2020 has been a year like no other – some are even saying: “It’s the end of the world as we know it”. People have endured hardships everywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic has been pervasive with virtually no-one left untouched. Lives and livelihoods have been lost. Economies are under huge strain. The prospects for any quick recoveries look bleak. How should we then be approaching 2021?
Against all odds this year, we have been resilient. We have comforted those who were fearful. We have supported those in need. We have connected digitally where we could. Of course, there were those who behaved badly: corrupt opportunists, who attempted to take advantage of our fragility and plunder funds meant for relief efforts – they will be brought to book hopefully. In this period of uncertainty and as we approach the “new world” with many changes looming, however, what remains the same (or should remain the same) for our planning purposes?
- Respect for each other – the dignity of the human being should always be upheld, no matter what the new world looks like. Humans are not pawns on political chess boards, but precious members of society and should be treated as such.
- Valuing all forms of diversity – we must celebrate uniqueness and difference in whatever form (ethnicity, gender, education, culture, background, upbringing, exposure, experience, etc.). We should not stop at “tolerance”, which means “putting up with someone else”, but rather learn how to love each other.
- Sincere engagement with all employees – be it remotely or in person, emotional connection is needed to express our humanness and to support growth. Empathy, identifying with the emotional condition of the other person, is essential during times of change. Leaders need to be truly present.
- Inclusion – giving opportunities for contribution and participation, including decision-making, especially when the decision is going to affect employees. Authentic listening is necessary to grow trust.
- Recognition – leaders need to grow confidence in employees by acknowledging discretionary effort, successes and energy applied appropriately and thus celebrating growth together.
- Sustainability – we need to future-proof our world, our societies and our companies. We just cannot behave selfishly anymore and ignore issues that negatively impact sustainability – we have to act in 2021.
- Care – expressing concern for the vulnerable and finding sustainable solutions for issues like poverty, clean water, sufficient cultivation of food, shelter, safety, etc. Non-government organisations that address these issues, on their own, can’t meet all these needs – governments, companies and communities need to participate together to find viable solutions.
As those in leadership, and employees alike, tentatively step into a post-pandemic “new world” and attempt to re-establish livelihoods and economies, may they continue to uphold the values that respect our humanness – our interconnectedness, our interdependency and our need for a sustainable future.