COVID BACKWARDS, 2021 FORWARD
COVID spelled backward is DIVOC.
So, how DIVOC is 2021 going to be different?
Well, the answer, among many, is leadership. If there is ever a test of our country, our industry, our companies, our families, and ourselves – it is our test of leadership.
The question is, what do we use as the foundation for this leadership, and what can we take with us, beyond dumpster-fire memories, into this new year of 2021 and beyond. And there are three reasons why:
- Our people are worn out, stressed and uncertain.
- Asking them to “do more” is not a great option.
- They need something but would not know how to ask for it.
What they want to see most of all is that you care about them. That you are putting people first. A lot of times, this is an organizational throw-away line that substitutes for authentic action. In our industry, it looks more like this: Pay people good money. Say nice things to them from time to time (or not so much) and give them more shit to shovel. It is safe to say that many people wore out their shovels in 2020. A level of fatigue has set in that is easily recognizable. Alcohol sales being up 32% might be some indicator here, but I guess coping comes in a lot of forms.
The truth is that what really jumped out at me is the power of authentic caring by leaders. Maybe that was because of our national state of mind, which is a cross between agitated and anxious. That said, it is the leaders who are exhibiting care, calmness and compassion that seem to stand out.
I will admit, during 2020, I personally found these attributes in short supply more than once. As the pressure stayed on all year, I found myself lacking empathy at times. Lacking patience. Lacking understanding. Worn thin. Not thinking about the feelings of others, challenges, and fears. I imagined myself in other people’s shoes, but I did a poor job of it. I guess I failed in my leadership when I acted as though everyone were like me. What I learned was that the moment that I showed human concern, I got the best results. Where my commitment and empathy faded and I ended up empowering others to lead, they did so better than me. I will not forget these lessons. And these are not temporary lessons – they are vital ones even for someone who has held the CEO label for a long, long time.
How do we do it? By stopping long enough to display enough care so they can feel it too. By shifting priorities and perspective. By moving beyond driving for results. By recognizing that the grind does have limits. To instead lend the kind words and actions that compensate for the uncertainty and stresses our people continue to endure. To lead with empathy and care.
The key for all of us leaders as we go forward into 2021 is never to lose focus on what is most important in our leadership role: it is the people first, and they need and deserve the sincere care and empathy that comes with us being the best version of ourselves.