As the end of this most difficult year looms just days away, it is the perfect time to “pivot.” Let’s use the time to reflect on the positive message that comes from the old adage that says, “Something good often comes from something bad.” While no one is exactly sure where these hopeful words originated, the message cannot be overlooked.

2020 was indeed a difficult year for the global community. No country went unscathed by the ferocious pandemic, but yet something good really did emerge from the Covid – 19 challenges.

We never saw it coming!

Looking back to mid-March when the United States first began to really process the roll out of the “shelter in place” protocol, along with the essential suggestions regarding social distancing, use of face masks, and consistent and constant hand washing, it is clear that we were all naïve. Most of us were unprepared for the depth of the changes that would sweep across every area of the country, impacting every aspect of life, from professional activities to social events to religious observances and family get-togethers. Everything changed so quickly.

But some good transpired    

The first lesson learned was that so many businesses could work remotely, fostering an environment of productivity while at the same time ensuring the safety of their employees. Professional services firms, as well as many other companies, were able to harness existing and emerging technology to enable staff to work remotely and to ease the transition from in-person communication to virtual interactions.

Along with identifying ways to help their employees be productive at home, companies also learned that they could minimize their office space requirements. The need for less square feet, or fewer locations, has been affirmed and reaffirmed for over 10 months now as organizations of all sizes are reassessing their needs for physical space.

And for those retailers and manufacturers and others who cannot work remotely, there was a quick learning curve that they embraced to create safe work environments. From controlling people flow and paper flow, to installing Plexiglas shields to lowering occupancy, companies were innovative as they reconfigured the workplace. Common areas were immediately deemed off limits and at the same time, working in shifts made it easier to manage congestion. All in all, employees and employers agreed on the necessity of completely changing their behavior and cooperating together by embracing change and suggesting additional adjustments as well.  

The second lesson was that business leaders realized they had to make an extra effort to strengthen all their relationships (this means with clients, employees, vendors and business colleagues) - as well as cultivate new connections with others in the corporate community. When impromptu breakfast or lunch meetings became taboo, it was apparent that there was a deep need to find new ways to nurture these essential relationships. One-on-one Microsoft Team meetings, small gatherings on Zoom, a phone call or even a text message began to take the place of more traditional, pre-Covid personal interactions.   These types of opportunities did not negate the value gained by being together, but they have enabled business leaders to adopt a proactive approach to fostering relationships without in-person interaction. 

As such there has been a strong push to continue maintaining friendships and building new connections – whether with employees, clients, centers of influence and other referral sources while also identifying prospects for the future despite the inability to spend time together.

The third lesson learned was that leaders need to make decisions more quickly. The days of establishing a committee to review and discuss a potential change before reporting to the ultimate decision makers was challenged by the global events rapidly occurring in 2020. The virus spread with unprecedented speed, forcing business owners, nonprofit organization leaders, service professionals and all others to react quickly.   No one could indulge in taking a month, or even a few weeks, to contemplate a response and prepare to take their organizations in a new direction.  For example, local food banks did not have the luxury of waiting to design a new distribution plan when hungry families were in immediate need. Corporate companies and social service organizations faced similar dilemmas – they had to move fast, be agile, imaginative, and prepared for change in order to successfully combat the destructive impact of the virus on the economy in general and on each company individually.

The fourth lesson was the incredible ability of technology to address the issues raised in a world dealing with Covid. Evolving as quickly as the needs arose, tech companies swiftly developed easy and convenient platforms to ensure new levels of remote communication. Companies relied on Microsoft Teams or many other emerging options to sustain morale while also ensuring that their staff could work productively while isolated at home; nonprofits quickly and adeptly converted events, such as their annual fund raisers, into profitable virtual galas; while business leaders found it possible to keep in close touch with customers and suppliers, sharing news, resources, and support as soon as it became available. 

The fifth lesson learned was that when companies cooperated with each other, they were much more effective. Lenders and borrowers came together as most of the banks did their best to help their customers through the tough times; vendors and suppliers worked together to keep the supply chains moving and grantors and other funders were incredibly generous, extending terms and helping nonprofits gain access to much needed revenue.

Surviving a crisis can lead to new opportunities

There is no one who would say that it is a good thing that the Corona virus exploded around the world, but it is obvious that there have been some silver linings in this otherwise dark cloud. Hopefully, many business leaders and senior managers, as well as nonprofit staff and volunteers, have drawn from their experiences, have gained new insights, have embraced exciting new technology and have moved forward to survive regardless of the circumstances.