CONSIDER THESE 5 INSIGHTS TO YOUR LEADERSHIP APPROACH IN 2021

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.

TAYLOR SWIFT

If you read my recent blog, “Goal Setting Questions Determine the Path Forward,” then you understand the benefits of putting together well-described goals by following the questioning process below.

Xwhere you are now, or your current reality
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish line
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish line

Well, I thought I would piggyback on that topic and share how I will approach 2021. Sure, I have put together 4 goals for 2021. However, in the last few days, I’ve had my inner self (vision) sitting on one shoulder and my outer self (reality) sitting on the other shoulder. Both gave me positive and annoying feedback on how to approach the new year. I know, it sounds weird, but this content came from them.

Being a leader in 2020 has been challenging, but we should be amazed because we have gotten through it. However, as a leader, you should be thinking of your approach in 2021. Things have changed, things will change, and new challenges will come in to play. So we need to embrace this reality and prepare to answer the question;

How do you approach your leadership in these times?

2020 didn’t turn out anywhere near where I thought it would. I hadn’t even the slightest clue the economy would fall, jobs would be lost, and travel would be minimal. I’ve said this before, my daughter’s family moved to Athens, Greece, in January, and we haven’t been able to go and visit. They haven’t been able to come back to the U.S., and my wife and I had to go through Christmas without our grandkids (we face timed). Our hearts were broken! 

I don’t expect 2021 to turn back to how it was before the crisis, but I think we need to think differently and be willing to take a different approach in our leadership. Don’t get me wrong, necessary leadership skills are still valid, but our approach must embrace the current conditions and embrace change. 

Leaders who lead in the real world tend to find success than leaders who lead in a world that doesn’t exist. No one knows the future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. And while I have no superior insight into the future than you do, I have identified these 5 insights as my approach to 2021. 

1.     Uncertainty

The future is uncertain. Reality says that has been true since the beginning of time. Right now, nothing is predictable. Think about it, a new government and a continual crisis, who knows what will take place.

Leading through uncertainty—requires a whole new skill set. With the future being uncertain, you must lead with agility and flexibility. Those two attributes will allow you to identify change and make the necessary adjustments. 

2. Instability

Uncertainty is one thing. It removes your ability to see what’s ahead.

Instability is different. Instability means the present circumstances are volatile and unsteady. The most effective way to lead through instability is to identify the most traction and utilize your resources to maximize the outcome. The best way to create future momentum is to pour resources into anything that’s producing current momentum. That’s why restaurants are beefing up takeout and drive-thrus. 

In these unstable times, when you find momentum, keep fueling it. And keep the options open.

3.     Economic Unknown

People are spending like there’s no tomorrow and saving money at historic highs. Others on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum go broke. Who knows what’s going to happen next? And the U.S. presidential election throws an extra measure of unpredictability into the mix.

How will I approach the economic strangeness in 2021? I will prepare for a season of savings and charity. You can’t give what you don’t have.

4.     Opportunity

Opportunities always exist in a crisis. Innovation is born out of a crisis. A crisis is an accelerator of new ideas. The current crisis has generated changes such as; the emergence of the home as the new hub for fitness, schooling, work, shopping, entertainment, and church. The very obstacle you’re fearing might be the most incredible opportunity you’re facing. It all depends on how you approach it.

Obstacle or opportunity? The future belongs to those leaders who take advantage of opportunities. 

5.     Internationally Grow Yourself

I saved the most important until last, but the best thing you can do is deepen your personal growth for the year ahead. John Maxwell said, “We see the world NOT as it is, BUT as we are.”

I think the best things in life won’t ever come to us (believe me, I’ve approached much of my life that way). No, what I’ve found is I need to grab them. I don’t expect them to roll downhill to me, but instead, I have to climb the hill and grab them.

Every problem or crisis introduces one to themselves. It brings out the best and worse of us. 

The number one catalyst in growth is identifying growth areas. In life, it’s not what we get that makes us valuable. It’s what we become in the process that brings value to our lives. Action is what converts human dreams into significance. It brings personal value that we can gain from no other source.

So how do we intentionally grow ourselves? Here you go.

  • Take action
  • Re-affirm your values
  • Evaluate your character
  • Experience your inner fulfillment
  • Read books 
  • Listen to various podcast
  • Identify a mentor
  • Consider being coached 

If you want to grow yourself, your growth will thrive in these difficult times. Invest your time and effort to grow yourself intentionally. The results will be astounding!

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CHANGE…..DOESN’T HAVE TO HURT!

Let’s face it; change can be both difficult and frustrating. People like doing what they’ve always done and they don’t want anyone to tell them different! For those of you who utilize social media, I think you’ll agree with me that each time Facebook changes its layout; there is a general sense of panic from its loyal users. Updates are meant to act as an improvement to the program, but this is often overlooked. People don’t want to put forth an effort to become acquainted with a new Facebook layout; they simply want it to look as it did before. This same mentality can be translated into the workforce, change is often viewed as terrifying experience and for some, it takes a considerable amount of energy to accept unfamiliar territory.

