You know how we always want to start afresh with resolutions as we enter into a new year? I would like to do something for a change and bring some of my lessons learned in 2019 over to 2020. Here’s a list of them!
1. Practice mindfulness
In the past year, I really felt that everything was screaming for my attention. You name it – emails, Whatsapp messages, calendar invites, shoulder taps (and apologetic smiles) from your colleagues, and the list goes on. I felt so exhausted from tending to every request yet was frustrated for feeling so unproductive.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is to practice mindfulness. This requires me to not firefight aimlessly or just put out any fire that is closest. An amazing mentor at work reminded me about the ‘Urgent Important Matrix’ (otherwise known as the Eisenhower Matrix). It’s so simple to understand yet so hard for me to practice because my natural state of mind is that everything is urgent AND important (Quadrant 1).
Right now, I try to find time every Monday morning to plan my week ahead using this matrix and I want to continue with this for 2020. There have been observable improvements at work. I’m starting to contribute more during meetings because I have already listed down potential solutions and pitfalls (Quadrant 2).
Now, I’m able to delegate urgent but less important tasks more effectively to my team members, empowering them to grow as leaders (Quadrant 3). I am still learning how to say “No” to tasks that are not urgent and not important (Quadrant 4) and that leads me to my next lesson.
‘Responsibility’ is one of my top strengths based on CliftonStrengths. It means that its difficult for me to refuse requests from others and sometimes I overcommit.
One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned this year is to accept that saying “No” is not a sign of weakness. Clearly communicating that “I’m not the right person to take up this project” or “This task is not my top priority” does not make me a less responsible person.
Communicating a plain “No” can be very difficult to most of us. Perhaps, for 2020 we can still say “No” by saying, “Is there someone else who can take this up?” or “This is not a priority for me at the moment. Can it wait till the end of next month?” I find that people are generally thankful for such honesty and are able to make better decisions based on our availability.
3. Demonstrate vulnerability as a leader
You have to be honest and authentic and not hide. I think the leader today has to demonstrate both transparency and vulnerability, and with that comes truthfulness and humility.
Our CEO, Roshan Thiran, was asked this question during a fireside chat at our company retreat, “What is your greatest fear?” Truth to be told, I always thought he was a leader who feared little (or nothing, even). His answer, however really showed me the level of transparency and humility he had towards his employees when he revealed his vulnerability.
On a separate occasion this year, a colleague of mine was sharing with me how her very bad day at work led to a series of panic attacks. I truly empathised with her and also shared about my emotional episodes at work. Her immediate response, “Connie, you have no idea how comforting it is to know that you go through this too.”
Her statement really showed me how my vulnerability and transparency can create such a positive impact on others, letting them know that they are not on this journey alone. So for 2020, I want to continue being transparent to my peers, and to my team members as we grow together as leaders.
4. Let history be your teacher, not your worst nightmare
I’ve had my share of mistakes in 2019 and I’ve come to terms that there are two ways to deal with them. I can choose to grieve over it and vow to never go near anything related to it again, or I can laugh at my own flaws, find out how to not repeat that mistake and go at it again.
No matter how bad your mistakes were, there is always a new day to get it right. While it’s painful to revisit your mistakes, reframe it as nuggets of wisdom help you do better tomorrow, and your mistakes don’t have to be your worst nightmare anymore.
“I try to remind young leaders that you will make mistakes. You will fail. And you have to be in a position where you’re able to laugh at yourself and your own flaws but then get back up. Use that as a tool for resilience.” – President Barack Obama
I truly hope that apart from bringing our 2019’s lessons over to 2020, we will also remember to celebrate our achievements and growth this year! Let’s not focus only on our shortcomings and deny ourselves of the self recognition we deserve in our journey of being better leaders. Here’s to an exciting 2020!
Connie Lee is currently the finance and strategic projects team lead at Leaderonomics. She believes that everyone has the potential to be a good leader. Data analysis and data storytelling makes her feel alive! In the coming year, she hopes to master the art of ‘eliminate, automate and delegate’.