Updated: Oct 14
We're in the fourth quarter, and some of you might be exhausted. What a year! From lockdown, to sticking our proverbial toes in the water, to hybrid work situations, to a Delta workaround, this year has been a study in stop-start-stop. We haven't even talked about what your company, your team, and your family needs. Did you envision this year would go as it did? Were your instincts about leading confirmed, or blown to bits? If you were pleasantly surprised or woefully disappointed with your or your team's performance, how did you process what you learned?
The fourth quarter represents a great time to review, refocus and recast, if necessary. For me, and I suspect for other coaches, this quarter represents the busiest time of the year. The end of the year is in sight, and a review of the highs and lows of the current year can give insight into making next year stronger. On the other hand, the fourth quarter can also affirm the accuracy of your vision, whether you decided to "stay the course," "ride it out," or "take a leap."
In my practice this year, I have seen and heard two words over and over: vision and vulnerability. Vision: the ability to see a way forward, even (or especially) in murky or changing circumstances (my definition). As organizations attempted to navigate through a worldwide pandemic, social and political upheaval, and economic instability, the ability to see a way forward meant the difference between destruction, surviving, and thriving. So often we leave the idea of corporate vision to the marketers and strategic planners while the rest of us "do business," but this year if there wasn't a process for working through what to do next, you were flying blind in a blizzard. Some of us had to evaluate the relevance of our previous vision, given the realities we now face. Evaluation of that vision likely led us to one of three places: it's still relevant, it needs to be reviewed, it must change.
Now let's talk about vulnerability for a minute. Consider the following quote by Brene Brown:
“Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.”
As we consider our personal and professional performance over the past 18 months, we see both victories and missteps; places where we excelled beyond what we thought possible, and situations where we missed opportunities to be our best selves. As a leader, your team already knows the obvious places where you and your organization "missed it." Courageous leadership doesn't gloss over the missteps, instead it enlists the help of the team to be better. I really like the above quote because boundaries are included in the discussion of vulnerability as well as sharing feelings with those "who have earned the right to hear them."
As you consider the past 18 months and the relevance of your current vision, you will need courage to enlist the sight of your team, family, and network for the next year. As we experience and work through global shifts in supply-chain challenges, organizational culture, employee productivity and what may come, you may not have the luxury of a five-year plan. What will you do next? In case you missed it, the bar for leaders has been raised: we must be vulnerable enough to share sudden shifts and missteps with our teams, and visionary enough to build back better in an even more uncertain world.
Michele Aikens is CEO & Lead Coach of Sepia Prime Communications & Coaching. You can connect with her at Influence@sepiaprimecommunications.com