Over the past month, I encountered four different young people ranging from 19 to 26 who made such a favorable impression on me that I feel compelled to write about the experiences. I was struck by the consistent positive behaviors they all exhibited, despite their diverse backgrounds and the various reasons they had for wanting to speak with me. Each of them demonstrated sincere courtesy, curiosity, gratitude and they all followed up with me in a timely manner based on the different subjects we had discussed. As an added bonus, each of them sent me a hand-written thank you note (I have always been a fan of the hand-written thank you note!). Why do these behaviors stand out? In today’s world, I am likely to observe one, possibly two at most, of these behaviors I value so highly from people of any age. Rarely do I encounter all four behaviors at once. To say the least, I was intrigued and wanted to understand why these four young adults were different.
I was thinking this morning about the dead and dying trees we had removed from our yard last September, especially the massive ash tree next to our house that caused my family so much anxiety, worry and stress during storms or windy days. Removing the trees was a complicated and expensive process due to their size and difficult access for the necessary machinery. When the trees were gone and new landscaping covered the scars of removal, we felt an immediate sense of relief and a feeling of peace for which we are all grateful. The entire process was cathartic in so many ways.
I was reflecting yesterday over a great conversation I had with my 20-year old son Saturday as we ran errands and grabbed lunch on his last day of winter break before he headed back to college. In the past when my son was much younger, I had a tendency to jump right into the topics I wished to discuss: “How was school today?”, “How did you do on your History quiz?” and the ever annoying dad question: “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”…you get the picture. His responses were typically “yes”, “no”, “fine”, “I don’t know” or “I guess”. Sound familiar?
What do I want my 2021 to look like? You may be reflecting on this important question as we close out one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced. Business professionals should always make time for reflection, reassessment of their strategy and goal planning. I would suggest this approach is more critical than ever if we wish to break out of the rut many of us may feel we are in. By now, it is likely you have largely completed your 2021 business goals and strategy planning. If so, I would encourage the readers of this post to expand their thinking about the coming year in terms of time and priorities (both business and personal). The business priorities and goals may be clear, but how about your personal priorities?
I recently spoke with a senior leader in my business network on the topic of inspiring and encouraging employees in what has been a very challenging year. As we shared observations, we were both struck by how gloomy, cynical and anxious many leaders (and their team members) in our extended networks seem to be about life, work and the coming year. This is certainly understandable in light of what we have experienced in 2020. The pandemic, politics, family stress, the economy, social isolation, work from home stress, negativity from news channels/social media and a host of other challenges is slowly wearing us down and making many of us feel more jaded.
I was reflecting today on this wacky year. With the pandemic, the nasty political season, a difficult economy, eroding of important values in society, the lack of civility in our country and a host of other challenges…I could rightfully be in a grumpy state of mind. Maybe you are feeling that way right now? It also dawned on me that I have a clear choice…a choice between feeling grumpy and feeling grateful.
I have been reflecting a lot lately on the topic of time. Time is a finite resource and we only have so much of it to harness and share. As I encounter other busy professionals, I am always struck by the common struggle we all have to find enough time for work, time for family, time for friends, time to relax…you get the picture. I wrote a post a few years ago on this challenge called Living Life in Real Time about best practices for taking charge of our busy calendars. If you are seeking best practices to more effectively manage your time, check it out.
My oldest son Alex is almost 23 and he has high-functioning autism. He is a wonderful and bright young man with many gifts, balanced to some degree by social quirkiness and other challenges resulting from his autism. When he graduated from high school, my wife and I decided he was not yet ready for the rigors of college and instead focused on helping him find employment and increasing his independence.
I vividly recall a meeting several years ago with one of my executive coaching clients when we were about two weeks into our working relationship. She walked into the room, obviously very excited to share something with me. She placed a two-page document on the table between us and declared: “I want to discuss mission statements today!” It was clear that these pages represented hers. She then asked me to share my own mission statement before we discussed hers and my client eagerly took out her notebook to write down what she assumed would be a lengthy description of my own mission statement.
“It is only two words, so there is no need to take notes.” I said, much to her bewilderment.
It’s a tough time to be a business leader right now and dealing with the uncertainty of “what’s next?” and predicting when our economy will return to some form of normal is dominating the thoughts of the leaders I know. Over the last several weeks I have engaged with dozens of senior leaders from companies all over the country about how they are dealing with the immediate and long-term economic impact, leading remote teams and addressing the safety needs/concerns of their employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. The broad spectrum of conversations usually boil down to this simple question:
How do leaders authentically communicate the economic realities of what is going on right now to their team members while offering hope that there are better days ahead?