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The year in focus 2020: Reflections from the CEO

Reflecting Back

No one could have foreseen that 10 months on, our planet would still be in the grips of a deadly pandemic. Throughout these challenging times, as part of my role as chair of two global corporate well-being councils, I have witnessed first-hand, extraordinary human efforts to support others and create advantage from adversity. Whether big or small, many of these acts can be viewed through a lens that we at peoplewise call Positive Resilience, the capacity to learn and thrive, not just survive in a volatile and ever-changing world.  Time and time again over this past year, I have seen leaders reignite commitment in others through delivering a clear purpose, nurturing a positive can-do perspective, building strong connectedness between people, promoting an agile growth mindset, and creating genuine opportunity for balancing work pressure and performance.

Nothing speaks louder than client testimonials and here are a few excerpts from what they recently shared: “when the chips were down our leaders and managers really stepped up” and “the importance of resilience and mental agility as critical capabilities and drivers of exceptional leadership became abundantly clear through this pandemic” and “2020 has shown us with great clarity the absolute importance of investing time with our people – being connected is a real game changer for us” and “we are a people business and this pandemic has shown us how rapidly we could transform and deliver unexpectedly strong results”.

Looking Forward

As we re-imagine 2021 and beyond, what positive lessons can we take forward from this year of the pandemic?

  1. There is good evidence to suggest that the world quickly forgets and in 10 years any effects on infection control from this pandemic will likely be forgotten. Human memory is shockingly short. But it does not have to be so. If we want people to remember and behave in a certain way, such that it becomes deeply habituated, then they need to practise that behaviour. In doing this, people will become mindful of the things that may make us more susceptible to SARS COVID and the new habits we must create to offer some sort of protection against such viruses in the future.  We have a chance to hit the reset button for our society — to rethink how we live, work, play, vote, and come together. We can ask with renewed vigour: What traditions ought to be retired as obsolete? What should replace them? What should we keep from pandemic life —what should now be reimagined? Who wants to go to the GP’s office ever again for a prescription that could easily be handled over the phone? And maybe it is time to get rid of the handshake, an antiquated ritual once meant to show strangers you were not carrying a weapon.
  2. Reimagined work experiences post COVID-19 must engage, inspire and deliver. This needs to start with leadership. I believe that the time is now for leaders to check themselves and ask whether what they are doing is the most helpful thing that they could be doing for their people and their wider work communities. Here are my suggested must do’s for leaders in 2021:
  • Demonstrate strong purposeful leadership in the form of transparency and personal accountability. Tell people early and often why you are taking particular actions and people will typically follow. Our research consistently shows the importance of a clear purpose if you want to carry people with you and keep them engaged and inspired.
  • Make wise decisions. Leaders must ask ‘what am I missing?’ Create more time to review wider datasets and weigh-up the data in order to optimise your decision making.
  • Practice strategic agility. Anticipate and course correct. We need to get better at thinking about the future more, scenario planning and anticipating potential developments that may impact a planned course of action. We need to use the information available to inform our actions and plans but be flexible enough to course correct as and when required.
  • Adapt your approach. One size doesn’t fit all. Organisations need to create solutions that are tailored to work for them. Are you clear about what approach your organisation will take as it starts to re-emerge from lockdown?
  • Consider and plan for the consequential follow-ons because they will inevitably be needed

Helping human beings thrive is a matter for all and 2020 has provided us with a unique opportunity to see, first-hand, how some pretty simple things can have a significant and lasting impact on each other. Finding new ways to work, to innovate, to connect and to produce have delivered surprisingly sustainable outcomes for individuals and organisations. Let’s not squander these lessons. Let us all commit to build on this mindset shift and behave in ways that enable us all to flourish and thrive, not just survive.

Wishing all a safe and peaceful festive season and prosperous 2021.

Dr Belinda Board, CEO & Founder