Thirty-five years ago my parents joined me at my business launch party at my penthouse offices in Soho, New York. My own new firm — no more working for anyone else! Woohoo!
My father was a retired cop and moved on to cleaning plane interiors for American Airlines. In the middle of the party he asked: “Where’s your security?” He didn’t mean bouncers or guards. Nor was he asking about financial security from angel investors. (Although Mom was one, and never told him!) He meant: “How will you be able to afford a home, or retire? Where’s your long-term security?”
“Here, Dad,” I replied, pointing repeatedly to my chest. “Here.”
Every self-driven and agile individual has a similar story: Belief in oneself, our vision, our drive, and our passions is what keeps us going during the toughest situations.
But few of us have experienced anything like the dumpster fire known as COVID-19, 2020. By mid-year, more than 100,000 small businesses were forever shuttered. And that trend only grew as the next wave of the pandemic hit. Many firms that received PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans eventually filed for bankruptcy.
2020 was tough on all of us! Belief in oneself, our vision, and our personal agility are no longer enough. We need more. We need family. teammate, and community support. We need government support. And we need more openness about our hardships.
Owning Our Hardship Truths, Recognizing Personal Growth
In coaching senior executives across the globe who face transformational decisions, I’ve found that the most important pre-work is introspection — understanding the personal challenges interwoven within business challenges. That’s especially true for all of us that survived 2020!
None of us likes admitting failure. At heart: we’re eternal optimists. Our DNA is to always believe in our personal ability to adapt, overcome, and succeed.
Yet precious few of us create the time to process personal growth in-the-moment. We’re too busy trying to create a 25th hour in the day so we can get more done!
But process, we must. With insight, our hardships become our renewed source of strength and perserverence. Introspection jumpstarts successful pandemic leadership.
During the past year I’ve asked hundreds of executives one question, based on their 2020 COVID-19 experiences: What’s the biggest thing you learned about YOU in the past few months?
Across the globe and across many industries, two universal lessons-learned have emerged:
• Family matters most. Forced to work from home, many of us have reconnected with the most primal of needs — family. Entrepreneurs, self-starters, and hyper-driven individuals often forget this. Our business creations and successes sometimes supersede all else. (I was one of those guilty of this. Sixteen years ago, one of the contributing factors to my divorce was an obsessive focus on my business.)
• “Wow! I hadn’t realized how resilient I am!” During crises, adapting every moment of every day becomes almost routine. Because your focus has been on gazillions of external pandemic forces — like new safety protocals, creating new revenue streams, and just keeping the business alive or your paychecks coming — few of us appreciate how much personal transformation we just experienced.
Your Story: Why Introspection Matters During the Pandemic
Self-awareness and self-care is key to all leaders’ success. You can’t succeed in the marketplace if you’re not taking care of yourself and not fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses. But let’s put that aside for the moment.
Your teammates, your suppliers, and your customers were all thrashing about with you in that 2020 dumpster fire. They need your empathy, your support, your attention, your compassion, and they’d benefit from your story — hearing about your vulnerability, your challenges, your lessons learned, what you went through with them.
Your 2020 experiences — your story — are among your key leadership tools in helping others get through one of the most disruptive and challenging years they’ll ever experience.
And that leadership begins with understanding what you yourself just went through.
Bill Jensen makes it easier to leap into tomorrow. He is CEO of The Jensen Group, is ranked as a Top Ten Global Thought Leader on Digital Disruption, and is an IBM futurist. His next book is The Day Tomorrow Said No, which maps how to create our best future of work. Download your free copy here: https://www.tomorrowsaidy.es
By Bill Jensen
Keywords: COVID19, Future of Work