Multiply the Good
On December 8, the night before this issue hit mailboxes and newsstands, we gathered online for a virtual celebration to reveal the innovators, change agents, builders, believers, and emerging leaders on this year’s TCB100, as well as our picks for People of the Year.
Yes, people. For the first time, we chose three: Land O’Lakes president and CEO Beth Ford, for her advocacy for rural communities and cooperative work to shape an equitable economy; U.S. Bank chief diversity officer Greg Cunningham, for making inclusion a business imperative and advocating for investment in Black-owned enterprises; and the chair of Mayo Clinic’s Covid-19 research task force, Dr. Andrew Badley, for coordinating a mass effort to understand the virus, identify the best course of treatment, and set implementation protocol.
Any one of these impressive leaders would have deserved a solo cover most years—but, of course, 2020 was not your average year. So as it came time to make our final selections for this hefty issue, we decided more is better: We need as many bold, thoughtful leaders as we can get working on a healthier, more equitable, more prosperous 2021.
We choose collaboration. We choose optimism. We choose to believe in everything our business community can accomplish in the months ahead.
“One of the things I love about the Twin Cities,” says Ford, who has lived and worked in several cities over the course of her career, “[is] there’s a desire and a willingness to come together and say, ‘We want to work together to solve these issues.’ ”
What could be more 2020 than interviewing the Land O’Lakes boss via Zoom from her home office (where, she warns, teenagers have been known to crawl past her desk to grab something in the middle of her video calls, despite the “on camera!” note she tapes to the door)? She joined her fellow People of the Year—the “Big 3,” as we’ve been calling them in our virtual newsroom—for a conversation that ranged from the pandemic economy to diversity goals to the promise of a Covid-19 vaccine. Despite the gravity of the work, they kept bringing it back to people.
“There’s been a great leveling,” Ford says of remote work. “When you’re a CEO, people often don’t see you as a full person. But there’s an intimacy in the way we see each other now. We have to give each other moments of grace.” She’s realistic enough to know that even though the way we work may be forever changed by this pandemic, travel will resume, and we’ll eventually step out of our sweatpants (sigh) and get back to offices and events. But this time at home won’t soon be forgotten. “I hope we hold on to the stuff that is good, to the things we’ve learned about ourselves.”
While the pandemic and the year’s racial reckoning have been especially hard on people of color, the fact that white people are seeing their Black colleagues as humans first has the potential to accelerate the work of inclusion, Cunningham says. “We’re starting to become first names, not titles.” And, of course, Badley’s work is all about humanity. Says the doctor, “We’re seeing each other’s vulnerabilities and strengths.”
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What an honor it was to spend an hour discussing some of the biggest challenges of our generation with three leaders who are as thoughtful as they are influential. You can watch the conversation, part of our TCB100 virtual event, at tcbmag.com/TCB100event-2020.
No, it’s not the same as clinking glasses under the holiday lights at Orchestra Hall, where we gathered last December. But in that spirit of personal connections, the virtual format allowed us to do something new this year: feature video messages from all the individuals on our TCB100 list. When we asked this elite group to turn their smartphones on themselves and share a 20-second message, something magical happened: They dared to look forward. They talked about acquisitions, innovations, and expansions. They pledged funding for BIPOC entrepreneurs. They shared goals of improving health insurance, creating new arts experiences, recruiting talent to our region, and nurturing a diverse professional community.
I asked Cunningham, in particular, what single thing he suggests we do to move forward together. “Get to know someone on a first-name basis who sees the world differently than you do,” he says. “Learn something about someone else who doesn’t just validate your worldview but might expand it.”
Let this issue be a place to start.