Fathom runs a forum called LFG where leaders in the highest positions from different organizations explore the challenging, inspiring, and sometimes lonely position of leadership. As we entered into the new year, I asked the group what the prospects of 2021 was bringing up for them. Above all else was exhaustion.
Last year was a year that tested all of us, particularly those responsible for the well-being of many people, such as employees. My colleague Rebekah Castagno described in a recent essay that 2020 as the equivalent of a full year of improvisation. Improv is all about being prepared to respond to whatever comes your way with something that will keep the narrative going. It can be both thrilling, but also exhausting trying to maintain that level of readiness.
Can you lead without answers?
At the same time, we are entering into a new year, a time where many of us can’t help but wonder what the next year will bring. Because of 2020’s unprecedented nature, there is a real desire to see it go in favor of a more promising 2021. Alas, 2021’s start indicates that we might be in a time of even more uncertainty. Despite this, employees and community members look to their leaders for answers and hope for the promise of the future. The promise of the vaccine for instance invites hope but comes with its own uncertainty of how and when. As a result, we can be lured into a wait it out mindset, but for many organizations they have been waiting it out and cannot any longer. For many leaders I have spoken to, 2021 is a year where things HAVE to get done, even with the lack of clarity for how the year will play out.
Ill-equipped or fully prepared?
As leaders it’s no surprise we feel exhausted, uncertain, and ill equipped to provide adequate responses to questions we simply can’t have answers to. In times of like this, what is it we can count on? As it turns out, there are things. Below are thoughts from the perspective of different leaders that may make you aware of things that we can count on to: Recover some energy, take action, elevate your team’s enthusiasm for the future, and get things done!
As leaders, what might we count on?
“The courage to create safe and brave spaces in the workplace that lets employees know they are seen first as human, not a human resource. The universal experience of living in a consistent state of unknown in 2020 allowed for true connection to be instantly forged. I have made it a promise to my team that I will begin every meeting with this question: how are you – no, really, how ARE you?” Suzi Craig, Chief Strategy Officer, Mental Health Connecticut
“I count on patience, understanding, and a little bit of humor.” Joseph M Pelehach – Vice President, Motorlease
“The soothing nature of hope and optimism that I have developed as a foundation of my being. And as importantly, finding ways to share these traits with the world around me to be of meaningful value to my relationships.” Ted Kennedy – Vice President of Sales, Meyer, Inc.
“Remember your vision and brand promise. Let them be the beacon that keeps you on track no matter how cloudy the journey may seem.” Tom Sharp – Vice President, Operations – Kelser
“One thing that I count on is to remind myself that I am my own worst critic. That internal critic can sometimes get in the way of starting something new, or act as a barrier to rolling something out that is ‘good enough’ but that I’m afraid doesn’t meet my own standards. I find it helpful to reflect on the many times I scrutinized the flaws in my work, only to find that those flaws are virtually invisible to the rest of the world.” Jamie Shamas – Chief Information Officer, Meyer
“It is heartwarming to know we are not alone and that we have each other to work through uncertain times together. I will rely on happiness, inclusion, love, and possibilities as the path forward to help people believe in brighter days ahead and get involved in doing the hard work for us to thrive with joy.” Darrin Tulley – Founder, Chief of Possibilities at Ignite Happy and Former MassMutual Financial Group Executive
“Life and business are as uncertain as the financial markets. As a financial coach to our clients and a leader of our team, I focus on purpose as the guide forward. No matter the uncertainty, circumstances or unexpected event, we can always take another step or the next action toward living our purpose.” Greg Hammond – CEO, Hammond Iles Wealth Advisors
“During challenging times like these, I count on my daily rituals to stay healthy and performing at a high level. Among the main rituals I weave into nearly every day are aerobic exercise, hydration, stretching, meditation and writing in a gratitude journal. I find that if I can keep my body moving and my mind settled and focused on being thankful, life just works better.” Dave Louden – Co-founder, Fathom
“I count on the endless support and friendship of the incredible people I work with. They are always there to have my back, pick me up, make me laugh, help me across the finish line, or take over when it becomes too much. I count on them to keep me grounded, to give me perspective, and to remind me that everything we do is for a purpose so much bigger than any one of us.” Jessica Rich – Managing Partner, VP of Business Operations, The Walker Group
“It is important to remember that not having all the answers during uncertain times is okay. Be honest and vulnerable. Communicate, communicate, communicate. There is no substitute for honest, open, frequent communication.” Brian Fierston – Co-President, Fierston Financial Group, Inc.
“I count on the relationships that I have invested in, that are rooted in the integrity of an unwavering commitment to figure it out, be in the uncertainty, and create what’s needed together.” Brent Robertson – Co-founder, Fathom
My takeaway as the instigator of this essay is that we will never have all the answers, and that it is dangerous to pretend we do, and courageous to admit when we don’t.
What is it you count on to get you and your organization excited, energized and engaged in creating your ideal future?
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