12 Months of Leadership Lessons

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March 17th, 2020. The day the world changed as my company, and many others, suddenly became a fully remote workforce. A year later we are emerging with new experiences, losses and lessons, and new wisdom. Here are my Top 12 Leadership Lessons from the last 12 months.

12. Let Others Paint Their Own Picture. Sending my son to college in the pandemic was tough. I focused on what was missing instead of what was possible and had to reframe. As a mom and leader, my job is to create a blank canvas without my perceptions coloring it.

11. Remote Work Works. Why did it take a pandemic for us to trust people to be accountable and responsible enough to work remotely? For years, we in HR insisted we need a program, a form, and a process to manage how people work. Turns out all we need is good communication, clear expectations, and flexibility. Imagine that.

10. “We Are In The Same Storm But Not The Same Boat.” This was one of the most powerful quotes and poems of the last year (full text here). The pandemic illuminated inequity in society, healthcare, and our workplaces. We are far from the shore of the promised land. As leaders we must continue this journey and use our privledge to part the waters for others.

9. Make Mental Health a Priority for yourself and your team. We don’t know what others are covering, experiencing, or mourning. As a leader we need to create safe spaces filled with empathy. We need to build our vulnerability muscle to be a strong team.

8. Really Invite Authentic Selves To Work. This year we have Zoomed in closer to each others’ families, pets, and homes than ever before. We have been forced to bring more of ourselves to work. As leaders, our job is to invite and embrace our whole team as whole people.

7. Constrained Innovation is Breathtaking. Watching our scientists, restaurants, and healthcare workers reimagine working models has been inspiring. We need to give our team airtime for their new ideas and innovations.

6. There is Power in The Pause. The shutdown opened up the opportunity for new routines. Taking time to read, journal, and move our bodies is time well spent. Create the time for your team to build pause into their day – and allow yourself the same grace.

5. We Can Make A Nice Bake. The Great British Bake Off encouraged us to create and try things we never prioritized before. While the sourdough and cakes were delicious, the real lesson is taking time to tap into our creativity and letting our inner star baker out.

4. Learn to Reckon With the Rumble. In politics and at work we don’t all have the views or vantage point. As Brene Brown says, “The reckoning is how we walk into our story; the rumble is where we own it. The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives.”

3. Why Hoard When We Can Help? Hoarding toilet paper, information, or power makes you an ass. As leaders we should reward and recognize collaboration and make knowledge sharing an expectation.

2. Words Matter. The words of a leader incite action. Use them to incite learning not violence.

  1. Connectivity Is Powerful. It has been hard not to see or hug family, friends, and teammates. But we can be connected even if we are not together. As leaders our job is to build the team not the “stuff.” Taking time to connect personally and professionally is what powers performance and engagement.

Twelve months ago, the pandemics we’re facing changed us and the way we work. The losses are many and the heartbreak is overwhelming. We have had to learn new ways of interacting and had the opportunity for many leadership lessons. These are twelve of my leadership lessons from the last twelve months. I look forward to hearing and learning from yours.