With 2020 inching to a close, it feels like we’re putting the ugliness of this year behind us. ‘Bring on 2021!’ I hear people say.
Too right – it can’t happen soon enough.
Or can it? Perhaps we should be careful what we wish for. This year has been enormously disruptive, and it’s been painful to see so many of our friends and colleagues suffer, especially overseas.
But 2020 has also brought out the best in us. We’ve seen leaders step up. We’ve seen communities galvanised. We’ve seen organisations overcome conventional barriers and make bold change. I could cite so many examples but consider how well our teachers and school children have adapted to this massively interrupted year. As I write, the kids are sitting their last NCEA exams, on time, nationwide and without problems (that that we know of). It’s a feat managed by flexibility, technology adaptation and a can-do spirit. What an inspirational bunch!
It would be a shame if schools reverted to business as usual in 2021.
Our full attention
The Covid-19 crisis commanded our full attention and forced us to bring our best selves to the task. So, what will command your best self in 2021? What is your next amazing achievement?
You could take a leaf out of the book of Stuff, the news website. If any organisation has the excuse to take a breath and a little lie-down, it’s Stuff. In the last year it went through a failed merger, staff lay-offs, an ownership change and a collapse in the advertising market. For years it has been struggling with a steady decline in its traditional business model.
So, I was surprised and impressed when last week it offered a powerful mea culpa on its history of racial bias and racist reportage. The work done on self-examination was thorough and thoughtful – the commitment would have taken time and money.
It would be easy to say for Stuff to say ‘oh, we’re a product of our community – we were simply reporting consistent with the standards of the times’. Or worse, like many organisations, Stuff could have slapped a BLM badge on its page and made some token gesture towards equity and justice. Instead it turned its investigative machine on itself and exposed ugly truths inside its own business and history.
Stuff has revealed its better self. It has taken responsibility as a leader. It’s also signalling it wants to be relevant to the future – to be better and different. It’s brave and so unexpected from an organisation that’s already felt so much disruption.
But that’s the point isn’t it? Pressure creates diamonds and all that.
The rollover to 2021 may trigger a sigh of relief in your organisation. But that would do an injustice to the achievements of 2020. Now that you’ve done this, ask yourself: what’s my focus for my next best?
In the next few week’s I’m going to ask leaders of all age and stage what their 2021 challenge will be. Please stay tuned!