Many business leaders are entering 2021 feeling rather hesitant, concerned and uncertain. 2020 was challenging in many ways and I believe that many business owners and managers had the fight of their lives to keep their businesses afloat and to keep their teams focused, motivated and connected last year. There was a lot of gymnastics going on with everyone trying to be lean, agile, flexible, to pivot and rolling with the punches all at the same time. At the end of 2020, many businesses consisted of exhausted leaders, tired teams, disconnected relationships and non-existent cultures.
Now that 2021 has started, I wonder how everyone is feeling? The calendar shifting to a new year doesn’t automatically erase the fatigue, anxiety and stress from the previous year. Neither does it simply usher in all things good and positive. I also believe that business leaders who thought that the worst was over at the end of 2020 are in for a wake-up call. The storm is long, the sea is deep, we are tired and we have a long journey ahead of us. So, what do we do when our teams are looking to us for some motivation and direction, and most of all, hope, and we are feeling exhausted, defeated and uninspired?
Here are some things that I am putting into place in my own business and I thought I would share them, in case they can help you in your business, in some small way –
- I am practicing self-care as a priority. At the end of 2020, I was emotionally shattered. We all know that we can’t pour from an empty cup but this doesn’t stop some of us from trying. I literally ran around like a lunatic from daily huddles, to webinars, to zoom meetings. I don’t know about you, but I tried really hard to be intentional, empathetic and resourceful. The problem with leaving comfort zones is that it is exhausting work! I have made some decisions about what I will and won’t do in 2021. This will create capacity for me. I want to be in a position to think clearly and make good quality decisions and be able to be creative when it comes to ideas, strategy and identifying opportunities. I am also working more from home so that I can have uninterrupted focus time. I don’t think the open-door policy 24-7 is always good. I love that saying “How can they miss you if you don’t go away?”. Have some time to be yourself and not always the leader and to be uninterrupted. 2021 needs to be a year of trusting our teams to deliver what we all know they can.
- I am being assertive and saying what I mean and meaning what I say. It just takes 5 seconds of courage to ask someone if you can have a quick chat with them. Don’t leave a meeting without having achieved clarity on expectations and a complete understanding of what each party needs. This means I am going to be pretty unpopular at times, but on the positive side, I will have a very happy colon.
- I am going to plan in pencil. Last year, I kept on wanting to plan events, meetings and activities far in advance and I ended up doing double the work by having to cancel or postpone many things. The days of the 5-year business plans have passed. My plan for 2021, to save myself from the frustration of seeing plans get destroyed, is to plan for a maximum of 8 weeks at a time and to be comfortable that those plans are in pencil. I think the key to being a happier leader is to embrace the uncertainty of the situations we find ourselves in. I think we also need to have Plan B, Plan C and Plan D up our sleeves.
- I am focusing on smart work as a brand-new habit. I used to pride myself on the fact that one of my favorite mottos was “Be humble. Be hungry. Be the hardest working person in the room”. That quote has been relegated to the bottom drawer for 2021. I don’t believe I will be effective and successful by just being hard working. I am going to have to box clever, focus on getting the maximum buck for the minimum energy input as I realised in 2020 that energy is indeed a scarce commodity. I am the habitual to do list queen with a list longer than my desk but I have shifted my focus to asking myself a few questions –
- What is my purpose today?
- If I prioritise this activity today, will it push the lever the most?
- Is this the best use of my time right now?
- Is there anyone else in the company who can do it?
- Is this me operating in my area of “genius”? Is it work that I am good at and that I love?
- How can I work better with my network? The answer here is not to ask who can help me but who can I help.
- What am I going to say No to today?
- What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this task?
- I am working on building culture. I don’t know how your business fared but many people that I coached or did online motivational talks for complained that they felt disconnected, they were working in silos and communication was poor. Last year was difficult for staff. People experienced trauma, extreme change, uncertainty and feared losing their jobs. In my company, my team stoically put their noses to the grindstone and kept going, regardless. This strategy is not necessarily sustainable. All work and no play makes us dull, bored and listless and kills our creativity. My plan for 2021 is a series of themes, activities, incentives and celebrations that will result in destroying any boredom and mundaneness that crept in last year. Do you have themes for the month? Have you decided what you are celebrating this year? How are your people going to have fun? It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take the whole day. It can be a small gift, an online speaker, dress-up day or a random celebration. Try to listen out for laughter in your company. Be afraid when there is silence.
I wish you all the best for the year ahead! If you would like to find out more about getting coached or mentored or booking me for an online motivational session for your team, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.