The year 2020 was filled with unexpected and unprecedented challenges that most of us were unprepared for, requiring us to pivot as we attempted to adapt to our new conditions. My business was no exception.

I started 2020 with $500,000 already committed to my business from clients — my business that relied on in-person trainings and international travel. I had just published a new book, developed and refined my programs to be more effective than ever and my expertise was being acknowledged and appreciated in big ways. I was ready to glide through the year.

But of course, that didn’t happen. Within two weeks, the profits I was set to make in 2020 disappeared and I was left with a program I couldn’t offer anyone due to strict stay-at-home restrictions. I was stressed, discouraged and, at times, paralyzed.

The Pivot

I had a choice to turn my business virtual or to shut it down. I had major apprehensions about going virtual with my offerings. First of all, I’m not that comfortable with technology. Second, I wasn’t sure I could create the same meaningful connection and participation in a virtual format that was required for the success of my programs. My reputation is based on the results I get with my clients, and I wasn’t about to sacrifice the quality of what I had to offer.

2020: A Year Of Learning

So many organizations and their employees proved resilient during this time of massive change that none of us saw coming, and some even learned how to make businesses and cultures stronger. Some important lessons emerged:

• We had to start caring more about people’s personal lives than about keeping the business and personal life completely separate as in years past.

• The fear that people wouldn’t be accountable at home was irrelevant as employees demonstrated greater efficiency and productivity during this time of working from home.

• Creativity and innovation improved as people had to find new ways to stay connected with their customers and new ways to coordinate and collaborate cross-functionally.

2021: The Choice

In this new year, we have a choice to return to the past or transform for a better future. You may think you can go back to normal when you return to the office, but that has already become the “old” paradigm.

The real opportunity for those leaders with the courage to make it happen is to take all of the learning from the past year and develop a new, transformed reality that will drive even greater success for your business and your people.

When creating a transformational change, there are three non-negotiable elements:

1. Creating an aligned future “picture of success”

2. Agreeing on and implementing new team habits of execution

3. Measuring results

The B State Picture Of Success

So often organizations make the mistake of looking to the past or the present to make decisions, but this is inefficient and can hold you back from transformation. You want to look ahead to where you’re going, just like your GPS does when guiding you to a destination.

To make 2021 truly transformational, we must figure out where we’re going and what it will look like when we get there. A picture of success is not a lofty vision statement, but a practical agreement about the state of your business and the new mindset and behaviors necessary to achieve and sustain it. Ask yourself the following questions:

• How will leaders and teams function differently to communicate better and execute effectively in what I call this new “breakthrough state” or B State?

• How will your organization make decisions, lead and respond to change and develop future leaders differently than ever before?

• How will your connection to customers, employees and suppliers look more like partnerships than ever before?

Your answers to these questions will be your north star.

This picture of success represents your 2021 B State, but creating a vision, strategy and goals without changing the way you execute and deliver on those outcomes keeps you stuck in the past. 2021 is the year of refreshing old habits and team execution to gain velocity, higher performance and overall better results.

B State Team Habits Of Collective Execution

If you want to transform your organization, you must transform your collective habits, not just individual performance and goals. Just as talented and skilled professional athletes or musicians would never perform without practicing together, organizations shouldn’t assume individual skills will be sufficient for results-oriented execution. For an organizational team to work well together, they must agree to and abide by collective habits based on their picture of success, the outcomes they want to achieve and the natural constraints of your business. Without these habits, execution breaks down, communication is lost and teamwork suffers.

In going virtual with my business, we had to change our collective habits around documenting client results, preparing for client engagements and coordinating consultants and production, as well as change our overall communication strategy and deliverables with clients. All of these habits changed significantly in our new virtual world.

Measuring Results

While most companies track both trailing and leading measurements to manage their business, these indicators are too slow and won’t tell you soon enough when you’re off track.

Prior to any measurable indicator is the “collective execution” to achieve those measurements or results. This involves a combination of defined processes and habits of behavior agreed upon by interdependent teams of people as discussed in our previous section. If your execution is off-track, breakdowns will occur. It’s more important to spend time as a team measuring and sensing the effectiveness of your execution than simply looking at various metrics.

In summary, 2021 will be one of the most exciting years for the visionary leader who is willing to take the time to learn from 2020. Get counsel from customers and employees alike to gain perspectives and develop innovative ways to transform your business and culture from the stale status quo to a truly refreshed and thriving business.

(This post originally appeared on Forbes as well as on the B State Blog.)


  • Mark Samuel is a transformative leader with over 30 years of experience in the business world. He has helped hundreds of companies overcome stagnation, transform their businesses, and eliminate toxic work cultures to increase profits, morale, and customer experience. Mark trains leaders on how to implement sustainable changes within just one or two months--a revolutionary approach that he's pioneered with his team at IMPAQ. Mark writes frequently for Forbes and Thrive Global, and hosts the Conscious Leadership with Mark Samuel podcast. He is the author of 7 books, including his newest book, the USA TODAY / Wall Street Journal Bestseller "Reimagine Teams".