Posted: 16 Dec. 2020 5 min.

Should we be grateful for 2020?

Topic: Resilient Leadership

In the beginning of December, hundreds of people at Deloitte Consulting gathered for an online Christmas celebration. Of course, I would have preferred that we could have met face to face, but still, it was great to see everyone – a chance to remind ourselves of the unbreakable team spirit as each of us is getting ready to say goodbye to such a crazy and turbulent year.

To get into the holiday mood, I read a modified version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” out loud – probably the world’s most famous fairy tale after Disney made ‘Frozen’. It’s also a great story of resilience, courage and the struggle against evil – and of course, the ice melts in the end.

In Denmark and around the world, we are also waiting for the ice to melt. We are waiting for times when we can meet, greet and co-create face-to-face again without this virus hanging over our heads.

However, in spite of the hardships there is also a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for my family, my friends, my home, my health. I am also thankful to be part of a workplace where we always lift each other up, where everyone comes with a can-do attitude, and where people are working so hard to make the impossible possible every day.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article  this kind of gratitude IS important. Fostering gratitude in organisations increases levels of appreciations, of self-control and productivity – while also reducing alienation from the group . Gratitude also helps us feel more positive emotions, improve our mental wellbeing, deal with adversity and build stronger relationships. In short, with gratitude we stay more alert, awake and alive.

There are undoubtedly many sources of gratitude in our lives. Here are four that I feel are particularly relevant this Christmas:

  1. Firstly, as I have repeated many times throughout these months, if there is anything that the pandemic has taught us in terms of running a business it’s that culture eats strategy for breakfast. At Deloitte, we didn’t have a strategy to handle a global pandemic, but we surely had culture. And this culture has proven to be our biggest asset. The creativity, the drive and the flexibility that our people are demonstrating on a daily basis in this extraordinary time continues to amaze me. For that I am both proud and humbled – and very, very grateful.
  2. Secondly, gratitude also comes when we stop working only for our own success but realise that we are all part of something much bigger. In Maslow’s famous ‘hierarchy of needs’, this is what’s called self-transcendence – at Deloitte, we call it making an ‘impact that matters’. To do this, we have to go beyond ourselves and start expanding our consciousness. We have to start thinking about the community, the transformation, the meaning of things or just a purpose we believe is more important than our own existence.
  3. Thirdly, gratitude can also come from simply realising that some things are outside our realm of control and that we can do nothing but to accept them. Not long ago, I wrote a blog about the ancient principles of stoicism, which were invented 3 centuries BC by the Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, later immortalised through the famous writings of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The stoics were extremely focused on dividing matters into things that can and cannot be controlled. As a consequence, the stoics will say that it is absolutely useless to wish that things were different – instead, we should navigate things as they are, learn to live with our fears and be grateful for what we have.
  4. And finally, among the many things to be grateful for is surely the boundless opportunities presented to each of us to shape this world towards a sustainable future. I see this shift every single day as companies everywhere are rethinking their business models, building new supply chains, refocusing activities and redesigning their products and services for the benefit of humanity. I don’t think any time in history has presented us with more personal choices and more opportunities to be part of a movement. Whatever innovation, transformation and leadership capabilities we have, we should all use them to build a more prosperous, sustainable society.

One day, we will look back at the corona virus – and we will realise that in the midst of all the economic hardships and personal sacrifices, it also presented us with an opportunity to grow.

When Kay and Gerda finally return home to their village after being saved from the evil Snow Queen, they strangely notice that everything stands exactly as they left it. The old clock says tick-tock and its hands are telling the time like nothing ever happened. But THEY have changed, they are no longer the same – and so will we all have changed once this long winter is over.

Merry Christmas
Martin

1 https://hbr.org/2020/11/building-a-better-workplace-starts-with-saying-thanks

2 Ibid.

More about the author

Martin Søegaard

Martin Søegaard

Partner

Martin er leder af Deloitte danske og nordiske konsulentforretning og har mere end 25 års erfaring med at rådgive danske og internationale virksomheder. Martin står i spidsen for at udvikle en konsulentpraksis på tværs af norden, der kan assistere danske og internationale virksomheder på deres mest komplekse transformationsrejser. Dette omfatter et fokus på ledelse, etablering af økosystemer samt på diversitet i faglighed og kompetence.