It’s been our tradition in the first blog of a new year to write a bit of a look-back at the previous year and give an update of where we stand in our mission, which you joined by your participation in LEAD 24/7. So how do I even begin to write about 2020 and share thoughts about moving into 2021? 2020 was so disorienting that we won’t be able to write about it with any perspective for several years, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Our first blog posting of 2020 was filled with momentum and excitement, and a mention that we were two years ahead of our vision to reach 1,000 West Michigan alums by 2027.

Now when think back to mid-March of 2020, I’m thankful that we are still in business and fully intact. In fact, not only is our team fully intact, it has grown by one more amazing member, who I will share more about in another post.

And while 2020 was, for several months, all about survival, thanks to some amazing customers we’ve not only survived—I’ve experienced some significant growth in at least five different areas. One was to test a key lesson we teach by acting on what we believe (things we know to be true but can’t prove). Early in the pandemic nothing felt certain, so all of my actions felt like acting on my beliefs.

Another was to be calm and trust that things would work out, even if I didn’t understand how. For me personally, this was much easier to do based on my deep belief that God is real, loving, and won’t leave us no matter what happens.

A third way I grew was when I learned about a human tendency in times of uncertainty to make predictions, which are not very reliable, versus learning to make promises, which can be kept regardless of what happens. I believe this can help a team hold on to something certain when everything else feels uncertain. (And you may recall a belief of mine that uncertainty is the greatest cause of fear in most people. Not knowing can be worse than knowing a terrible outcome).

I was so thankful that I had saved money for a coming recession, knowing it would happen one day, and was able to promise my team that we could survive for six months, even if all customers scaled back their people-development budgets. This promise helped all of us navigate the anxious spring months with less fear.

A fourth thing I learned was about taking real risks. I had learned earlier in my career that there are great opportunities that emerge during tough times if you look for them. It was because of this previous lesson that I saved money, which allowed us to make two exciting moves in such a difficult year: We leased a great second space in Grand Rapids that will serve us well as we grow, and we were able to bring in a new team member who will be amazing for our future.

You’ll learn more about both of these moves in coming weeks. My reason for mentioning them here is because they are risky AND I believe each will pay off in a big way for our team and our mission over the coming years.

The last thing I learned has already been mentioned, but bears repeating. I was able to experience benefits of conservative financial management. As mentioned above, holding back some of our earnings over the previous six years with the belief that one day we would face a recession, allowed me to have the funds needed when one hit. Of course, I had no idea that it would hit almost over night. I dread the thought of what would have happened had I not had cash reserves as 2020 unfolded.

As I look back at 2020, I’m very thankful for our Leading by DESIGN team and the ways we have grown over the years. Living out what we teach really helped us get through 2020!

As we’ve done in past years, I encourage you to look over our Alumni Leadership Audit so you can give an honest self-assessment of your ongoing growth as a leader.

We’re eager to engage with you in 2021 through some exciting Zoom offerings and in-person gatherings. In the meantime, have a great new year!

Lead well this week!

Image by Archives New Zealand. Used under CC by 2.0 license.