Happy New Year. May the sun light your path, the winds fill your sails, the rains water your garden and good surprises abound. I also hope that poetry accompanies you as we emerge from the greys of winter into the hopeful green of spring, the yellows of summer and the ochres of autumn. Another cycle begins. And that there will be 4 seasons is about all that we can be sure of at the moment.
I, for one, could sorely do with some poetry in my life as I read newspaper coverage on Sudan, Taiwan, the Ukraine, the UK, Poland, the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Syria, and the pandemic, just to pick a couple of topics, at random, that stayed with me today.
Today’s topics focus on how to have a spectacular 2022:
– Improvise – Or Today I threw my Christmas Tree out of an Upstairs Window
– Embrace Passion and How to Lead Passionate Teams
– Be Courageous and Lead with Integrity
– Keep on Growing
Traditionally, there are four topics, but today I gift you a bonus to start the year off with. Something we often forget to do as we are all busy.
– Don’t Forget to Stop and Smell the Roses
Improvise – or Today I Threw my Christmas Tree out of an Upstairs Window
Last year, the thought of a brightly lit tree, candles, lights in the window and the spirit of a celebration made me buy my first ever Christmas tree. Coming home to a lit tree and decorations made me feel warm and happy and added some sorely needed brightness to a world that is currently not particularly bright. Today, I took down the decorations. I thanked the tree. And then I realised, that when I brought it home it was covered in netting, which made it fit easily through doorways. Today it was dry, not covered in netting and had to be dragged through doorways. After much deliberation, I decided the best way to get the tree out of the house with minimum needles shed, was to throw it out of an upstairs window. It worked beautifully. Not, perhaps, the most conventional way of removing a tree from the house. Certainly not the most elegant solution, but it solved my challenge, fast, and most importantly with minimal cleaning. Sometimes it is tempting to get stuck on finding a perfect solution to tasks we face. Often that means we don’t get started. Frequently an adequate solution to even complex problems can be as simple as throwing a tree out of a window.
Embrace Passion and How to Lead Passionate Teams
Passion leads people to speak up, suggest changes, challenge the status quo and pursue alternative avenues. Passion drives employees to strive for excellence in all aspects of the business they are involved in. Passionate people are fiercely alive and sometimes that means they appear to be challenging authority. And sometimes they are. But more often they are just invested in a certain outcome. None of us fights for things we don’t care about. Passion is many things, but it is never tranquil.
When I work with companies on transformation programmes, I am happiest when I meet vocal employees with deeply held beliefs. They have views on what works and what doesn’t, and they are willing to share. What people believe, is less important to me than that they care so much that they bring that energy into the project, because when people are engaged anything is possible and ultimately it is your employees’ passion that will deliver stellar transformations.
Admittedly, leading a team of independent thinkers, who are unafraid to bring up new ideas, requires confident leadership. One key element to successfully leading passionate teams, is to recognise that questions regarding projects are not automatically challenges to your authority. A second, is to recognise, that by silencing passionate people, you drive the energy underground, where instead of being available for your project goals, it has the potential to run unchecked and derail your transformation efforts.
If you take those two points to heart, I don’t believe you can lose. After all, why would you hire the best and brightest, and then not make the most of their skills?
Be Courageous and Lead with Integrity
Actions speak louder than words. Your teams have a good idea of who you are, what you do and what you stand for. If you want to move mountains in your business, you need your employees to act with courage and conviction. In order to do that, they need to know, that they can count on your support.
As an employee, I was tasked with running many transformation programmes. This is actually quite hard to do well as an employee. Unlike a consultant, an employee is in competition with peers for bonuses, promotions and visibility, all things people get very passionate about, and which can take the focus off the project at hand. My projects ran best when I knew that I could trust my managers to support the actions we had agreed, when I knew that I could count on them. Without question.
What happened in Afghanistan reminded me of this. Many locals risked life, livelihood, and a future to work with foreign powers, in the hope that they could change their country for the better. These people trusted the promises, that when the time came, they would be taken care of. What happened instead, was a haphazard, badly executed retreat, with many left behind to face their fate at the hands of the Taliban. Promises and people forgotten. If you send your team out to battle courageously but you don’t have their back, they will not forget. This will make future endeavours much harder. If you do not honour your word, your word has no value.
Keep on Growing
One of my friends has a son. He likes to climb. He has been climbing the same fountain since he was a little boy. Recently, he said to his mum “Mum, the fountain seems so much smaller, has the city removed some of it?” Marianne, his mum, answered “No, you have grown, so climbing the fountain no longer poses a big challenge.” Most of us are fully grown on the outside, but the beauty is, we can choose to continue growing on the inside.
In summary, if you lead with passion, courage and integrity as well as the humility to admit to yourself and others when you didn’t quite manage it, you will inspire your peers and reports to do the same. Actions speak louder than words. And people remember actions: case in point, Boris Johnson.
Beyond being open to passion, courage and improvisation, in my daily life, I am also going to try to make a point of celebrating the small joys of everyday life. Which brings me to the bonus topic:
Don’t Forget to Stop and Smell the Roses
In the current climate it’s easy to focus on the many restrictions we currently face. However, in order to make 2022 the best I can for myself, I am going to make a point of celebrating all the good things that happen. I will attempt to pause, when one thing has come to an end, acknowledge and enjoy it, before heading off at full speed into the next adventure. I also hope to create joyful moments where I can, for myself, my family, my clients and my friends, because time is fleeting and there can never be too much happiness in the world.
If you are facing a complex challenge and would like a sounding board or you’d like some help to implement globally, contact me for a chat.
Wishing you all the very best for 2022.