January 8, 2021

Rising Above the Noise

Rising Above the Noise

What a way to start the New Year! The attack on the nation’s Capitol Wednesday was unconscionable. Like many of you, I was glad to see that, after escaping the violence, Congress stood firm, went back to work and voted to confirm President-elect Biden’s victory. Whether or not Biden was your choice, the democratic process worked. The people who perpetrated the assault no doubt consider themselves patriots, but no matter which side of the aisle you sit on, this type of assault on our government is as un-Democratic and anti-American as anything I can imagine. Just like the violent rhetoric that egged them on. Even Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, two of President Trump’s staunchest supporters, seem to have realized (perhaps a bit too late) that our Republic was bigger than any one individual.

After the devastating year we had in 2020, I’m sure most of us hoped that with vaccines finally rolling out and the legal circus surrounding the presidential election over, 2021 would start on a calmer note. Instead, we’ve had nonstop drama – the Georgia election, super-strains of COVID-19 spreading, parts of both the U.S. and Europe going into extended lockdown, and anti-mask protestors getting more aggressive.

Despite the chaos we just witnessed, things are about to get better, and it’s critically important for business leaders to keep their teams focused on the opportunities that are just around the corner. New stimulus has passed and allowed critical aid for businesses and the unemployed; health officials are figuring out ways to speed up vaccine distribution; interest rates are low; those consumers fortunate enough to have secure jobs have been stockpiling cash and have money to spend; and economists are predicting a rebound later in the year. And now that the results are in from the Georgia Senate race, more stimulus will most likely be at the top of Biden’s agenda come January 20.

It’s going to take discipline to keep our companies in proactive, not reactive, mode the next few months – as we’ve just seen, things will probably get worse before they get better – but staying focused on the bigger picture is going to be essential. Well-known companies like Microsoft, Trader Joe’s and Netflix took root during economic downturns, while strong middle-market companies gained market share. No doubt we’re going to see a whole new crop of industry leaders emerge from this one, but now is the time to decide if your business will be one of them. Businesses that simply tread water the next few months to wait out all of the chaos could lose critical momentum. None of this mess is going to magically resolve itself overnight, and leaders are going to have to learn to take crisis planning to a whole new level.

Those of us who lead companies have a big opportunity in front of us: to be a voice of reason and an island of calm in the storm. Many Americans have seen their lives upended since last March in this new era of remote work, online school, social distancing and isolation. Emotions continue to run high. As we make the collective transition back to what should be a more normal life in 2021, we, as CEOs and executives, will have tremendous influence over how successfully the process goes for our teams. The more we do these next few months to forecast and plan for a successful transition (even if we have to revise our thinking as we go along) the better.

Given what happened this week, it is very possible that we’ll see more trouble in Washington and other seats of government in the days to come. Although I’d like to think what happened Wednesday was an inflection point, we have 12 more days of uncertainty ahead of us. That doesn’t have to define 2021 – and it won’t if we come together in defense of the country and the democratic system that, while imperfect, have given many Americans opportunities that are the envy of millions of people around the world who look to the United States as a model for a better life. God bless the United States of America.

Stay safe, stay healthy and remember, we’re all in this together!