2020: A year in review

by Nov 30, 2020


  • I scraped through and positioned for a great 2021 by not having all eggs in one basket. Diversifying my brands / service offerings has been valuable. That said, they need constant attention.

  • This means that collaborative partners who you can be really upfront about your emotional energy are EVERYTHING

  • I really love doing change consulting work and it has been sad NOT to be doing that with companies – I can’t wait for that to pick up.

  • The highs can be as taxing as the lows.

  • It’s kinda great that I get creative and innovative while stressed but I NEED to create counterbalance so that I don’t burnout.
  • I really do like stillness and quietness and I really do enjoy not rushing from meeting to meeting. My intent is that will continue.
  • Our skeletal systems are not meant to be on a computer having zoom meetings all day.
  • For some-one who is not a huggy person I really miss hugs.
  • Organisational inertia is REALLY strong and fear-based economy a terrible thing.
  • We have never needed a good understanding of how our brain works more AND an ability to apply self-compassion
  • Good things still happen to people in shitty times. Soak up that joy.
  • There is permissiveness in the unprecedented.

2020: The year in review

Where on earth does one start in doing a ‘Year in Review post’ on 2020?!!

Perhaps the beginning?

January started with solid bookings for workshops and a bumper year in speaking engagements. Jillian Reilly and I were firming up plans to launch an Australia New Zealand version of the Antacara expeditions. The terrible fire season that Australia experienced gave us pause – most of the expeditions are nature based, and it seemed like Nature was a tad cranky. We thought we might wait a month or two…

February I was firming up plans for my milestone birthday – Yep, 50, I know a lady should never disclose, but hey, think I’m more the woman than lady type, and I’m all for bringing crones back into fashion.

March hits and I’m doing crisis change communication plans for the imminent cancelling of my birthday celebrations. I celebrate solo in Melbourne’s first lockdown and my closest friends awkwardly raise a glass of champagne over zoom in the evening. It was weird.

Of course, all of the workshops and speaking engagements are cancelled, and many projects put on hold. I tell those that ask – I foresee one of three paths for me: a) bankruptcy, b) just scraping through, c) a bonza year as organisations now know they need change more than ever.

April brings so many things. A secret thrill at the silence, quietness, the lack of business, coupled with a distaste of all of my extraverted friends wanting to ‘check in on me because I live alone’. Newsflash – I’m well practiced. But I get it, they needed to be checked in on. It was hard for them. And it was support for me. As much as I wanted to distance and hide in a corner.

Somewhere a little voice whispers – it’s ok if you fail now, it won’t be just you, you can blame COVID. What? Where did THAT come from….

A militant structuring of meditation, walking, good food, 8 glasses of water a day, reading real books. And a firm belief that things will be better by mid-May. Again, where did THAT come from?

Despite the thrill at the quietness and the stillness, I discover that under stress and strain of lost work I am a productivity and creative innovation demon. I bully Melissa Dark into turning our Busting Silos workshops into an e-course (she says ‘urges’, not bullying). ‘No, advertise it NOW! – We only have to be one week ahead of those enrolled!! Get the cash in now’, and so we do, it sells, it gets good reviews. Great reviews actually! Creative Innovation Demon “1” – pandemic 0.

May is much much less busy in consulting work, although there are still coaching clients to work with, and the consulting clients ongoing have got really difficult change amid the surrealness (?)/ surreality that is First Lockdown in Melbourne.

Like much of the world I am horrified by the murder of George Floyd in the US and it causes me to look around. The change profession is remarkably white-washed and while I thought I was a good anti-racism ally, I realise I have much to learn and much to unlearn and can use my position of privilege in many more effective ways. This starts six months of increased reading, talking, and focus on anti-racism. I have to learn patience. Sonja Renee Taylor talks about white supremacy being sneaky – it sure is, every time I get frustrated with a lack of response, activity, or outcome in this area I peel back my assumptions and beliefs and there’s usually a centring of whiteness. I take my cues from EbonyJanice Moore. White urgency is violence. Calm the Frahm.

