The featured selfie on this post was taken on my second United Airlines flight of the day on March 9th, 2020, one year ago today. I had flown to Newark from my home airport in Burlington, Vermont, to lead a next-day manager workshop in lower Manhattan. As soon as I fired up my laptop in the terminal, I read the message from my client: We have COVID in the building. We’ll have to do this remotely instead. Without ever leaving the airport, I was on the next flight back to BTV.
And so began my year on earth. Not a single flight. No boardrooms. No conferences. No physical meetings of any kind. We ended Seller Forum, the industry leadership gathering we’d hosted for 18 years. We closed our office and made thoughtful-yet-still-painful choices about our team.
And with humility and gratitude, I’m proud to say that we’re thriving. I wanted to use this post to reflect on some of the choices that have helped us, as I hope they can help others. (And yes, I do recognize that we have been blessed with choices not available to so many over this past year.)
We Chose Possibility. The first question we asked ourselves when the impact of the shutdown landed was What they hell do we do now? But then we asked the question that liberated us: What’s possible now that wasn’t before? Structuring sales training as you might a multi-week college course for one example. Workshopping with teams in multiple countries and time zones at once, for another. Working with one client team in the morning and a completely different client in the afternoon or evening? There's a lot we can now say yes to.
We Chose Service. It’s a core value at Upstream Group, and it empowered us to focus entirely on what our clients needed early in the pandemic. It sometimes meant we’d offer pro-bono time to leaders and teams. We didn’t keep score. As I’ve said before in this space, it’s impossible to feel sad and useful at the same time. We chose useful and it helped us say no to our own anxieties. (Well, most of them, anyway.)
We Chose Connectedness. The Group in Upstream Group has never just been about those who carry our business cards. That became even more crucial over this year. We live in an ecosystem of clients and workshop participants, of readers and coaching clients, of industry friends and trusted business partners. That is the Group and we are both part of it, you and I. Choosing to remind ourselves of our connection to something far larger than ourselves and our tiny company was, in the end, everything.
So now, each day, without leaving home, we look into the faces of dozens of industry execs, and share meaningful phone calls with managers working to better lead and care for their teams. On a dime, and on a shoestring, we’ve pivoted into the fourth complete reinvention of our company. And we’ve spent this year on earth making a difference for good people.
As I’ve often asked when raising a glass with my industry friends, Who’s luckier than we are?