COVID-19 has challenged all organizations, and we will live with the implications for some time. And during that time, we can still make choices that will lead to our best year yet.
To help you prepare yourself, we have outlined a number of strategies, practices, and tactics that you can use to prepare yourself for a successful year ahead.
Revisit the Rules
If you want to make changes, think about the rules — but in a fresh way. We all operate our businesses and lives based on a set of rules that we have created or adopted. Some of those rules need to be mastered, some need to be transcended, and others simply need to be broken.
Ask yourself which rules are no longer serving you, your team, or your organization — those ones are begging to be broken and will help to propel you forward. Collectively, we need to develop the wisdom to think beyond the ways we’ve been doing things and to identify new opportunities that simply didn’t exist before. For example, many organizations have resisted having their teams work from home for years and today find themselves fully embracing the idea, both in response to COVID-19 but also as a long-term strategy.
Focus Where It Really Matters
Your organization’s success flows from you. You can’t expect the organization to make your year better for you. As a leader, it’s your job to provide your business with the guidance and leadership it needs to grow, develop, and transform. And the same is obviously true for ourselves, and it’s essential that we take full accountability for that.
Each of us needs to demonstrate full ownership of ourselves and our actions as we step into the year ahead. And so, the question then is, say, what are the actions that we can take? Where do we focus? Where do we go in order to bring that leadership that’s going to let that really perform at an individual level as a leader or at an organizational level?
We encourage you to focus on the fundamentals, the basics. The word “fundamentals” refers to the foundation, to the origin, to that which is primary, that which comes first. They refer to the most essential things in terms of who we are and why we started the journey that we’re on. We need to get back to those so we can eliminate the drift that inevitably happens over time.
This is the perfect moment to get really clear about what is the core essence of your organization and what is core for yourself. You need to be clear in your own mind about what those are. When we know what they are and why they matter, they give us the strength we need to weather any storm — and together, we’ve weathered a few this year.
Operate Beyond Circumstance
As leaders, our job is not to be owned by the context or circumstances in which we find ourselves. Instead, we need to ask, “How will we choose our way through this situation?”
The last year has been full of “circumstances.” We’ve experienced a global pandemic, had economies shut down, seen curfews enacted, watched political violence and peaceful protests. We’ve seen schools close around the world and struggled to care for family without being able to be with them. All of this is on top of the regular business issues we address day in and day out.
We’ve witnessed some leaders who have been knocked around by each of these issues and simply sought to respond while they fight to get back to normal. The challenge is that there might not be a “normal” to return to. While it’s critical to maintain as much stability in operations as possible, it’s essential for leaders to think beyond the current circumstances and continue to lead the organization in alignment with its Mission, Vision, and Values.
People talk a lot about business ownership, and they throw the word “ownership” around a lot, but it’s got a very specific meaning. The least powerful form of ownership is thinking because you signed a document and you now own a business, that something happened. Nothing happened. All you did was sign your name. It’s what we do after our signature that really defines our understanding of ownership.
Ownership is happening when leaders choose to fully own all of the problems and issues of their organization, regardless of where they came from. Today, leaders are saying, “I own the problems that COVID-19 has brought. These are mine.” And this is true about whatever comes into the orbit of the organization. That is true ownership. It doesn’t matter how it got there; it doesn’t matter who did it, whether it’s fair, unfair, just or unjust. As leaders, it belongs to us.
This is true at a personal level as well. We need to ask whether we are actually owning ourselves and our lives, or are we blaming other people, circumstances, or our past for the current state of our lives. This matters deeply as it affects both the overall quality of life we’re experiencing as well as our ability to lead.
Central to all of this is the notion of “owning the day.” Some people will use the language “winning the day,” but ownership is actually more powerful. Owning the day starts from the moment you wake up. You literally begin to choose how you’re going to wake up and live those first moments of each day. This isn’t a race to get up earlier than everyone else. It’s a challenge — to you personally — about the choices you’re making. And then, bit by bit, you expand that ownership to ask how you’re going to live each part of your day — regardless of the circumstances.
Ask Better Questions
Making a shift in your leadership and your behaviour requires asking a different — or better — set of questions. Here are some that will help you as you bring greater focus and impact into the year ahead.
What do you need to stop doing?
We get so focused on what we need to do that we don’t often ask what we need to stop doing. Another way to approach this is to ask, “What do I need to let go of? What is no longer serving me?” It’s important to ask these questions with focused intention and to take the time you need to think through those answers carefully.
As you answer this question and take action, you’ll find it frees up the time and energy you need to do the things that matter most. Clients tell us how it frees up brain space for them.
Who do you fearlessly need to become?
