I have a confession to make. I jumped on the election news frenzy roundabout. I know, I know! But it was only for a little bit, honestly. It just looked so exciting! Hi, I’m Cindy. I teach courageous leadership and I’m a dopamine addict. I can’t get enough of spinny things.
I love whirling around in all those emotions and dragging others on the ride with me. “Did you see that headline?!” “Can you believe what that person did?!” Uncertainty! Unprecedented! Challenging times! Quick, pivot! Don’t think, just pivot!! The centrifugal force was strong. So was the dizziness. And I started to think it would be okay if I just … let go. Then I had one of those sobering conversations with myself along the lines of, “Hey, self! Get a grip.”
Here’s the thing. A lot of sensible leadership types I know got caught up this year in that dizzy feeling of trying to hold onto things that were flying by too quickly, reacting to moment by moment chaos, and holding onto a roundabout that was constantly trying to throw them off. I mean, come on, we changed how we work. We changed where we work. We changed what we work on. Some of us changed who we work for. Many, including 860,000 women in September alone (zoiks!) got tossed off the roundabout altogether. These were working, tax paying, get-the-job-done females. And all the rest of us could do was watch, our faces frozen with queasy grins, not sure which emotion to pick.
So. As 2020 skids to a stop, we have an opportunity to, how shall I put this, oh, I know … get a collective grip. It’s more than an opportunity, really, it’s a privilege. The privilege of seeing the error of our ways and, being the courageous leaders we know deep in our hearts we all can be, and doing something about it. Yes, I mean all. Even if you have seven bosses, you can lead.
In order to lead, you need to get centered. You need to get to a place where you can harness the energy of the crazy world events spinning around in our heads and turn it into clean, clear productivity. “I’ve been trying but it’s so hard in these uncertain times,” you say. “But the world is about to end!” you moan. “My boss is making it impossible!” you cry out. Well shake it off, my friend. It’s time to have a courageous conversation with yourself. Dear self …
Stop sprinting and start training for a marathon.
I don’t care where you worked during March, April, and May of this year – or as I like to call it Marprilay – chances are, you were running sprints seven days a week. And then? Then you were exhausted, maybe a little sweaty. A lot sweaty? Courageous leaders don’t sweat. They deliver sustained productivity by making conscious decisions to pace themselves, no matter what everyone else is doing.
That may mean closing up shop, even if it’s the kitchen table, precisely when you said you would. Or taking planned breaks to step away from your screens and do breathing exercises, take a short walk, or just stand up and stretch. Think you don’t have time for “soft skills” like setting boundaries and self care? Just remember, sprinters look zippy on mile one, but they rarely, if ever, make it to the end of the marathon. I want you to make it to the finish line.
Stop looking for the answers outside of yourself.
I realize this advice could be problematic because you are currently looking outside yourself by reading this article online but bear with me. Maybe a better header would’ve been, “Focus on your own development, dammit.” I just didn’t want to curse in bold. Anyway, here it is … the silver lining of the 2020 lockdowns* is that this somewhat solitary confinement can and should serve as a giant reset button for your career. Heck, maybe even your life. It’s an opportunity to rethink your assumptions about absolutely everything.
What kind of leader have you been? Is that the kind of leader you want to be? Really? Think long and hard over your 2020 behaviors. What moved your career forward? Where did you sacrifice your own career needs for others? When you dealt with customers, internal or external, were you calm and proactive? Did you help them help you? Or did you get caught up in being reactive because wheeee!
What wrong assumptions did you cling to? What imaginary barriers did you let stop you? What can you stop doing and start doing for yourself that will move you maniacally toward that amazing career you had yourself convinced you didn’t deserve? Pssst. You deserve it.
* Prison language? Really? What has happened to us?
Stop letting robots pick your daily priorities.
Wait, let me guess. You woke up this morning to a smartphone alarm. No, wait, a smart watch! Or, could it be, you awoke to the natural light of that glowing orb in the sky? Amazing. Robots and nature. Both amazing. But then you checked your email to see what the day had in store for you. And that’s where you lost control.
Did you know that only about 3% of your inbox offers even a smidgen of opportunity to power results, your team, or your customers forward? Three measly little chances in a hundred to start your day off right. Who wants those odds? Not you. No thanks. See ya. Buh-bye.
This evening, before you go to bed, put your ruthless hat on and delete any messages in your inbox that are older than 30 days. If you haven’t read those by now, they are either irrelevant or, like that blueberry yogurt in the back of your fridge, out of date. Don’t even read them, just delete them. Empty trash. Tomorrow morning, awake from slumber in your usual way and then don’t look at your inbox. Seriously, don’t.
Based on the previous evening’s insights, decide on three measurable and achievable priorities for your day. Only three. Then, and only then, scroll the day’s new messages with a laser focus. You can replace any of your three priorities but you cannot add any. Three is your max.