Leadership Lessons from the Business Trenches of 2021
As we move towards the last quarter of 2021, let’s pause and reflect! What are the most important leadership lessons that you and your leadership team have gleaned from the trenches this year?
This is my favorite question with my clients as we complete our 4th Quarter planning. Their responses and experiences have been a genuine coaching clinic of hard lessons learned. The following are powerful patterns emerging from the leadership trenches of 2021.
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.American former baseball pitcher Vernon Law
1. Keep the Perspective: Nothing Is Impossible
Things that were unrealistic before might be possible now. Technologies have changed. Your people and their skill sets have changed. And, your customers and their patterns have changed. Can these changes lead you into what was impossible before?
2. Show Your Face: Yes, with Customers!
Nothing makes a bigger impression than face-to-face communication. However with today’s environment and COVID, you can’t be everywhere all the time. Get the most out of your one-on-one opportunities with customers, like conducting live webinars, posting videos and blogging regularly to add personality and authority to your business.
3. Keep Your Sense of Humor: Especially in a Crisis.
Consider this perspective. There is a huge difference between serious business decisions that affect your stakeholders and taking yourself too seriously. Lighten your mood and people will be more sincere, your team will be more effective, and you’ll make faster, better decisions.
4. Give Hard Feedback: Be Straight with Your People.
Many business leaders are often uncomfortable being honest with staff. We need to be truthful. To do that, you must care deeply and tell the hard truth. These are two sides of the same coin. Deliver uncompromising candor. The result will challenge your people in a way that accelerates performance.
5. Private Time: Put Your Thinking Cap On
“Follow the lead of Warren Buffett and allow time for quiet reading and thinking every day.” Think about what you aren’t doing now; what you want to do in the future; what the competition is doing; and how your company fits into the grand scheme of things. “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein. We often have the image of leaders in constant action. But in reality, all leaders require thinking time – you will be surprised with what originates from your brain if you give it a respite (i.e. thinking time).
6. Persistence: Try It Again
If a certain strategy failed in the past, that doesn’t mean it won’t work today. As in #1 above, too many things have changed. So be bold, try it again!
7. Do the Right Thing: Quality Actions
Every company with a set of core values usually has a bullet about integrity. It’s become boilerplate and often nobody pays attention anymore. “If you want your people to do the right thing no matter what — especially when everything’s on the line — then demonstrate that quality in your actions.”
8. Let Go: Delegate More
The learning here for my clients was either: “I don’t need to have the answers” or “I don’t need to fix things for everyone.” In his powerful and engaging book Turn the Ship Around, author David Marquet defines a process to help leaders let go while empowering their team. One of his key concepts is that leadership is all about making people better, and then the mission will follow. In developing better leadership, Marquet asks the following question: Do you want people to do or think?
9. Leverage the New: Gain Competitive Advantage
Fifteen years ago, e-mail marketing barely existed. It’s now a multi-billion dollar business. Five years ago, the power of social media was largely unknown. Now it’s turning the marketing world upside down. Remain competitive, stay up-to-speed on what’s out there and take advantage of the multitude of simple tools which can give your company more competitive advantage.
10. Keep Things Simple: Develop Clarity
Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less stresses keeping things focused and as simple as possible. This concept has been aligned with success for hundreds of years. “The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.” When everything is important, nothing is important. Defining fewer, clearer priorities unlocks enormous potential for your company.
I’m still learning every single day – from my clients, colleagues, competitors. I am sure that you have also learned important and perhaps painful leadership lessons in the trenches this year. Reflect on them, learn from them, and discuss them at your next Leadership Team meeting. Contact me discuss how these lessons can be applied to your company.
All the best
© 2021 David Paul Carter. All rights reserved.
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