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Op-Ed: In 2021, reassess, engage and commit to change

I’m guessing that very few Central Pa. residents will look at the passing of 2020 into 2021 with sentimental wistfulness or even a sense of melancholia. From the effects of the pandemic to a summer of racial unrest to a rancorous election season, 2020 may go down in history as one of the most difficult to navigate in recent memory.

But replacing one year’s wall calendar with the next does offer the opportunity to reassess positions, engage in a little self-examination and commit to change. And the worthiness of looking inward can apply to our professional lives as well, including how we communicate.

In the spirit of the coming New Year, then, consider breaking these habits that proved particularly vexing in 2020.

Be precise in your words: Please delete from your personal, professional and online messaging the notion that COVID-19 has subjected us to “unprecedented times.” It’s become hackneyed at this point, and it’s inaccurate. The world has sadly seen many diseases on par (or worse) than coronavirus.

While we’re cleaning up communication, let’s also commit to erasing (or at least limiting) the words “basically” and “literally,” especially in spoken word. These have become modern-day filler words with little effect and less applicable meanings.

Be precise in your actions: Communicating is not only what we say, write or post; it’s also what we do. Please use the New Year to sidestep the embarrassment of saying one thing (“Wear a mask!” “Avoid large gatherings!”) and doing another (posting pics of your large-family Christmas gathering; scheduling your 1Q21 board retreat as an in-person event at a golf resort). These gaffes undercut credibility that, once compromised, are difficult to regain.

Act, don’t just talk: Again, actions speak louder than words. 2020 has opened doors to business leadership on issues such as racial injustice, employee inclusiveness, environmental responsibility and personal authenticity. Don’t give only lip service to these societal movements; take a stance on them and act boldly as you see fit. Your colleagues and employees expect it of you as a leader, and your customers look for it when making purchase decisions.

As with all bad habits, correcting shortcomings – especially those related to how we communicate – will improve our professionalism today and as 2021 unfolds. 

I hope it is a good year for you, both at work and at home.

Dan Weckerly is an experienced public relations professional currently counseling a number of companies local to the Lehigh Valley. He can be reached at dweck140@gmail.com.

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