COVID, Crisis and Collaboration – My First Year as CEO

first-year-as-ce

Greater Vancouver Board of Trade President & CEO Bridgitte Anderson reflects on her first year at the helm.  

This month marks my first year as CEO, and what a year to step into a leadership role as CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. I was only four months into the position when a global health pandemic and resulting economic crisis hit and with that, many of my plans for the organization and my team were put on hold or thrown out the window entirely.

Drinking from the Fire hose

Any new CEO knows their first year is a steep learning curve, or as some say, drinking from the fire hose. This year has been that, and more. Through years of crisis management and crisis communication experience, I was accustomed to the pattern of a crisis, which proved helpful in the early days of the pandemic. But I quickly learned this crisis would not follow a predictable pattern. I needed to get comfortable with uncertainty, step back and listen, and engage with colleagues and stakeholders in real and meaningful ways.

Collaboration

Like many organizations, we fundamentally had to alter the way we do business, making an immediate pivot to virtual operations and remote work. Given how new I was in the position, I had to rely on others as we navigated challenges. I leaned on my colleagues and my board of directors who helped me as I was transitioning into my new role. I spent hours engaging with members, stakeholders and other business leaders. The importance of these relationships and the collaboration has been critical in understanding the impact of the pandemic on businesses and individuals, and how the GVBOT could help support them through this crisis.

Well-being of team

For many, the pandemic has impacted mental health. Feelings of anxiety, stress and being isolated have highlighted the importance of staying connected. I take the well-being of my team to heart, now more than ever. COVID has required me to dig deeper as a leader and to be even more present and transparent; to take time to check in with team members, be honest about how we are all doing and to find moments where we can have fun.

Gratitude

Thankfully, I work with some of the best and brightest in Greater Vancouver. My team is small but mighty; tireless, dedicated and passionate about what they do. They have pulled together in this crisis with creativity and innovation and they are adapting with grace and enthusiasm. I am equally grateful for my board of directors, three dozen of Greater Vancouver's best leaders. I sincerely appreciate their support in the past 12 months, along with the advice and guidance they have provided.

My first year as CEO has been a wild ride, and as the saying goes: "in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity". It certainly wasn't the year I had imagined, but the pandemic did provide an accelerated year of growth professionally and personally that may not have happened without COVID.

One-to-one with David Garofalo
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