The Christmas season is here. At last.
As you know, 2020 has been a bear of a year. The pandemic. Social unrest. Massive uncertainty. Economic hardship for millions of people around the world. A political season like we have not seen in years. A lack of clarity on a national level.
Within the workplace, white collar jobs have moved to remote work settings. Parents try and juggle the pressures of work from behind a screen while taking on the role of educator/teacher. The reprieve many parents felt during the 8-hour work day – a time set aside to lead/manage/create/innovate – with likeminded individuals has been shattered. Those relaxing lunch periods with people you enjoy has been replaced by standing in one’s kitchen eating a bland sandwich while your young child stands next to you, pulling your leg and asking for “more chips.”
Oh. Is this just me?
Meetings over a long board room table where ideas can be thrown back and forth with that creative tension that can only be felt within the company of others has been replaced by watching the talking heads of all of your cohorts on a screen in front of you. More than likely your team members are not as engaged as they once were. Why would they be? They can now check email, sports scores, weather patterns and food recipes while listening to you drone on about your proposal. Until that frightening moment when your name is announced to respond to a question and you have no idea what the conversation is even about.
Oh. Is that just me again?
More than likely we’ve all been there.
And then the blue-collar workers whose work has remained steady – if not increased – during a time when others are able to hide away behind the four protective walls of their homes.
The store workers – Walmart, Target, Amazon, Walgreens, CVS, gas stations, etc. – whose work has increased. The restaurant workers whose work has lessened, if not been eliminated. And, in places like California where I live, some of these employees have been able to make even more money by staying home due to federal and state help. The white-collar workers who have been able to remain at home…and have taken on the role of manager/employee/parent/childcare worker. The healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines, picking up even more shifts and subjecting themselves to the masses and the deadly virus at the detriment of their own families. Small business owners forced to lay off their employees and draw to a close their life’s work and passion.
We remember back to this summer hearing how Macy’s would be laying off nearly 4,000 workers. In recent days, we have heard the news that Disney will be laying off thousands of people in the coming weeks and months.
You get the idea.
This has been a very tough season.
And now it is Christmas. The time of year we normally set aside to enjoy our bounty, count our blessings and spend time with loved ones.
Yet, this year will be different. The bounty is small, maybe even nonexistent. We ask ourselves, “What blessings?” as we remain quarantined from those we love most. And for those who have experienced a good year, there is a sense of guilt in celebrating at a time when so many are struggling.
This has been quite the year. This Christmas will be quite different.
And yet, as leaders, we must do our part in remaining positive, grateful, forward-looking and optimistic while also being honest about our own sense of fear and anxiety.
All of this being said, how can we, as leaders and managers, make the most of this time of year while preparing for whatever may come in 2021?
I would suggest the following: Reading, Relaxing, Resting, Reflecting, Revisingand Removing.
Let’s dive in.
Spend Your Christmas Season READING
I know you have a lot on your plate, but, as you know, there is no better way to increase your knowledge base than by reading. Even more, there is no greater way to increase your mental capacity than by picking up a good book…any good book. Studies have shown that reading – any kind of reading – increases mental stimulation, reduces stress, enhances social skills, provides great expansion of your vocabulary and improves your memory. Other studies correlate the mere act of reading to greater visualization and better decision-making skills.
Not too shabby.
Here’s the deal: As leaders, we need to ensure our brain is always working for us. The way to ensure increased brain power is by watching our inputs. You’ve heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” This year, we have all had our share of garbage intake. The way to counter this is by reading good books. Books that stimulate our minds and thought processes. Books that make us more liberal (compassionate) in how we see the world. Books help us see our own little worlds differently. Books that bring a mindset of creation and innovation. Books that help us to lead and manage better.
I know you have a great deal on your plate. However, I want to encourage you to find those books you have been wanting to read, pull them off the shelf (or order them from Amazon) and give yourself some time – even once a week – to sit and read.
My current reading list (Because I am ADD, I have several books I read at one time):
- Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker
- Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
- The Firm by Duff McDonald
- Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture by Kim S. Cameron and Robert Quinn
- Consulting Success by Michael Zipursky
- Succeeding as a Management Consultant by Kris Safarova
- The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
What’s on your reading list?
Spend Your Christmas Season RELAXING
By relaxing, I mean intentional relaxation. Not simply lying in bed all day with a bag of Cheetos while binge watching Netflix. (Although, every now and then, we all deserve this as well.)
Intentional relaxation is finding that thing that feeds your soul. Concerts, swimming, trips to the beach, reading good books, listening to great music, going to a nice restaurant, fitness, running a marathon, having friends over for dinner and wine, writing in your journal, yoga, meditating, etc.
You get the idea.
Whatever it is that feeds your soul, do that.
I highly recommend spending time meditating. This has been a game changer for me. I know it has been or will be for you as well.
My favorite guided meditations from YouTube:
There are so many free options out there for you from 1 minute to 3-hour meditations. Find what is best for you and go for it.
Be intentional with your relaxation this Christmas season.
Spend Your Christmas Season RESTING
Just as with relaxation, be intentional about your rest. Again, binge-watching Netflix all day is not really resting. Sure, your body is in a state of inertia but your mind is consuming loads and loads of, what I like to call, crap. It’s not restful for you.
True rest is sleep. Shutting yourself down and allowing your body and mind to be still.
