2020 brought with it an incredible number of unprecedented challenges for business leaders. For many of us, we were forced to scrap our yearly roadmaps (or at least, put them on hold) as we faced the immediate challenges in front of us. We focused on adapting our business models to meet the changing needs of consumers, checking in with our employees and making sure all felt safe and supported, while creating financial stability for our businesses to ensure our viability in the near and long terms.
Although not much has changed since then in terms of the pandemic, having done much of the triage work last year to ensure the stability of our businesses, we, as leaders, can now take a step back and refocus for the year ahead.
One significant takeaway I’ve learned over the past year is the importance of taking care of oneself – even in the midst of a crisis. I’m reminded of the flight attendant phrase (back when we used to travel!), “Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others,” and it very much applies to leadership, as well. We don’t always have the luxury to do that – in fact, many times last year I found myself not taking the time for self care that I typically would. However, meeting one’s own needs is critical to being able to meet the needs of others.
Going into this new year, I’ve adjusted my leadership approach in three key ways:
The first: Don’t beat yourself up – build yourself up.
We have a tendency to be our own worst critics, and more than once over the past year I have felt like I met detour after detour while steering the metaphorical ship. Whether a project took longer than anticipated, a colleague wasn’t performing, or we faced system disruptions, I often let myself take the blame. What I realized is that you can’t beat yourself up – you have to build yourself up and make sure everyone and everything is accountable and trustworthy. This year, I’m giving myself more grace and time as a leader – picking myself up, dusting off, and getting back to work.
The second: Set actionable, focused, personal and professional goals.
Many times in the past year it felt like drinking water from a fire hose – there were so many parts of the business that required attention, all at once. And while the cadence of our work was very much dictated by the times, what I learned is that it’s important to set actionable, focused (and ultimately, attainable) goals in the short, mid and long-term. Setting too many goals at once can make it difficult to achieve any of them in a meaningful way – so this year, I’m simplifying my to-do list and focusing on the most critical goals first.
The third: Take time for yourself.
You can’t be a good leader if you’re not taking care of yourself – and encouraging your team to do the same. With so much work to do, it can be easy to let the human side of you fall to the wayside – but that’s not healthy or sustainable in the long-term. At Huntington, we introduced “Happy Huddles,” weekly calls where we simply connect as a corporate team and celebrate our wins. Outside of the office this year, I’ll be spending more time on healthy habits, like more reading (and less screen time), getting outside, connecting with friends, and looking for positivity everywhere I can. I encourage every leader to do the same!