Leadership (and Frozen Custard) is Essential for 2021

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Happy New Year!

The year 2020 was one that challenged us all in ways we could have never imagined or prepared for.  Businesses had to adapt to new tactics mid-year, while shifting their work environments.  Parents had to understand how to be effective at work while also managing to assist their children at school with many students still learning remotely 9 months after the March shutdown.  And we all learned what was “essential” to us individually…whether it was what essentials we needed to shop for at the grocery store, what essentials we needed to get through each day, or what businesses/restaurants were deemed essential in our particular state.

My son works at Goodberry’s Frozen Custard, which has been able to serve their customers throughout these trying times as an essential restaurant with outdoor and to-go offerings for their customers.  Their product is consistently excellent, and their lines continue to be long, as families visit to try and bring some happiness to their lives.  They have done an excellent job of being an essential part of many family’s lives throughout the years, and especially the last several months.  Our family has realized that Frozen Custard from Goodberry’s is now a weekly essential part of our lives. 

The “essential” term has also made many people think about what are the essential traits of leadership, if these leadership pillars have changed in a post-covid world, and how to be the most effective leader possible going into 2021.  Consider these statistics about the current workplace*:

  1. 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace
  2. 81% of employees would leave their job for the right offer, even if they are not actively looking
  3. Companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable
  4. Good company culture increases revenue by 4X
  5. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 53% of employees surveyed say they feel more exhausted
  6. A full week of virtual meetings leaves 38% of employees feeling exhausted while 30% felt stressed
  7. 22% of employees say they have a difficult time unplugging after work
  8. During the pandemic, employees worked up to three hours more each day

Understanding your team’s needs and how to productively engage them is ESSENTIAL to success.  Here are five leadership essentials to assist you with leading others in the new year, and beyond.

  1. Focus on PURPOSE and PROCESS: This is a recurring leadership principle and, in challenging times, is even more critical.  If your team understands the “why” and the “how”, obstacles become opportunities.  Your company and team’s purpose needs to be reinforced weekly, and establishing processes and sticking to them (adapting when necessary) will increase your organizations efficiency. Looking back on 2020, the challenging times we faced were typically when we allowed others to circumvent the processes we had established for projects. 
  2. Connecting with people has to be frequent: One of the biggest challenges many leaders face is running teams in a remote environment.  We rely too much on e-mail, text messages, or other messaging tactics, without having a real-time small group discussion.  I have a rule that if there seems to be confusion after 3 e-mails, I pick up the phone, or set up a quick 15 minute zoom meeting to insure alignment.  In addition, your team could be comprised of millennials, Gen Z, and baby boomers, all 3 generations with very different ideas of how they learn and what is important to them.  Understanding what is essential to the individuals on your team will help you drive employee engagement. 
  3. Your attitude can be your passport or your prison:  Before you provide feedback on a situation, ask yourself these three questions:
    • Is your feedback positive?
    • Is your feedback helpful?
    • Is your feedback offering a solution?
  4. Understanding and dealing with stress at home and at work: Stress isn’t all necessarily bad.  Reasonable doses of stress challenge you to rise above and conquer!  Having a job with no stress can cause complacency.  However, understand that your team may be stressed by non-workplace things.  Practice listening and be empathetic to your team.  If you feel a member of your team is stressed, ask what you can do to help and follow through on this.  The most effective leaders manage stress by taking care of both mind and spirit (for the leader as well as influencing their team to do the same), managing time by prioritizing what is important (everything cannot be urgent or a fire drill), and asking for assistance when help is needed, whether in the office or at home. 
  5. Being a Servant Leader and Leading with Humility: Servant leaders put the needs of others first, and, in a work environment, they help people attain their highest performance potential. Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve their teams.  According to recent workplace statistics, 88% of participants prefer a collaborative work culture, 79% want a manager to serve as a coach or mentor, and that 64% want to help make the world a better place.  In 2021, focus on these ideas to help become a leader others want to work for and follow:
  • leading by example (the higher up you go, the harder and smarter you need to work)
  • creating an environment of safety and support
  • listening without judgement
  • respecting individuals’ abilities
  • removing any obstacles to success
  • helping the team work better together

I read the following quote about understanding relationships with others.  “You can’t just give up on someone because the situation is not ideal.  Great relationships (personal or business) aren’t great because there are not any problems.  They are great because BOTH people care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work.”  Being a leader means you are now an ambassador of your organization’s culture.  Whether you are a small business or a global organization, understanding the essentials of your team will help you thrive in 2021.  And sometimes a Hot Fudge Sundae from Goodberry’s Frozen Custard should be considered essential! 

Well Done > Well Said

* https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know

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