Who doesn’t want to become a better leader and improve their leadership skills in the year ahead? But, if you’re wondering just how to do it in the uncertain, unpredictable atmosphere of January 2022, you’re not alone. Nearly twenty-four months into the pandemic era, many of the leaders I talk to are concerned about about their teams being motivated and fulfilled, and know their people regularly feel overworked and stressed out. Yet, as leaders, we’re tasked with supporting and guiding our teams through this sort of uncertainty and stress. Today I’m offering how to lead well in difficult times with what I’m identifying as “The Three C’s of Successful Leadership.”
The first priority of every leader must be to pay attention to our first C, which is “Clarity.” I’ve often said a leader’s most important job is to focus and drive clarity, and in 2022 when there is so much “noise,” it’s more important than ever. In a world where it seems everything is urgent all the time, the competing priorities — in and outside our organizations — make it easy for us and our teams to lose clarity. As a leader, your first task is to determine the top three to five priorities you want your teams focused on. What are those things you can help them see are the most important and critical to what you all do? This will help them (and you) identify what they must organize their time around. Clarity around priorities and even roles and responsibilities can reduce tremendous anxiety with our teams and help them feel productive and motivated.
The second C leaders must prioritize is “Consistency.” Consistency as a leader is key, not only for enhancing your credibility and trust with your team (for a more in-depth discussion of this see my trust formula), but also for giving your team a sense of stability. If you realize you need to make improvements in your consistency, let me offer two easy ways to do it in 2022. First, get a real hold on how you spend your time. Truly look at your calendar and plan out those activities every week that you know need to be on there and not removed. For example, make sure you put your one-on-ones with your team members on your calendar — and protect them! Those are very important, as is planning time. Make sure you protect that as well.
The other way to become a more consistent leader is by being more responsive, especially to members of your team. A recent piece of research referenced by Daniel Pink in his book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” demonstrates that the most effective and successful leaders are the ones who are the most responsive to those they work with. So, find ways to enhance your responsiveness with your team members. It will improve your consistency and keep your teams motivated and engaged as well as demonstrate your reliability.
That leads us to our third C: “Compassion.” Clearly, we’ve all had to practice compassion with our team members (and ourselves) over the past twenty-two months in ways we might never have imagined prior to 2020. As we kick off 2022, we must ask how can we continue to do that, particularly when we’re operating in a virtual or a hybrid world? One of the most simple and effective ways I’ve found to do this is to ask the “Start/Stop/Continue” question of each member of your team. To do this, during (or perhaps at the end of) one of your one-on-ones, ask each member of your team, “What can I start doing in 2022 that would better support you and help you feel more motivated?” Then, ask “What can I stop doing that has been maybe getting in your way?” (Whether you intended to do it or it was accidental, sometimes our actions prevent others from doing what they need to.) Then, follow up with, “What can I continue doing that worked well for you in 2021 or in the past?”
You should know that each member of your team will likely have a different response, but it’s important for you to ask those questions to each of them. Doing so will provide you with a real sense of how you can add that particular flavor of compassion to each member of your team to keep them motivated. Also, for best results you should let your team members know ahead of your meeting that you will be asking them the Start/Stop/Continue question. This will allow them to be prepared to give you thoughtful feedback. Otherwise, they won’t have time to provide a thorough response and we all know there’s no value in asking a question if you’re not going to get an honest answer.
I hope you’re looking at the blank calendar days of 2022 and imagining all kinds of wins for yourself and your team in the year ahead. Practicing the Three C’s of Clarity, Consistency and Compassion will set you up for success this year and beyond because it will help you to be a more engaged and effective leader. I promise, it isn’t actually that hard to do; it’s all about intentionality and discipline. And, if you can put those in place, you’ll be better equipped at keeping your teams motivated, focused and healthy. Happy New Year!