3 Lessons from 2020 to take with Us into 2021

We can all admit 2020 was a special kind of year, one some wish we could have passed over, written off or or slept through.  With rampant pandemic cases, record-breaking unemployment and economic troubles all around but what if there was another option? 

If you want to hear some reflection and introspection on 2020, listen to The Way We Work podcast! Like, review and share!

Change is Possible

We stepped into 2020 thinking it was just going to be another year of monotonous gear grinding and day in, day out mentality. Feeling like a cog in a machine? No worries, 2020 would fix that, for the better or worst. So there’s a virus that comes up and takes over the world, basically and unless you’ve been living on a deserted island you know what I’m talking about.

The upside? If there is one. Is this- Change is possible.

Once lockdowns were put in place and things came to a standstill in this apocalyptic reality. We can all admit it was weird to see metropolises and main squares completely empty with not a soul in sight.

Eerie right?

But something else happened too. Companies, big and small, pivoted. For some it was easier than others and technology that was previously not common made all the difference. Hello- Zoom! But Work from Home became Work at Home. Industries that had previously disdained the possibility of flex schedules, remote work and needed deep separation between the personal and professional lives of their employees. Those same industries have now learned to embrace- a little, that we need more. We need more as individuals, as employees and as contributors to the economy of our respective countries.

Things that couldn’t have happened without people and companies coming together to enact change, quickly and in solidarity for the greater good:

There are companies that have weighed the benefits of full remote and have decided that’s the direction they want to go in now.

It was all hands on deck in order to create potential vaccines for covid-19, no small feat as Medical News illustrates here.

Adapting to change, while difficult, always has an opportunity for growth. Some companies even did well in 2020, and yes- it skews to tech because they were more easily able to quickly shift and adapt but they aren’t the only ones.

Here’s the list of 100 companies that prospered during the Pandemic.

Change is also possible when it comes to social justice and equity. One of the hottest jobs in 2020 seemed to be Diversity and Inclusion and yes, we know it’s not perfect. Most of the positions are performative and siloed in HR, but, they exist when they didn’t before. Companies react to what their customers and their boards want and guess what? They have spoken!

Mental Health was Demystified and De-Stigmatized

While many found themselves unemployed, dealing with the anxiety of lockdowns, and rushing to prepare for the end times, something happened for all of us. Maybe it was the relentless news or the possibility of death if you walked out your door, or the countless zoom meetings that caused burn out and created a new word, Zoom Fatigue. But while we had time to sit at home and ponder things more and more of us released we were not ok and started reaching out.

The Washington Post wrote, “nearly half of all Americans say the Coronavirus is harming their mental health…”

The truth is mental health is often deemed a luxury for a lot of people, seeing the need as something that can wait but 2020 has shown us that there are a lot of cracks in that logic, especially when health care doesn’t really seem to be able to cope with the mass amounts of people that are still drifting their way through.

I am a firm believer that the generational trauma of 2020 will continue to ripple, simply because most of us have never needed to be introspective or have difficult conversations with ourselves because we could always fill the silence. And if you’re still trying to get through the fog, maybe it’s time to learn some coping mechanisms that may work for you.

silhouette of man at daytime

My favorite are meditation and learning to have deep conversations with yourself, through writing or journaling and with others. We long for deep connections, that’s the human way.

One of the most important lessons of 2020, is that it is possible for anyone to fall into the traps of anxiety and depression- and I’m sure we all felt it in some way or another. Maybe it manifested as working for hours on end with no breaks because you didn’t know what else to do, not wanting to eat well, or binge-watching all of Netflix (that was a vice of mine).

However, it looked like for you- know that there are services, some companies extended mental health outreach and gave greater access for their employees, and I’ve found even social media has had a place in mental health de-stigmatizing. As long as you take the truths shared with a grain of salt. It’s still not complete reality.

Resilience is my New Favorite Word

Not because it means overcoming challenges, but for the other meaning: Elasticity. We were all pulled in many different directions this year, in ways we didn’t know were possible. We were asked to care for our neighbors, to care for our community and ourselves in ways we had never done before.

I lived in China for a long time, so wearing a mask for me was not a big deal, but for some it was an audacious request. Being told to stay home and spend time alone or with family and find new and interesting ways to pass the time. Some people were ingenious with their solutions. Working while balancing a toddler on one’s lap was an experience, I’m sure I’m not the only one who found myself thrust into parenthood with no reprieve. Reconnecting with old friends or reaching out to new ones while attending virtual conferences or networking was fun, although exhausting.

