In the past year, our chamber members and staff have experienced more challenges than some of us have seen in a decade—or for others—a lifetime. Those challenges came in the shape of temporary closures, strict health regulations, battling obstacles on the home-front of virtual learning, sick family members and financial burden. Now here is where you think I insert some line about how enduring these challenges will make us all stronger. While I do think that is true, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it has also made us all more tired and concerned, and anxious as well.
As I contemplate how I am going to find the energy to take on the work of 2021, I find myself reminiscing about the past twelve months and doing my best to look for a silver lining. How far have we come? What have I learned that I want to bring with me in this pursuit for a better normal? Spoiler alert: the lessons are aplenty. Here are a few that will stick with me.
Admit that we have room to grow.
Managing an organization during a pandemic is harder than anything I could have imagined. Add the layers of social unrest and political tension and it feels downright impossible at times. As a relatively new CEO, I didn’t have a ton of prior experience to lean on when it came to dealing with the stress and complicated logistics we have navigated this year, but I am not sure even the most seasoned leaders would claim they were adequately prepared. What I have learned in the past six months would have taken me years in a normal environment, and yet I still have room to grow.
Strive to be proactive.
In a world that feels stuck in “reactive mode,” we have had to push ourselves to find where we can be proactive. For us, that meant taking our role as community leaders seriously when it came to shifting to a virtual, work-from-home world; encouraging businesses and community members to wear masks and follow safety protocols, speaking out about racial injustice and criminal behavior, and proactively reaching out to our business community to provide advice and guidance on navigating the challenges of this year. We stood up for businesses when they needed help and we pulled together business leaders when the community needed them.
Focus on what we can control.
More than one time during the wild ride that has been my first three years as a CEO, I have felt engulfed in chaos. Everywhere I turned was another challenge that felt beyond my experience and out of my control. Thanks to great mentors in my corner, I was encouraged early to “focus on what I could control.” How am I treating my people? How am I taking care of myself? How are we showing up for our members? Focusing on those things helped us grow closer as a staff and helped us connect and provide support for our members on a level we have never been able to in the past. Those questions helped bring purpose and clarity to our role in this pandemic.
We know things will not be going back to the “way they always were.” That reality is worth both mourning and celebrating. There are things that we will miss desperately and others that have desperately needed to change. The work ahead feels daunting, but after this year, I think we have many reasons to be hopeful for what we are capable of accomplishing together.