After working with Ben May from The Code Co for near on 10 years (and sharing MANY a fine meal), he admits he doesn’t know what I do, and we have a chat about change management for tech vendors.

Melissa Dark, my partner in Busting Silos has a brainwave off the back of a chat with a friend who’s a senior manager trying to grapple with everything – what if we had a multi-disciplinary conversation on what managers and leaders should do? And so, we did. Tim Rayner, Hayley Lewis, Melissa Dark, and I walked into a virtual bar and worked through what needed to happen.  It was fantastic.

With the consulting work quietening significantly, I am lucky I have a second business with Lena Ross, the Agile Change Leadership Institute to pour attention and nervous energy into. And so, we do. We decide to turn our Agile Change Adventurer Workshops into a Playbook and much to our joy, we find we can also co-write together well.

June – Self-published books do have costs associated with them, so we launch three public webinars to cover the costs. Objective achieved – but it has the much more exciting outcome of testing our material with customers. Revisions are made to the playbook and the book production house is engaged.

The good folk from Banatag have me as a guest on their Morning Show. They set up rehearsal, I assure them how professional I am, these things are not needed. The night before I forget to reconnect the power source with my laptop. Five minutes into the LIVE recording the laptop goes DEAD. Oh, the embarrassment. They’re pros, they cover the 90 second gap and we’re back into it. It’s a cracker of a show as are most of their series. Do catch up with them and give them a follow.

I redo my vision board. I feel like the one I did in January is now mocking me.

 July – Lena and I enjoyed the conversations with the Agile Change webinar attendees so much we start up a regular ‘customer community’ check-ins. They’re great – and a terrific way to check in with what is needed and how we can serve. It’s now been one year of business for Agile Change Leadership Institute, but there is no party.

Re-entry to Melbourne Stage 4 lock down is hard. Optimism takes a huge hit. There are new case studies created in leadership transparency in a crisis.  My painting takes a decidedly therapeutic turn as opposed to playfulness.


August – Everything is more difficult to do in a Stage 4 lockdown and pandemic, and book publishing is no exception – but finally, oh finally, we launch the Agile Change Playbook. We have such a large backlog of pre-orders to send out that Australia Post sends them all to Sydney for sorting and about 20% of them are delayed by about 4 weeks. Forever grateful for the patience of those purchasers!

Of course, on the day because of Stage 4 lockdown we can’t be together to co-sign, toast a glass of bubbly and get them out. So, we commission Mini Me balloon sculptures from Balloon Designs by Eleni. Imagine our delight when they show up with the Mini Jen quite tall, and the Mini-Lena not so tall! 

The book gets a great reception, and we are thrilled – Thank you.

Tim, Hayley, Melissa, and I walk back into that bar again to review our advice three months on and were some-what chastened to realise we were some-what unrealistic and overoptimistic. It prompts a conversation that is more based in humility and empathy.

I finally get to do the Brene Brown Dare to Lead course with Kylie Lewis – and while I’m not sure I’m made for full day courses on zoom, I am in awe of Kylie’s facilitation and the material we cover is SOO valuable EVEN if you are a Brene Brown fan girl. It prompts a longer discussion between Kylie and I on shame and optimism in the workplace.

September – The taps slowly, so slowly start to turn back on with leadership development work as does the speaking engagements.  There are several agile leadership developments proposals in the pipeline.

During these last six months Jillian Reilly and I have continued to have conversations in the background about how to take the Exploratory Leadership expeditions to the virtual world. I am keen to do this personally, as I have been looking for a while for the vehicle that I can use to facilitate personal transformation that is not life-coaching or counselling. And so finally, we land on two potential programs BigBounds and SmallSteps. We run an Expression of Interest. Big Bounds gets up and two pilot programs are scheduled for October / November.

 I note that it has been a good 15 months since I have had a proper holiday and I know its been about 9 months since Lena has had a holiday so we institute a new flexible working program for ACLI. Each of us has rotating 4-day weekend, it means we do a Check-In on Tuesday morning, a Check-Out on Thursday afternoon and we cover for each other on the days that one of us has off. It is a GOOD thing. It feels like we are creating the company we would want to be hired into!

