To state the obvious, the start to 2021 has been tough.
Severely truncated or non-existent Christmas celebrations followed immediately by tight lockdown restrictions over Hogmanay, home schooling, freezing weather, new variants of the virus, and continued, indeed accelerating, human tragedy. Each element challenging enough in itself, combining in a dark cluster over the start of the year.
And yet, what if 2021 could still turn out to be a great year?
I ask this question in full knowledge of the extremely difficult immediate circumstances we find ourselves in. I will not patronise any of the many people who have suffered tragic loss as a consequence of this pandemic, nor will I try to sugar coat where we find ourselves. I will however, suggest that the mindset we adopt right now is likely to have the most profound effect on how the rest of the year turns out.
If you knew that 2021 had the potential to offer a great leap forward for your business and for your career – how would you act right now? What would you prioritise? Who would you engage with? What mindset would you adopt?
When conditions are obviously better, it will be natural for people to take proactive and positive decisions. Might it be, however, those who pre-empt that recovery and act now, who reap the largest rewards?
What causes would we have to be optimistic I hear you ask?
A more predictable global political agenda, three vaccines circulating in the UK already, a Brexit deal and nine months of evidence that many businesses have learned to operate in the most adverse conditions in new and innovative ways would be some.
Another is the concept of posttraumatic growth. In Richard Tedeschi’s article in HBR entitled Growth After Trauma, he discusses how “negative experiences can spur positive change” in both personal and professional environments.
Tedeschi explains that although this type of growth can often occur naturally after a traumatic event, it can also be encouraged by engaging in certain types of behaviours and activities such as education, emotional regulation, and service, as well as being open and honest about our current situations, and developing new narratives around how to positively deal with the challenges we face. As leaders, we can also facilitate this growth for colleagues by promoting introspection, actively listening, and offering positive and compassionate feedback.
There is no doubt that we need to follow government guidelines to all play our part in defeating this virus, and that much of our activity will remain curtailed over the next few months. Whilst we undoubtedly have much to recover from, my questions is: if you knew the ‘roaring twenty twenties’ were on their way – what would you do differently? And might now be time to act ahead of the herd?
Jamie Livingston is Group Chairman and CEO of the Livingston James Group.