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  • Tara Rethore

Challenge to Change

Updated: May 5

"What doesn’t challenge you won’t change you.”

I was reminded of this statement recently as I sweated my way through a workout. I found myself challenged both physically – a good thing – and technically – a less good thing. The instructor was excellent, both knowledgeable and high-energy, while adapting on the fly to the needs of the group. Participating online via my tablet, I periodically lost sight of the instructor and the sequence of exercises. Plus, exercising in my basement with makeshift equipment diminished the quality of the experience, even while I appreciated the opportunity and convenience of this workout at home.

We’ve all been challenged in 2020.

As with my workout, the challenges have been both beneficial and destructive. Some organizations responded quickly to their customers’ needs or discovered new ways to deliver value or reach different markets. Leaders helped their communities, both locally and afar, to sustain businesses and enhance personal safety. Take Mick Arnold, CEO of Arnold Packaging: he’s covering the difference on a 10% discount on takeout orders from Baltimore’s Capital Grille, and his company co-sponsored forklift rental for the Salvation Army to deliver food supplies. Vinyl manufacturers donated disinfection supplies and PPE to health care workers nationwide. Both acted for others’ benefit simply because they could. Meanwhile, others have struggled to stay afloat, for themselves and their organizations. They’ve experienced great upheaval and devastating losses. We’ve all seen storefronts shuttered permanently and the seemingly endless rise in unemployment. The full human toll worldwide remains to be seen. Indeed: we’ve all been challenged in 2020.

Likewise, we’ve all changed.

It’s a matter of survival – personal or organizational. When confronted with challenges such as those encountered this year, we have no choice: we change. We adapt systems, build bridges, and connect people. Or, we hunker down, allowing the worst to pass or focusing intently on what’s most urgent and necessary. We do what needs to be done. Choice comes later. It’s in deciding whether the change is positive or negative, lasting or transient. Yes: we’ve all changed.

What will we take forward or leave behind?

With a new year, we have new opportunity. We can decide what we’ll take forward and what we’ll leave behind. Reflect on the various changes wrought by circumstance. Some will be personal changes – perhaps to your home life, those you love, or how you face the world. Others may have involved your business foundation, your leadership or ways of working, or relationships with your teams, suppliers, customers, etc. Be explicit about what’s changed or different and the impact of that change.

Next, consider three things:

  • Of all the ways in which I and my organization have changed, which ones most benefited our customers and staff?

  • Which changes diminished the strength of our organization’s purpose or the value we add?

  • Which changes might take us forward, perhaps with further adaptation or augmentation?


Describe the actions you’ll take to embed the good things and jettison those that detract from your business and make it harder to achieve your business objectives.

We’ve all been challenged in 2020. Likewise, we’ve all changed. Going forward, will we challenge the change or accept the challenge to change?