The Pandemic Showed Us How Resilient and Agile We Can Be

Change is a catalyst for growth. Sometimes you can prepare for it, and sometimes it is thrust upon you. One of the most challenging years to date was 2020. It accelerated change for everyone, personally and professionally. As a leader, I took it as an opportunity to grow and evolve, for myself and my team.

In a world focused on technological advancement and automation, the pandemic reemphasized the importance of people. It forced teams to get to know their peers on a more personal level—we were essentially welcoming each other into our homes through video conferencing. The leadership team not only communicated that it was acceptable for pets, children, and partners to be co-stars on calls, but even encouraged it. If we think about it, this would never happen in an office environment. We would never put our families on speakerphone if they called in the middle of a meeting. This was a shift in our culture, with the understanding that our people are multifaceted, that further humanized the workplace.

There were many additional stressors that people faced outside work. Taking care of and protecting aging parents, children shifting to virtual schooling, having the entire household at home 24×7, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, for singles being home by yourself 24×7. We provided a number of resources that supported our team members’ personal lives, such as flexible work hours, recommended educational applications for kids, and staycation suggestions. In a company traditionally focused on building rapport across teams and professional development, we found ourselves extending our culture to families through sidewalk chalk and Tik Tok contests.

I also had to be intentional in personally connecting with my team. Previously, I would walk the office and engage in the water cooler conversations. I replaced this with “Howdy” calls and virtual coffee meetings. It was important to stay connected, even if virtually. We even tried new things to bring the team together, such as virtual cheese tastings, wine pairings, cooking classes, concerts, and museum tours. I look forward to continuing some of these elements as we go back into the office, as it helped build rapport and lasting connections with our global teams.

The pandemic showed how resilient and agile people can be. It allowed me an opportunity to grow as a leader, and I am forever further connected to those I work with. The most important piece is that no matter if we are virtual, in the office, or a hybrid, an engaged team is better equipped to exceed business expectations.