No matter which direction we were pulled, we learned. What works, what doesn’t. How to manage our time or how we’re really not. Tough decisions were made, ones we may still be feeling the pangs of, but there were also moments of freedom and liberation. At the end of this year, while we sit in reflection remember that we still made it.

We were pulled to our limits and beyond but humanity survived. And if we can move forward into 2021, remember that resilience, that strength that will take us forward into this new year.

We may have suffered tragedy upon tragedy but we continue, nonetheless.

We may never be able to return to the pre-covid times of our memories, and why would we? They weren’t that great to begin with, but what we can do is take the lessons learned and move in a better direction.

Are you with me?

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana

The Podcast is Live!

Why is this good news?

There is something special that happens when you are having conversations of change, both in organizations and societally, with others besides yourself. Sometimes, you think that you are out here spinning your wheels, not being able to understand the great ‘Resistance to Change’, that is still happening in the world when it comes to building equitable organizational culture.

I know that organizational culture seems like an amorphous and complicated- and it is, but overcoming bad culture is not insurmountable. It’s about learning what makes sense, within your means and how you can create a strategy for change. It’s about moving the needle forward and having intentional conversations for change.

So if you’re interested in having more of these conversations, join me on my weekly The Way We Work podcast!

If you want to know when the next one comes out subscribe today!

Stay in touch by following us on IG or Twitter @theway_wework and if you have any questions on identity, culture and the intersection mail us your query at thewayweworkofficial@gmail.com

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana, Founder & Principal, The Way We Work

Beyond BLM: Actionable Steps for Change December fundraiser

For this December I’m sitting down with Dr. Dorothy Williams and speaking about her project The ABCs of Canadian Black History toolkit.

There’s something about 2020 that has brought so much to light, under a microscope and created a hotbed for activity both here and abroad.

But that doesn’t mean change comes easy but as 2020 draws to a close we need to understand this moment. And continue on the path to change. This isn’t the beginning of the end, it’s just the beginning when people are so polarized, so tired of injustices, so sick of blatant racism that they take to the streets- it means something!

There is also great opportunity for learning, unlearning and relearning. This is why Blacbiblio’s latest project, The ABCs of Black Canadian History is so important! Black History month 2021 will never be the same- and it shouldn’t!

If you’re interested in directly donating check the Go Fund Me page here!

and if you want to join us get tickets now on Eventbrite.

Yours in kind,

3 Ways to Measure Company Culture

and Solutions to do Something about it!

background board chart data
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Have you ever wondered these three things…

  1. Why is my turnover so high? 
  1. Why is my retention so low? 
  1. Why am I spending so much time and money hiring and training only to do it all again a few months later? 

The truth is…You might have a culture problem. 

I know. I’ve been there. 

I’ve worked at companies that didn’t value their employees and we had a serious turnover problem, I’m talking people quitting in the middle of the night kind of turnover!

Things like nepotism, quid pro quo and retaliation are culture killers for most companies and even if you are big enough to keep your head above water for a while. It will catch up with you. It’s only a matter of when, not if. 

For many companies, a complete overhaul doesn’t make sense and it can be costly but there are small changes that can help. 

Solutions that Matter

1. If change is needed

and it probably is…

Don’t make the change on your own. Have employees know that change is coming and how it might affect them before the change is implemented and whenever appropriate have them be a part of the change. 

Make sure everyone understands the culture you are building and adjust otherwise. From onboarding to exit interview, the message shouldn’t be muddled. Everyone should know exactly what the mission of the company is and what it means for their individual position. 

Tony Hseih, who recently passed away, a tragic loss for his family and the future of Downtown Las Vegas, was a big fan of change. He even wrote about it in his book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.”

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.” 

— Tony Hseih

women sitting under a neon sign
Photo by Tove Liu on Pexels.com

2. Try, try again

It wasn’t perfect and it took several tries but even Tony Hseih, worked at creating the right kind of culture for his organization as a long-term vision. If you’re looking for quick fixes- I don’t know what to tell you. You’ll always be disappointed at the pace of change.

