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Reflections on 2021: A year of recovery and discovery.

By Paula Winkler (Continued Momentum Officer, TDE)

2021 was a year of discovery for The Disruptive Element and me. It was an intriguing post-2020 journey that combineb experience of grappling with "I thought we were past this pandemic stuff" alongside a new level of open-mindedness about what our new normal could be.

One Word to Describe 2021

As I reflect, the word that keeps coming up for me is Possibility. I feel it in my head and heart to continue exploring what's possible for The Disruptive Element as a business and embracing all of what's possible for our clients.

The Biggest Surprise

In 2016 we designed a development program for women called In HER Element. Over the years, we have experienced how the program impacts the participants. It's the kind of work that gets us out of bed in the morning.

In 2021 my biggest surprise has been the growth of this program. In previous years, In HER Element represented 18-20% of our business operations. As we near the end of 2021, the program has now grown to over 50% of our business, and the number of organizations we serve overall has tripled since 2020.

I love that for The Disruptive Element, but what I love more is the experience of working day-in-day-out with cohorts of women who are taking the time to prioritize their growth and self-discovery. We get to help them re-discover a new level of confidence, find their voice, and build supportive communities that will last a lifetime. That's what feeds my soul.

Overcoming Challenges

We have had to be intentional about overcoming challenges, both for The Disruptive Element and personally.

It has been challenging and fascinating to continue to grow in our understanding of what it means to do what we do in a virtual setting. What started in March 2020 as a challenge immediately shifted to delivering coaching and development programs in a virtual world that we did not fully understand. Wondering WHEN we get to go back to face-to-face has evolved into something else entirely, and it is amazing!

As we approach March 2022, we have In HER Element cohorts that include women from all over the world. It has been commonplace to have a 12-person cohort including women from across the United States, India, Singapore, and Israel. Our clients are asking us not to "go back" to what it was but to continue to evolve our global impact. We are still wrapping our heads (and our hearts) around what is possible.

All in all, it has been a fascinating personal lesson in what it really means to have a growth mindset, as well as a lesson in resilience. I say bring it on!

How Business Shifted

A shift is such an interesting concept. The business has shifted from having a national focus to a global one. We have always believed that we could change the world by raising self-awareness one person at a time, but 2020/2021 has shifted that thinking from a big dream to a real possibility. As the silver-lining of the pandemic, not only have WE shifted, but the way we think has as well. That will change the game.

What Help Looked Like

Our work is and always has been "whole person work". Pre-2020, it was not uncommon to be asked a lot of questions about this concept. "What does this have to do with my job?" or "How is this going to help me at work?". But the combination of pandemic/health concerns, social injustice, and work-from-home challenges has changed us. In many ways, in 2021, it appears that more people are prioritizing the "whole person" and recognizing how much asking for help can change everything.

Proudest Moments

As a co-founder of The Disruptive Element, my proudest moment this year was in August. We brought our Board of Advisors together for our only face-to-face session this year. The evening before our Board meeting, we gathered the TDE team and our board at a local restaurant. To sit back and observe the room full of awesome humans and their laughter, energy, and connection made me so proud. We have built a community that is not only surviving, but we are thriving.


I am excited about what 2022 will bring, and I am open to just about anything. If there's something that 2020/2021 has taught me, it's that your future is what you make it. Let's Be Intentional!


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