Looking forward to 2021
This year has been one for the ages and the challenges of 2020 have come with some lessons worth sharing. As years come to a close, we often reflect on our successes, as well as the things we could have done differently, in an effort to plan for brighter days ahead. Perhaps most emphatically, the pandemic thrust upon us a need to remember how fragile our lives and livelihoods can be at any time. It inspired a sense of gratitude for the blessings we do have and the need for collective action as we support one another in tackling our toughest problems.
As we prepare for the holidays, we might use the familiar example of Santa Claus and how he organizes his team of elves to produce gifts that make the season of giving magical for our children. He is a detailed steward, focusing all year on his impossible task, keeping a list, checking it twice—strongly believing in not only his mission but products that he knows will mean so much to those who depend on him. It’s total commitment from the whole team.
No business leader whose heart is still stirred by the Miracle on 34th Street—or the example of Rudolph overcoming obstacles and odds—can miss the metaphor and message in Santa’s business model. In the end, outcomes matter and growth always comes after adversity.
I have watched in awe and admiration as countless business leaders have navigated the challenges brought by COVID-19. Many shifted to make medical devices or personal protection products to ramp up our supply chain. Others buckled down to ensure the welfare of clients, customers, and employees, despite the cost to them — all proving that great leaders examine needs, challenges, the marketplace, and creative alternatives to find ways for their team to add value where gaps exist.
The example of these leaders has truly resonated. For example, the state organized the Economic Response Task Force, a herculean effort to develop a plan to provide direction and actionable strategy during the pandemic.
The product of their work became the Utah Leads Together Plan and the statewide Stay Safe to Stay Open campaign. These efforts were viewed as a model at the national level as we sought to balance the economic and health imperatives, demonstrating in the process that great leaders seek balance in the risk-reward matrix.
This year also happened to be an election year, and we got to see citizens step forward to serve and present ideas to shape our future. Utah is fortunate to have so many capable people committed to public service. Some of the ideas presented revolved around making Utah a corporate destination, showcasing our talent, and creating a rural renaissance with work and recreation.
While competing visions are tested by both sides, I applaud our leaders for “going public” with their ideas and solutions. To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” Overcoming objections from opposition is not an easy task. Great leaders will always be willing to step forward and lay their vision before people for consideration and refinement.
We have collectively lived through an inflection point in our history, and I am confident that we will learn more individual lessons as we reflect on our past and tackle those challenges that will teach and transform us in the days ahead. And as we prepare to celebrate the holidays, let’s remember that practicing gratitude, being kind, communicating effectively, and helping one another will never be out of fashion. These coupled with the opportunities that continued challenges will bring will guide us in charting a brighter course in the coming new year.