginnings of our biosecurity measures in January, lockdowns in March, and everything that has happened since, what did you do? What did you put in place? How did you act and what were the consequences?
Don’t just consider the negatives. Humans have a tendency to focus on negative memories and forget the positive things that happened to them. What are you proud of, and what did you achieve? Did you manage to keep most of your workforce employed? Did you adapt your business strategy? Change your business model? Were you able to successfully move to remote working? All successes, however small, should be celebrated.
2. What were my biggest failures this year?
In a crisis situation, nobody expects perfection. Even the companies that performed well during the worst of the pandemic had to make major changes – and sacrifices – to comply with ever-changing regulations and customer expectations.
Reflect once again on the decisions you’ve made throughout the year and ask yourself: What could you have done differently, or better? Do you have an opportunity to grow, or to teach yourself new skills that can make you more resilient for the new year?
Remember not to reflect with the power of hindsight, but rather consider if you could have reacted better in a situation based on the information you had at the time. It’s easy to second guess our decisions when we’ve learned more information, but given COVID-19 is expected to linger on well into 2021, there may well be more situations to come where you simply don’t know what you don’t know.
We mentioned business continuity plans earlier. Did yours prepare your company for an event like this? COVID-19 could be an opportunity to use what you’ve learned as a benchmark (“this is what we don’t want to happen again”) to update those plans and make ready for a future pandemic.
3. Did I allow myself to say, “I don’t know”?
A good leader is an accumulation of many traits, but one of the most important is humility. The ability to stop and say “I don’t know” can be difficult to acquire, but in times like these, humbly accepting you don’t have the answers is invaluable when navigating economic turmoil.
Leaders can’t do and know everything. But where you might not have an idea, another expert in your company may. Ask yourself, did you allow yourself to admit – to yourself and subordinates – that you were unsure, that you didn’t know?
More importantly, did you create a safe space for others to contribute their ideas, or to give feedback on how things were going (even if it was about your own performance)? Do your teams feel they can speak up honestly, so that you can make decisions based on their needs and their expertise?
4. What will a successful 2021 look like for me?
2020 changed the game and that makes 2021 a blank slate. Will your business grow, shrink, return to business as usual or change into something entirely new? Change has long been a difficult prospect, with its proponents constantly battling barriers from the technical to the human. But those barriers have been thrown down as shareholders and key stakeholders not only desire change but demand it.
However, the window for change will eventually close. As we learn to better live with the virus, or better yet, move past it, the demand will diminish and we’ll return to some semblance of normality. Any organisation that can’t evolve in time risks being left behind as its competitors shred excess costs and build new, lean, flexible machines that are living in the future.
So what will success look like for you in 2021? What do you as a leader require to make your business thrive in the coming months?
It’s likely you’ve already taken many steps towards change, having put in place new tools and processes simply to survive the pandemic. Many of these could be formalised and turned into concrete policy, but you’ll need to go over every taped-on new process from 2020 with a wary eye to ensure that it’s fit for long-term use – consider the privacy, cybersecurity, cost and future scalability concerns.
It’s likely you may need new personnel to provide the expertise required to realise this new plan of yours, which is where we come in. To talk through your hiring needs and to help you secure the perfect candidate, we’re here for you.