I know, I know. The concept of rest gets a really bad rap in today’s society. (At least in the Western part of the world.) We pride ourselves on being busy, busy, busy. We need a mindset shift…from busyness to productivity. We all know people who extremely busy, yet have little to show for this busyness. They lack profitable results or effective outcomes. Those words may even define you. Like a hamster spinning the wheel, you are very busy…but really going nowhere.
Your productivity will skyrocket when your rest increases.
Again, this comes back to your brain power. The condition of your brain correlates to the condition of your productivity.
Please note: What I am not saying is to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. There are many highly successful people who only sleep 5-6 hours per night. What I am saying is this: Get the rest you need when you need it.
Sleep at night. However, when night sleep fails you, take a nap (20 minutes or 90 minutes are the best increments) when and where you can.
Most importantly, make sure you are getting quality sleep, if you can. Lights out. TV off. iPhone powered down. Read if you must. Meditate if you will. Just make sure you are prepared for a good night’s sleep.
A great app for sleep: Calm
Spend Your Christmas Season REFLECTING
Reflecting may be one of the most important activities for leaders to embrace. I know, I know… you’re an extrovert and extroverts don’t like spending time sitting in silence and thinking (this is where the power of the introverts come into play). However, intentional reflection may be a skill that helps you unlock that next big idea that will take your leadership, team or organization to the next level. At the very least, you will gain greater clarity.
In its simplest form, reflection is a process of describing your recent leadership experiences, any changes that occurred and how the most recent experiences may correlate to future experiences. In other words, reflection is looking back in order to plan forward.
You’ve heard the saying, “History repeats itself.” Well, it doesn’t have to. Yet, it often does because we fail to take the necessary time to reflect on what happened, where we went wrong and what we can do different in the future.
Take the time you need to reflect. Ask yourself the following 5 questions:
- What went well in 2020? Why?
- What did not go so well in 2020? Why?
- What was my responsibility in the successes of 2020?
- What was my responsibility in the disappointments and learning lessons of 2020?
- Based on the above answers, what do I plan to do differently in 2021?
Just start there.
Questions are a powerful tool to help you think deeply on how the future can be greater than the past.
We all know 2020 was an absolute cluster****. Much of this was out of your control. However, for those things you can control, reflection will help you to bring more clarity to your thought process and help to make 2021 better because you will decide those actions you wish to improve on in 2021.
Make time to intentionally reflect this Christmas season.
Spend Your Christmas Season REVISING
Your goals. You’re your desired outcomes. Your thinking. Your habits. Your timelines. Your systems. Your structures. Your leadership philosophy. Your leadership style. Your vision. Your mission. Your values. Your organizational or team culture.
Whatever needs to be improved, needs to be revised.
If another year has gone by and your organizational culture has not transformed for the better, revisions are needed.
If another year has gone by and you (or your organization or team) are struggling with ambiguity or there exists a lack of clarity, revisions are needed.
If another year has gone by and you are not closer to the person or leader you desire to be, revisions are needed.
I am talking about this idea evolution.
Great leaders evolve. Great teams evolve. Great organizations evolve.
If there is no evolution there is no growth or expansion.
Evolution follows revision.
If you are still following the same habits, same systems, same thinking and same structures year after year, there is no evolution.
The ongoing pandemic provided (demanded) organizations globally the opportunity to evolve and stretch their way of thinking and doing business. Yet, truthfully, most leaders were caught unawares.
Revise what you must as you exit 2020 so that you can evolve to greater heights personally and organizationally in 2021.
Spend the Christmas Season REMOVING
You know where I am going with this. I won’t belabor the point.
Those things holding you back from achieving maximum potential? You know what they are. Remove them from your life.
Bad diet. Too much time on social media. Procrastination. Too much time gossiping. Poor decision making. Being too critical of yourself and others. Being too easy on yourself and others. Apologizing too little. Apologizing too much.
Whatever it is, remove it.
Take this season and purge those things that are holding you back. Here’s the deal: Whatever is holding you back is also holding back your team members, your team and your organization. No doubt about it. The people/teams/organizations you lead will only rise to the level of your evolution and growth. The “bigger” you become, the “bigger” everyone and everything around you becomes.
Remove those things – and people – who are holding back your evolution and development – personal and organizational. This may mean making some tough choices for you, for your team and for your organization. However, the Christmas season is the best time of year to purge your life, leadership and team of any hindrances to impact, effectiveness and success.
Spend this Christmas preparing for 2021 by removing anything that subtracts value from your life. Start today.
You have probably noticed that I have used the “intentionally” a great deal. This has been very intentional on my part.
Here’s the deal: January is coming. It’s right around the corner. Your leadership is not going to evolve on its own. It will take you being intentional about looking back in order to look forward and the make the necessary adjustments in order to grow. There is no slowing down Father Time. He comes whether you wish for it or not.
So… be prepared. Use this season to read, relax, rest, reflect, revise and remove. Be intentional. Then, watch and notice the level of confidence you walk with into the year 2021.
We cannot change what happens around us, but we can certainly prepare ourselves to grow and go to the next level. No matter what 2021 has in store, let’s make the commitment to be ready. Don’t waste this season Christmas. Yes, it is a time to celebrate, give and express gratitude. But it can also be a wonderful time to grow, develop and evolve.
So, here’s my question for you: Will you join me?