By Jay Perry
At the mention of the Metal Ages, we can all conjure up images of blacksmiths working the metal of their craft using fire to strengthen the product of their labour.
I think this is an appropriate metaphor for the year that is finally in the record books: 2020.
It was a tough year that started with hope and optimism and quickly turning to a sense of despair over an unsettling future. The year’s tribulations were like the fire of the blacksmiths that created characteristics in the metal that went beyond the normal range. That adversity strengthened the metal and so too, 2020 strengthened people.
There are many examples of selflessness that we all can point toward when leaders stepped up to go out of their way to reassure their respective teams. These same leaders went on to devise plans in response to businesses being shuttered or greatly reduced in capacity or access to a market. A lot of them took the financial hit in heroic fashion, keeping on staff, pivoting business plans and in many cases, products and services they provided.
Examples of sharing the pain reverberated throughout the workforce as well, where individual team members supported their employers and each other. There are places where shift-sharing took place or unpaid leave taken to allow other team members that needed the financial stability offered by the greatly reduced demand for the products or services. Some took early retirement to make room for others to stay on the team.
What I think is most common as a theme within the various stories is that we were reminded of the human-side of business. This was evident even beyond the walls of any particular company and extended to caring for customers and their safety and to complete strangers that could use a little help. Food drives to assist those in the toughest of spots – choosing between food for the family and other living expenses – are excellent bright spots of humanitarian connection.
I saw no slow-down in efforts to support communities hit hard. A lot of people had little, but they shared what they had, and we are starting to see in economic terms the fruits of those acts. GDP has risen at record rates and optimism for 2021’s growth is almost euphoric. Just this morning I was reading of the expectation of annual numbers not seen in 40 years for 2021.
I am also hopeful that priorities have shifted for people in sufficient numbers that represent a new focus on doing the right thing whether that be in the small business they might own or support all the way up to grand, world scale endeavours like reducing pollution, rebuilding infrastructure, green investments and so many more things where Herculean efforts are actually reshaping the economic landscape.
A lot of lessons have been learned and we will continue to learn even more in our reflection on the fire of 2020 that has strengthened us and helped us see ways to be there for each other. Ultimately if you are not thinking of others, you will lose the drivers who might otherwise have been thinking of you.