Across the course of 2020, a multitude of articles have been released sharing leadership strategies to help us navigate through uncertain and trying times. Leaders across organizations have devoured this guidance as they found there to be no playbook for 2020 and craved expert insights. But now, as we turn into 2021, leaders are asking themselves, how can I do more than just progress into the new year; how can I bring a renewed sense of motivation and inspiration to my team?
We asked Kim Sharan, former CMO and President of Financial Planning and Wealth Strategies at Ameriprise Financial, current board director, and consultant, to join an intimate roundtable discussion with senior financial services leaders to explore exactly that. What strategies can we bring with us into 2021 to break free from leadership fatigue and burst into 2021 revitalized.
To start, Sharan suggests we shift our mindset around work/life balance and move towards the concept of designing a work/life integration. Especially in times when there is no clear break or boundary between these two worlds, it’s necessary to reframe our approach and adjust our viewpoint. For example, as these two worlds meld into one, it is critical that we take intentional breaks. As we all lose control of our own calendars and impromptu conversations have morphed into scheduled calendar invites, it’s important to pay special attention to time management, plan your day, and be intentional about it. Schedule time blocks for activities that would naturally be happening as you commuted or walked from the bathroom back to your desk. Schedule walk breaks, nourishment breaks, and especially time to think. Science shows that some of our best work comes when we’re unintentional, and we need to create white space to ignite our best creative.
Sharan also proposed that to succeed in this new environment, we don’t need to create a completely new leadership playbook, but should consider revisiting the basics and reframe them in today’s world. Referencing Covey’s ‘Big Rocks’ paradigm shift, Sharan encouraged attendees to focus on the big rocks and get ultra clear on the most critical priorities. Only when you have a clear line of sight to, and alignment on, priorities can you truly differentiate between productivity and busyness.
Aligning on priorities is just the start of the battle. Accompanying those priorities with a strong project plan and project management is crucial to success in a remote work dynamic. Sharan emphasized the importance of taking the time to develop a clear, clean, accessible project plan including tasks, owners, milestones, timelines, and goals and metrics. Bringing together the right cross-functional team, creating a reasonable recurring meeting cadence, and keeping a maniacal focus on consistent communication are all critical components of bringing the plan to life.
So, give yourself permission to take a beat, go for a walk, find a way to connect with your team members on a more personal level, and reset for 2021. Leaders will need to continue to strike a delicate balance of moving the business forward and supporting our teams – and we need a clear head to hit the ground running.