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BY Joel Junker

Top 5 Lessons I’ve Learned in the Pandemic

Every year presents new challenges to businesses but nothing could have prepared Corporate America and the entire world for what 2020 and early 2021 could bring.  With the political unrest, economic and social issues, compounded with a global pandemic, companies and people have struggled to cope.  And yet, here we are one year later. Although living through this past year had presented a major challenge, we’ve all managed to adapt and demonstrate resilience over the past 12 months. This adaptability and perseverance has proved invaluable to both our professional and personal lives.

Here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned in 2020:
  1. Make relationships with your team/people your number one priority.  No matter how big the organization, the relationships we have with our team and employees are everything.  I’ve personally dealt with my own struggles in 2020 and I’ve learned (or just got reminded) that it’s the responsibility of leaders to help our employees manage the incredible stress they carry.  And its not just work stress.  We cannot expect employees to leave the stress of the world at the workplace door.  It’s important for businesses to provide constructive pathways to discuss these challenges and embrace the importance of mental health.
  2. Create a culture that is agile and adaptable. There is a good book by Marshall Goodsmith entitled What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  I think the title sums up 2020 and this pandemic perfectly.  Companies that rely on what worked in the past and “the way its always been done” will struggle when things become difficult (i.e. a global pandemic).  Even after 50 years of successful business practices at Cameron-Brooks, we have reevaluated and changed our processes for how we recruit JMOs, and smoothly transitioned to a virtual Career Conference format.  Adaptable and nimble organizations that can pivot quickly, while still retaining their core values, are the organizations that can whether any storm.
  3. Trust is a key to any successful business. During a crisis, customers, employees, vendors, etc. are going to value a trusted partnership more than ever.  When the pandemic kicked off, the JMOs that attended the April 2020 Career Conference looked to Cameron-Brooks even more so as they tried to navigate the crisis while juggling a career search simultaneously.  I’ve spoken recently with many of them that we have helped make the transition and the vast majority are not simply surviving but thriving in their new careers.  If we had not previously established trust with those JMO’s we partnered with, the pandemic crisis would have quickly eroded the relationship.
  4. Leaders must listen to innovate.  Whenever presented with a challenge over the course of my career, (in the military, when the dot.com bubble burst while at Cisco Systems, the housing/construction market crash while working at Oldcastle, or the pandemic at Cameron-Brooks), it has been my experience that leaders need to take advantage of the adversity and focus on being better listeners.  Yes, technology is a great resource and at Cameron-Brooks we have leveraged technology this past year more than ever.  However, innovation goes beyond technology.  Culture and change is driven by people.  I have found that the people and your teams have great perspective and ideas if we just take the time to listen to them and ask “what do you think?”
  5. There is always a solution. If someone had told me that we’d be conducting a 6th virtual Career Conference while still achieving the same success we saw pre-pandemic, I would have suggested they seek some professional help.  Bottom line: there is always a solution to be found, and it requires a willingness to consider all options, break the tradition, dogmatic thinking, and hard work.   A quote I’ve always loved is by author and motivational speaker Alan Stein who defines hard work as “intentionally leaving your comfort zone with purpose.”  To find a solution when there doesn’t appear to be one requires hard work, getting outside the comfort zone and a willingness to pivot to find a solution at any given moment.

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Rob Davis