October – Off the success of the Agile Change Playbook Lena and I launch an online community platform for people who have bought the Playbook. Much to our delight it comes alive and members are sharing thoughts and ideas, jobs for recruiting, and templates for use. We also speak at Agile Australia.

More proposals go out, and in response to feedback from the practitioner market we run a dedicated Accelerated Learning Sprint for change practitioners that are out of work. With a flexible payment plan, and weekly coaching it was a small way we could support change practitioners. The agile leadership development proposals are being accepted and Lena and I run Leadership Disrupted to great reviews. We start an Instagram feed for ACLI, and I really enjoy creating pretty grids! 

Jillian Reilly and I kick off our two BigBound pilots with very different results – many times we feel it is a bizarre meta experiment, this is a BigBound for us, so the content and the activities are leading US through it as well. While the participant final feedback is yet to come in, we have really enjoyed running it and can see its potential as a longer program in 2021, with more dedicated focus to a theme eg BigBounds for career change, BigBounds for starting your own business, or as an inhouse Exploratory Leadership Development programs for corporates and NGOs.

I speak with the Hewlett Packard global communication and marketing team at their inhouse conference and also the Agile Community in Brazil.

I find out the home that I rent, (my haven in a pandemic) is up for sale – the rollercoaster continues. And I crumble. Last straw really.

By way of distraction from my impending homelessness (ok, slight catastrophising) I resurrect a half-written manuscript from 2018. The time is now right for ‘Change. Leader – it’s an instruction, not just a role’, a book to help leaders emerge from 2020. Fingers crossed its out early 2021.

November – feels like a blur. The easing out of lockdown brings a new anxiety and constant negotiation of boundaries with friends, peers, and neighbours. Its tricky stuff. Not the dancing in the street of V Day! I’m now keeping my home tidy enough for sales inspections, working across four brands and I’m just a bit knackered. For several years I have had a policy of honouring my natural biorhythm which seems to collapse in a heap about Dec 12 (according to Facebook memories) and down tools. 2020 has accelerated that. I’m fading fast.

The ACLI faculty present at the Department of Transport and Main Roads Working Out Loud week and launch a new product, an awesome product –  The Guided Learning sprints for 2021. More proposals go out. We record a Pecha Kucha for Agile Uprising.

 2021 could be quite the year.

December – By the end of the year the Agile Change Leadership Institute is on track to double its revenue in year two, perhaps triple. Designs have been approved for a new shiny website. 

Speaking engagements are coming in. New client proposals are going out. It’s 7 months later than when I thought it would all come back (Mid May?!), I’m closer to option B than A or C (just scrape through) but I have food in the pantry, my closest & loved ones are safe, I am safe and the prospects for 2021 might just look like Option C. I am well supported by three kick- arse collaborative business partners and the powerhouse that is BuzzPop Brands (Kate Ware). Kate informs me my highest performing tweet was about QAnon. So, there was that…

I whisper to Kate – do you think anyone will notice if I don’t have anything to post for a month? Do you think it might be good role modelling? To rest? 

She concurs.

See you in mid-January. Be kind to yourself, and your loved ones, and have the best festive season you can. You deserve it.




  1. Derek Bailey

    Fascinating, intriguing, interesting, informatitive review of your present world view.
    As always you provoke reflection and self review.
    Have a very joyous, healthy, and safe Festival Season and look forward to your erudite and ultra professional offerings in 2021

  2. Rebecca Cattran

    Great read Jen- it’s certainly been a roller coaster of a year! It makes reflecting even more important (and powerful). Thanks for sharing ?

  3. Rebecca Cattran

    Great read Jen- it’s certainly been a roller coaster of a year! It makes reflecting even more important (and powerful). Thanks for sharing ?

  4. Derek Bailey

    Greetings Dr. Jen
    Thank you for the many great and outstanding posts in 2020
    To you and yours safe, healthy, joyous Festival Season.
    And to a great adventure in 2021.

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