The understatement of the year: everyone in the world is looking for a better year next year.
What do you think will happen in 2021? What will next year be like for leaders?
- Will things be easier once the vaccine is distributed?
- Will your leadership challenges slip away because some or all your team will come back to the office?
- Will the economy jump back to its pre-COVID-19 days?
Most of the forecasts that I read suggest things will not be easier, challenges will not go away, and the economy will not jump back (across the board). Who knows what exactly will happen, but it seems far-fetched to me that our large-scale challenges will evaporate just because some of us will be vaccinated. It may take until the Fall for most US citizens to be vaccinated – what about the rest of the world?
It has always resonated with me to focus on what you can control versus what you cannot control. For me, what I can control is my behavior. Therefore, the most important thing I should focus on in 2021 is my behavior as a leader. I lead myself, my team, my peers, and sometimes my boss.
Most people only think about how they are doing as a leader when they are about to get their performance appraised. This is not a bad time to reflect on how you are doing, but an even better option is to take some time at the beginning of the year to get others’ feedback. This can be done through conversations, surveys, and assessments. My favorite is to use a 360-degree assessment provided by a third party that can ensure confidentiality.
When leaders ask for feedback, they make themselves just a little vulnerable because they cannot control other people’s anonymous feedback. This is a leadership act in and of itself.
A leader is always modeling behavior, and one powerful way to say to your team that you want to improve is to ask for feedback and then do something about it. Do not ask unless you know that you will do something about it. People see right through your disingenuous acts of leadership. Implying that you are going to work on your skills by asking for feedback is a bad idea unless you truly plan to take their words to heart and act on them
The secret is to use other’s feedback, primarily those you lead, to light a fire under your you-know-what. If you use a strength-based assessment, you should be able to identify your strengths, emerging strengths, and significant opportunities.
Choosing what to work on first might be the most challenging part of the process. I suggest looking for an emerging strength that the team highly values and that you love doing. Your motivation is important, as it will help you start strong and find the discipline needed to see those changes through to fruition.
Once you have the skill you want to take to the next level, determine what needs to be different for you to master the skill. Do you need to change your mindset? Should you stop doing some things or start doing something else? Make a specific plan with actionable steps to practice your new habit and track the times you use (or do not use) the habit. Make sure you stay diligent with measuring your practice attempts.
If you want to make sure the change sticks, spend 20-30 minutes a week assessing what you are learning from your practice. Challenge yourself to think deeply and reflect on why you do what you do AND why you do not do what you do. It is really fascinating to notice how our habits are tied around belief, mindset, and attitudes. You might need to create some new neural pathways to firmly establish a new habit. I suggest James Clear’s book called Atomic Habits.
If you need a recommendation on a great Leadership 360-degree assessment, I highly recommend Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader assessment. It is the best leadership assessment available.
One last thing – ask a friend who knows you well and is assertive enough to keep you on task. Set up coffee meetings and ask them to question you about your progress and effort. Allow them to really prod you with some tough but curious questions. When you struggle to answer a question about your development, you build the energy and motivation to do a better job. Let the pressure build up so that you do not want to disappoint them (or yourself) the next time you talk.
I am deeply passionate about helping people who want to be better leaders. It is my life’s purpose. If you would like to talk about your situation and receive support, please allow me the opportunity to meet you and have a conversation. I would love to meet (or re-meet) you and help you create a focused, actionable plan for 2021.