Don’t Let January 1, 2021 Be December 32, 2020

How to Manage Yourself into a New Year and a New Attitude

We all understand that this was one of the most difficult years in our or anyone’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on everyone’s lives. There were many businesses that didn’t survive. There were also businesses and industries that thrived. Many businesses sprung up and excelled at filling a need quickly, and, as a result, are now part of our everyday lives (we all have become very comfortable zooming, haven’t we?).

It’s time to turn the page and look forward. Every boat leaves a wake behind it. The smallest part of the car is the rear-view mirror. The windshield is huge, an enabler to look forward, which is what we all need to do.

It is important that we respect 2020 and the pain and lessons that came with it. It is equally important that we start fresh in 2021 and move forward. I propose seven ways to positively launch yourself into 2021.

1. Redefine Yourself as a Leader

In my upcoming podcast with Fran Tarkenton, he explained so well what it takes to be a leader. As a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and a businessman who has built over 20 successful businesses, he has a fantastic perspective on just about everything. Here’s a peek:

“People will ask me, “What makes a great quarterback?” I think you have to have the physical qualities, but every quarterback that gets drafted in the National Football League or is signed as a free agent has that. They are big enough. They can throw, they're smart, they can play. But the guys that make it are the guys that are great leaders, they trust the people and believe in them. And they believe in them because they are helping them solve problems … helping them be successful. They understand that teams win, not individuals.  We need to get our ego out of it … it's not about us, it's not about me, as a high paid quarterback, or the chairman and owner of my company, it's about my customers. It’s about my associates and partners and that work for me. You cannot separate that.  And when that's the case, great things can happen.”

You can get everything you need to take a close look at yourself and your leadership style from that short assessment. Too many leaders get wrapped up in themselves and their egos and forget what breeds success and wins business.

2. Be a Consistent Learner

There are so many places to continue learning in today’s world — online, podcasts, webcasts, streaming content — there is no excuse to not be inspired to consume it and be motivated. Take the pieces you see fitting into your world and try them. Talk to others about what you read or heard and collaborate on them for growth in your world. If you’re not taking 30 minutes a day to learn something new, you are falling behind. The world is moving too fast.

Athletes get out of the door every morning and train hard to be great. They also know that, if they don’t, their competitors are running stadium stairs at that very moment, working at creating that edge.  Don’t let them have that edge, and under no circumstances, don’t allow them to get to your clients. Train harder, train smarter, and have fun. Follow actor John Cleese’s words: “He who laughs most, learns best".

3. Stay Focused! Then Unplug

Try something different this year. Refuse to schedule hour long meetings and suggest that all of your staff does the same. We’re in a new environment where people can zoom in from anywhere. Mandate that meetings only last 30 minutes, tops. If someone from the outside wants your time, they get 15 minutes.  You can always push it longer if you absolutely believe it’s worth your time. And always require an agenda. No agenda = no meeting.

Then take time away — daily — to gain perspective on where you’ve been, where you are now and where you’re going. Completely unplug from your job.  You’ll be amazed at the ideas that will come to you and the problems you’ll solve on these outings.

4. Assess Your Flat Sides

Work to your strengths and get help for weaknesses from others.  The mirror is the best place to start. Be honest with yourself.  Amplify your strengths while at the same time be courageous about facing your weaknesses and asking for help from others, including your team, on how you can improve.  We all have egos, to some extent, but some of the best leaders I’ve been around are bold about addressing their flat sides as well.

5. Embrace Failure

The benefits of learning from failure cannot be denied. Organizations that do it well are rare. Embracing failure does not mean having a soft work environment. Failure can co-exist with high performance standards. Have a hypothesis and test it. Do new things. Measure them.  Involve people who have no vested interests in seeing the idea succeed. If people start getting excited, you may have something. If not, people will still feel it was worthwhile learning.

6. Master Time Management

Saying “no” can mean a lot of things.  It might be saying no to certain types of clients, so that you can say yes to the clients that best fit your model. It might be saying no to new technologies, ideas, things that seem worth pursuing, but are really just distractions. Every choice you make either gets you closer to your goals or further away. Decisions, either way, are the tipping point that leads to success or failure.

7. Reap the Benefits of What You and Your Team Learned in 2020

So much changed, so much was different — what are you going to keep and what do you want to go back to. Start working on what your new normal is going to be and begin sharing it with your teams so that everyone is ready to implement when the bell rings for the new normal.

Happy New Year!  Go forward, and remember to enjoy the experience!

Watch for my full interview with Frank Tarkenton on my podcast, Can You Hold My Attention, the first week of January. Listen to my previous episode with Liz Nesvold on trends in M&A here.

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