However, change is to be expected. In fact, if it doesn’t happen, it can have a negative impact on business and professional growth. On the other hand, change doesn’t have to hurt. Our personal leadership will set the tone and the expectation for others to follow. I believe that if we have the right attitude and we take a humble approach, change will become easier. Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Our leadership attitude, along with how we approach people and situations will create a lasting effect on our efforts and end results.

I often recall (and remind myself) of the constant resistance that I experienced when I first began to implement changes within my current company. It seemed as if everything that needed modifications, often required long and tedious conversations beforehand. Now that some of the accepted changes have occurred within the company, I occasionally hear employees comment about how it has directly related to their positive attitude. The brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will never get bent out of shape.” As I have identified and collaborated with other employees, I have realized that not only did the employees need to be flexible and open, but so did I. In fact, I found that my flexibility to push and pull back has made the path of change better. Not easier, but better.

As leaders, we must find ways to overcome resistance instead of being smothered by it. I came across these six steps in a blog by the John Maxwell Company staff writer. They are used everyday and I have found them useful in ensuring that we, as employees, stay the course.

  1. BE AWARE THAT MOTION CREATES FRICTION– Galileo discovered that moving objects create friction whenever they interact with a rigid surface. Leaders launch forward motion, but employees stubbornly resist change because they dislike uncertainty. Stay the course; be aware that you will encounter friction with new ideas and or suggestions.
  1. REMEMBER THE 20-50-30 PRINCIPLE– As rule of thumb, 20% of people will support change, 50% will be undecided and 30% will resist. Casey Stengel said this, “The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate your guts away from the guys who haven’t made up their minds yet.” Don’t try and sooth the 30%. All you will do is stir up a hornet’s nest. Instead, seek to convince and “woo” the 50% sitting on the fence. At the same time, encourage the 20% who are likely to help convince others and lead the drive for change.
  1. PROVIDE A CLEAR TARGET– I endure great pain to take long hikes and steep climbs to enjoy the scenic views from the top of a mountain or bluff. Without this reward, would I be so inclined to huff and puff and feel my legs burn? Probably not. A leaders duty is to remind employees where we are heading and what lies around the bend. Without a sense of purpose or vision, employees will loose heart and become discourage and resistant. Remember this, “Without a vision, the people will perish”.
  1. PROMISE PROBLEMS– Remind employees the rewards of change, but don’t mislead or sugar coat the difficulties. The real truth of change is things will get worse before they get better. Liken change to fixing your golf swing; altering your stance, swing and grip is award at first. In fact, it is easy to revert back to our previous bad habits, especially when we don’t see immediate results. However, if you stick to it, your shots become straighter, go further and you stay out of the woods and your score improves. Stick with it……….the rewards are great!
  1. INVOLVE EMPLOYEES IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGE– Change can make people feel uncomfortable and out of control. By including them in the process, they feel less vulnerable or helplessness during the process. It also gives them “skin in the game” and they begin to own the change. In fact, employee involvement will help convert the 50% and some of the 30% (refer to #2 above). Get people involved and listen to their ideas. Hey, try some of them; you might be surprised at the problems employees can solve. As leaders, we must be flexible in our thoughts and ideas and allow employees to make suggestions and give honest feedback. It’s ok if it is not the ideal way we would do something. Remember, “Blessed are the Flexible”. Be flexible, challenge your thinking.
  1. CELEBRATE SUCCESS– Regardless how we lead, change will wear you out! It takes a lot of energy and effort from everyone. In fact, it can just flat wear you out!! So, we have to remember to celebrate the small successes along the way. Make sure employees know we recognize the effort and strain and that we are appreciative of their efforts. This is a very important part to overcoming the stress of resistance.

Someone once said, “Change is inevitable,” and it happens regardless of our thoughts and feelings. We can choose to either embrace it or resist it, and our employees have the same options. Unfortunately, there will be those who prefer to resist change and chose not be a part of the future. That’s fine and as the saying goes, I hope “the door doesn’t hit ‘em on the way out!” Trust me, the company will benefit from those who do not oppose change.

Additionally, change doesn’t have to hurt. It may be a bumpy ride, but if you are diligent to remember these six things and implement them, they will make the bumps bearable. Utilizing these six nuggets of wisdom will help you overcome resistance to change, as well as lead others who are hesitant to leave their old habits and former ideas. Remember, everyone is watching and listening. Consequently, our attitudes, behaviors, and responses will greatly affect our employee’s abilities to embrace change.

CHANGE STARTS WITH US. LEAD WITH A HUMBLE HEART THAT IS WILLING TO FINISH THE RACE. THERE ARE GREAT REWARDS AT THE FINISH LINE!