Just like toxic workplaces can take years to develop, excising that toxicity can take twice as long, because we’ve let complacency dominate. We’ve let our guard down and now we are reaping the consequences of that time we didn’t say something about that inappropriate behavior, or spoke out when we saw discrimination much less did something about it.

3. Nothing great, happens overnight.

All overnight successes take 10 years in the making right?

It’s possible to enact change that is pervasive and long-lasting, but it’s going to take dedication, it’s going to take commit and it’s going to fiscal responsibility. No longer can we expect good tidings on bare minimum efforts- it’s impossible. We’re setting up our employees for failure and that’s just continuing the workplace trauma.

There is light at the End of the Tunnel

Imagine, when we get it right?

That’s when we have the visionary, the workplace heroes that create innovation by tuning their culture with purpose and accountability. Developing KPIs and Evaluation markers is all well and good but you always need to come back to them and make sure you’re on the trajectory to make your mark, if not adjust accordingly.

It’s a bit touch and go but by having the vision and making sure to align with that vision and not straying too far from the equitable guidelines you’ve set in place with accountability- that’s music to my ears!

If you’re interested in learning more- let’s connect!

Yours in kind,

Guess the World didn’t Implode 🤯

Needless to say last week was nuts! Even if you’re not “political” you couldn’t turn the television on without coverage of the election going on.

Some of us may still be feeling like…

Waiting for the other shoe to drop- be like!

In fact, Election Day, I opted out of the conversation for my mental health, which is also why there’s no podcast this week but time will resume as it usually does.

But while we waited for the results, something happened in my house- that’s never happened before!

My husband was paying attention, to the state of the world! 

I was shocked-I know!

Which, for me, meant explaining American politics to a Chinese born and raised self-proclaimed apathetic about all kinds of politics cis-man the importance of this election.

Now whichever side of the coin you find yourself, that’s your choice. We can still be friends and talk to each other. I find it fascinating to speak to people with a difference of opinion- you should too.

But what this election season became for us, was that it allowed us to dive deep into the issues. Understand what we each held of value and howthat was being talked about in public forums.

I wasn’t trying to convince him of anything, but I had to explain both sides and the logic behind it- which was easier said than done.

And then he would translate and explain to his mother and translate her questions back. This is how I imagine things used to be, (maybe not all the English/Chinese translation), but conversations between people that even if they disagreed on ideologies could still hold conversations in a way that was respectful and productive. Even if we still walked away believing in what we came in with.

These are the 3 things I understood on Saturday after hearing of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s victory.

1. It’s the beginning of a sense of normalcy. They may not be the best candidates- what politicians are? But they have put a stop to the show- which after so long, I’m kind of glad news will be a little more expansive, rather than the unilateral, “What’s Trump tweeting about today?”. Now their real work can begin. It reminds me of this quote from Dr MLK’s Nobel prize acceptance speech from 1964.…”

“Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression8. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right9. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path. Let me not leave you with a false impression. The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality…

Dr MLK, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech 1964

This was from 1964! How little progress we’ve made. 

2. Kamala Harris’s speech made the little girl in me cry and the grown woman in me sob. Men have been in the white house since the beginning of time, but to have a woman in the second highest position?

It’s almost a moment of we are so close we can feel it! “…all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote” she continued: “And I stand on their shoulders.”

Chills, just chills! 

3. The only way to move forward is to find that common ground again. There doesn’t need to be a repeat of Trumps’ time in office, with everyone just voting along party lines. It’s possible to have a form of government that works for all, not just the few. And it’s possible to still get work done while having a difference of opinion.

In order to do that we need to understand, that creating change is going to take more than just pretty words but real dirty work. Working across party lines and creating policy that is for the benefit of all. Maybe this might be an introductory lesson from Nisha Anand on the Radical Act of Choosing Common Ground.

Because it is a choice to work together just as much as not doing so is a choice too. 

This week’s Rose, Bud and Thorn:

Rose: I have decided that this is the week, I submit my grad application- so fingers crossed! 

Bud: There’s some new surprises coming for the holidays, I’m really excited about (more details coming soon). 

Thorn: We can finally move the news cycle to cover other things, unfortunately it might still just be Covid for a while 🥺.

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana, Founder The Way We Work

I’m moderating another Beyond BLM series for SOGAL Foundation. Hope you’ll join us!