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December 16, 2020

What 2020 has taught me about innovation and leadership

The year is coming to an end and there is so much to reflect on. These last 12 months have given every company a unique mix of challenges that none of us could have fully prepared for. At Champion, we’ve experienced drastic changes in our business and a refining of our priorities, but through it all I’ve been amazed by how we’ve been able to adapt and innovate all while keeping our values at the heart of what we do.

2020’s Impact on Our Business

 

COVID has affected our business in major ways. A pretty good portion of our clients in hospitality and events had to suspend or cancel security coverage because their own businesses were shut down, while we also had clients in the supply chain and grocery stores that increased coverage because of the higher demand on their services. 

 

The nature of our business also shifted. Our guards became front line workers in a pandemic. They required PPE and were responsible for temperature checks and ensuring health and safety adherence at their sites. At grocery stores, we had to put new policies into place to strengthen loss prevention. In the midst of these changes, our recruitment efforts also took a hit from the enhanced unemployment benefits.

 

COVID takes the cake for 2020, but there were other serious issues we had to deal with, too. Political unrest and racial injustice have affected our cities. Protests and riots stemming from those things have required additional security response. But just as importantly, 62 percent of our employees are Black and racial injustice is something they’ve experienced their entire lives. As events around the country have brought that issue to the forefront, we had to make sure that as a company we were addressing it foundationally.

 

Those challenges have affected our bottom line, processes and procedures. They’ve all required a very high level of adaptation and innovation and neither of those things happen without strong leadership.

What I’ve Learned about Innovation

 

I’m sure you’ve all heard the old proverb: “Necessity is the mother of Invention.” It has its roots in the works of Plato who said, “Our need will be the real creator.” Essentially, what humans have known for thousands of years is that if circumstances require us to innovate, we will do so. This year has proven that over and over.

What 2020 has done is forced people who are not naturally wired for innovation to come up with new ideas and do things differently. Whether that looks like our company sourcing and producing its own PPE or employees juggling working from home with supervising remote schooling, everyone has had to adapt

 

What I’ve discovered is that innovation comes easily if you make space to brainstorm, think outside of the box and let go of the way things have been done. You have to make room for change. 

How I’ve Changed as a Leader

 

This year has been full of obstacles for our company and its people. I’ve learned that the way to lead a team and keep them engaged and inspired even amidst chaos is to make sure we address the fear and uncertainty that your employees are feeling.

 

“Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.” - Brené Brown

 

This concept is one I learned last year when I got to spend a few days with Brené Brown. I learned that I’ve messed up in the past when I would try to lead through changes without addressing the feelings that came along with those shifts. It was perfect timing because this year absolutely required that I put into practice all that I learned. 

 

I’ve made sure to make space for people’s fears and feelings and to listen when they come to me with them. Earlier this year I started sending out company-wide videos talking about how hard times were and the challenges of working from home. I talked about my struggles and people responded with their own stories. It created a connection that goes beyond just pushing people to be productive.

 

I’ve tried my best and I’m sure I haven’t done it perfectly, but that’s been a major focus and one I certainly intend on keeping post-COVID. I think my commitment to that idea will make me a better leader forever.

 

One of the joys of this job, and this company in particular, is that people don’t typically look to the security guard industry for thought leadership and innovation. That allows us to differentiate ourselves. If you want to learn more about how we at Champion are using these ideas to make our business stronger, sign up for our monthly newsletter using the form at the bottom of the page.

Jason P. Carroll
President

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