Not just who you should become but who you must fearlessly become. And the operative words here are must and fearless. This question challenges the kind of leader you are because if you want your organization to change, you have to change first. If you want this to be your best year, then you have to grow your leadership. The reason we include fearless in this question is because we don’t want fear to be leading the way. Drop the fear, and make the change.
What are you most grateful for?
This isn’t just a feel-good question. This question challenges how deliberate and intentional you are being in your thinking. How we look at things determines what we see. For example, think of how you look at your team. Are you looking at the excellence they bring, at their commitment, at their drive, or are you looking at the mistakes they made, at their shortcomings? What are you looking at?
By asking questions such as, What am I grateful for? What am I grateful for as it relates to my clients? What am I grateful for in my life? What am I grateful for in my team?” you come to realize that no matter what situation you’re in, you can find the good, you can find the possible, and you can find the opportunities.
Strengthen Your Daily Practices
We have all heard the expression that “We’re the sum of our habits,” so it’s worth identifying habits that will strengthen us as leaders in the year ahead. It’s these habits, these practices that lead to Mastery.
Mastery is created through the deliberate, focused repetition of an action or set of actions. It’s deliberate, and it is purposeful. Here are some actions you can take as you build your Mastery.
Journal. Just do it.
Journaling comes up regularly as a practice to embrace in order to enhance your leadership. Its power emerges from a few things.
Journaling helps us observe ourselves and our circumstances. When we start writing things down, we’re forced to clarify our thoughts, and that helps us test our thinking and our behaviour. For some, it’s an opportunity to work through their reactions and feelings about the day. In many ways, it serves as a powerful mechanism for personal reflection. It’s a way of looking at what happened today and deciding what it meant. It’s a moment to pause and ask, “What was that?”
Journaling helps us observe our actions and our results. We can see what impact we had and if we want to continue in that way or find better ways to do things. Journaling lets us be deeply honest with ourselves about what’s really happening in our world, in our lives, in our performance, in our behaviour, and in others as well.
If we’re not prepared to look at what’s really happening in our lives or in our businesses, we’re not going to make any tangible progress. We’re going to keep plowing the same field over and over.
Continuing to expand the range and depth of our thinking is essential, and reading is a highly effective way to do both. Whether you read them or listen to them, books keep expanding your horizons and testing your assumptions. Not sure what to read? You can start with a book that dovetails with this topic perfectly and read “Tiny Habits” by B.J. Fogg. He’ll help you understand the most effective way to build your habits. If you have employees, “Get a Grip” by Wickman and Patton is a great resource.
If you really want to transform your leadership and your life, then embrace feedback like you never have before in your life. It’s not enjoyable. It’s not fun. It’s all uncomfortable, and it should be. Feedback pushes us to places we’ve been hesitating to go. And it’s where all our growth lives.
To do this, surround yourself with people who will speak the truth gently and with real care. Care for you and care for the organization. You will require the courage to embrace their feedback. When you feel that discomfort try and relabel it. Instead of thinking, “This is uncomfortable, so I need to make this stop,” redefine it and think, “This is uncomfortable. A door is opening for me.”
And then the decision is, do you want to go through the door or not? And sometimes we trip on the door, fall down, or can’t find the doorknob. We’re no good at it. We’re clumsy for a while. But bit by bit, we start to figure that out, and we’re able to do make those changes.
Combine this with your journaling to help you think through why you’re resisting some feedback and embracing other feedback. Document that journey for yourself and for others.
If you want to have a great year, then you need to listen deeply.
Listen to what your clients are saying, your team is saying, and listen to what your business is saying. Imagine if your business was sitting in the chair next to you, what is it trying to tell you? We need to be willing to listen and then we actually have to listen. We have to be willing to hear things that are frustrating, that are difficult, and sometimes things that hurt. But if you have that courage, you will gain a level of feedback and insight that simply wasn’t available to you previously and it gives you the opportunity to make better decisions that weren’t even possible before.
Where to Start
Right now is the perfect time to regroup and reassess. Honestly, you can take that step at any moment; it doesn’t matter when you’re reading this. If you’re working with a coach, revisit your fundamentals. Revisit the Rhapsody Business Assessment. Take a fresh look at your business, get really critical, and ask, “What’s actually happening here?”
One of the great questions you can ask yourself and discuss with your coach is, “What am I pretending not to see?” It’s a great way to confront issues that you’ve been keeping in your peripheral vision and not confronting head-on.
If you don’t have a Coach, you can go through a powerful process with us that will give you a clear snapshot of where you are, what your priorities need to be for the year, and to outline an Action Plan for the first 90 days. From there, you can start to answer a series of critical questions such as “What other support do I need? Who do I need in my world, my life, and my business in order to drive things forward?