2020 was an interesting, unprecedented, strange, stressful, ambiguous, and uncertain year
It was also a year of great innovation, where I was reminded that together we can achieve greatness.
Resilience was the number one skill I leaned in on in 2020. Resilience, defined as our capacity to recover quickly from difficulty—toughness. For me and the thousands of leaders we worked with in 2020, resilience was the skill we needed to rely on and deepen above all other skills. Some days we were tough and other days we succumbed to weakness. It’s all part of being human.
Reconnecting with what makes us human is a part of how we move forward, together. While we are all on the same ocean of a pandemic with racial injustice in the waters, we are all in different ships. Our experience is shared, but not in common.That is why resilience was my theme for 2020.
For 2021, I am choosing HOPE.
Part of this journey for me was coming to grips with my emotions about 2020. I felt fearful at times about the pandemic, sick about the murder of George Floyd, sad about the racism plaguing our country, worried about our economic recovery, confused about the soul of our great country, strain around keeping FlashPoint healthy and stable, and really, really tired from hard work.
Recently, I had an experience that helped me reframe my emotions around 2020.
We recently had our annual, and now “virtual” holiday party. Our fun committee set the stage for a great time together with games and reflections. We prepared a list of key wins from the year and wow was that a long list. Every person in our firm had their fingerprints on what we achieved and the innovations we pivoted to—most importantly we achieved more through collaboration.
As each person shared what they were most proud of and what they were looking forward to in 2021, the themes were resoundingly clear: We were proud of how deep our relationships ran, how well we worked together, how much kindness and support we extended to each other, and how well we rebounded from disruption.
I was left with a feeling of deep hope.
So, I choose HOPE as my theme for 2021.
Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Archaically the word also meant a feeling of trust. Hope to me is about trusting in the goodness and potential in all of us to carry us through dark times and in the process becoming better human beings as a result.
I recently recorded a video with my friend Blake Johnson, President of IndyHub (whose mission is to grow, engage, and empower a community of 20-and 30-somethings who are meaningfully connected to Indianapolis and invested in its future.)
The video was focused on closing out and reflecting on 2020 and offering some career advice for these young leaders. He asked me an impromptu question at the close of our time together that really stuck with me: "What makes you most hopeful about 2021?"
I was already thinking a lot about hope, so this question was apropos to say the least. I answered by saying I have noticed two skills being exercised more frequently and they both give me hope for the future.
The first is curiosity. I’m noticing leaders, at the least the ones I admire most, demonstrating curiosity in new and rich ways. They have a strong desire to know and learn, to unlearn and relearn, and to seek to understand. By asking powerful questions and really listening to others, they are gaining new perspective, solving problems faster, and getting better results. When something feels different or foreign, they lean in, they inquire, they embrace. Curiosity to me is a skill that can prevent misunderstandings, help you find common ground, deepen your understanding of key issues and challenges, and ultimately make us a more open, approachable, and trusted human beings.
The second skill is empathy. I’m also noticing leaders demonstrating a deeper degree of empathy. Maybe this is because of the virtual environment, maybe it’s because the lines between work and home are blurred, and maybe Zoom meetings are the great equalizer (each in our Hollywood Squares video boxes). Whatever the cause, the leaders I admire most have an ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s a superpower and one I work to hone every day. Empathy can prevent unproductive conflict, ensure true understanding, help you connect with your peers and direct reports, lead you to be more inclusive of differences, and keep you grounded in reality.
I believe that by practicing curiosity and empathy we all as leaders can manifest our hopes for 2021. We aren’t out of the weeds yet, but I’m certain that hopefulness is the path for me and all leaders to move us from surviving to thriving.
We’d love to hear more about your theme for 2021! What leadership skills will help you most right now to thrive in 2021?Watch the IndyHub interview/video here: https://fb.watch/2S2VyDDuy-/
Learn more about IndyHub here: https://indyhub.org/our-work-in-indianapolis/