Turning a difficult year into a year of business innovation

Businesses that adapted during the pandemic while allowing their people to be people are now better equipped to respond rather than react

Lindsay Harle-KadatzIn conversation recently with women business leaders, authors, mental health advocates and corporate management leaders across Canada, there was a common thread: 2020 was a hard year.

It was also a year of innovation. A year of seeing business being done differently.

From transitioning from already-booked in-person galas to online events to learning how to connect with team members when the physical office is taken away, all of us had a story of how we’ve had to adapt.

One colleague shared that their national corporation had “senior management calls” scheduled with their team members, where a senior management member connected with someone who wasn’t in their department or same authority level. This way, they’re still able to create ‘hallway’ connections from the office days, allowing people to be seen, heard and known in a now virtual organization. Brilliant!

More than anything, the overall consensus was that businesses that adapted while allowing their people to be people are now better equipped to respond rather than react moving forward.

Adapt based on where you are and who you are now

In 2020, many businesses were required to adapt or dissolve.

For instance, while the air travel industry is down, the shipping industry – air and ground – has significantly increased. For example, FedEx Corp. had a strong first quarter (ending Aug. 31, 2020), a portion of which can be traced to shifts in business connection post-March 2020.

For businesses not quite on the scale of travel and shipping, this can be a simple reflecting on what services you have now versus the services your customers need. Focus on what your customers require, along with your business purpose. From there, you’re able to adjust the key behaviours – marketing, operational, strategy, etc. – to better serve your community.

Feel the emotions as they come

As boundaries between personal and professional worlds blur with more teams working from home, businesses are realizing that their people are, well, people. Humans with emotions. And humans who, if not able to move through their emotions, will either brood or bottle.

As discussed in Susan David’s book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, when humans brood, they stay stuck in the emotion. This does nothing to improve productivity or team moral, as it can become a cancerous cell that eats its way through an organization.

If there are bottlers on a team, the potential for the emotion to be inappropriately expressed (think outburst) can create a highly stressful, toxic environment. And that removes the psychological safety required for healthy teams.

This isn’t to say business should become all about feeling the emotions when they come. It’s about acknowledging that people are human. Then giving them the space, time and safety to express, release, and move forward in a healthier, more connected manner.

Know how and what to respond to, rather than reacting

Businesses are carving out a space that’s truly theirs, discovering their full resiliency and specialty along the way. By using the time to reflect on how business can improve, since ‘business as usual’ was no longer an option, companies became more aligned. With clarity for innovation, connection and knowing what’s important, businesses more easily took actions that had impact in the moment and moving forward.

To begin carving out your own space, listen to your audience and your team.

  • How are they reacting to changes in the world?
  • How are you able to help them respond to changes?
  • What’s missing in supporting them?
  • How can your business meet this need in a way that meets your purpose?

With less than two months of 2020 left, take a moment to reflect on the year past. What are you going to do differently to create a 2021 focused on growth, purposeful service and connection for impact?

This was a hard year. It was also a year for innovation.

What have you done to allow, adapt or respond in 2020 to move your forward in 2021? Share your insights and questions with Lindsay. Contact inthetrenches@troymedia.com

Lindsay Harle-Kadatz supports overwhelmed leaders in creating more time, money, and relationships through the power of brand strategy. In everything, she infuses humour with process, creativity, and results. Visit her website, or follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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