This year has challenged most of us like no other year has ever before, and exactly for this reason have we been presented with a unique opportunity to accelerate our personal growth as leaders.
Following an online webinar with Interactive Workshops, I have reflected on the four key areas I have grown in as a leader and have summarised them below.
As a result of predominantly working from home over the last 6 months, boundaries between work and my personal life had become totally blurred. A typical day would start with MS Team meetings which would run all day long. Lunch and dinner were often eaten while still on calls and then the evenings were used to catch up on emails. It started feeling as if I was working around the clock. Yes, at the beginning it was a crisis, but was this sustainable in the long term?
It definitely wasn’t sustainable for me and since I had no more physical boundaries like I had when I went to the office, I decided to set myself “time” boundaries, so that I could remain energised and focused. As a result I tried to re-introduce proper:
- Lunch breaks (at least 30 min where I don’t look at my screens)
- Dinner with my girlfriend
- Force myself to have emails and tasks completed before dinner, to avoid emails in the evening or weekends
By setting these time limits it has helped me be more effective and focused with my time when working during the day, because I have clear “deadlines” to meet.
Whilst this has helped me grow as a leader, it is also important to remember the impact boundaries or lack thereof have on your team.
Our teams are most likely facing the same issues I was, with totally blurred boundaries. So if you as the leader set firmer boundaries and avoid writing those emails late at night or scheduling calls during lunch breaks, you will naturally help your team better manage their own boundaries. And as a result they will hopefully be able to manage their energy and focus better.
I have already spoken about the struggles when it came to boundaries between work and my personal life and one of the main culprits for this was the crazy amount of virtual meetings we were suddenly having.
This was as a result of no longer being able to have short impromptu meetings in the office, nearly everything now had to be scheduled.
So in order to manage those boundaries better and to carve out some time to work on important tasks, I started re-learning how to run more efficient and effective meetings.
Over the last couple of months I have started following these three key points:
- Asking myself honestly whether I was needed or added value to a meeting? If not, I declined and ask to get a summary
- I insisted on keeping meetings, which would usually be an impromptu one in the office, to a max of 15-20min.
- And I got into a habit of stopping the meeting, if the chairperson had not come prepared in order for decisions to be made.
I realise this is nothing new and revolutionary, but sometimes we need to be reminded and “kicked in the ass” to improve something as simple as running better meetings, which was the case for me.
It is still a work in progress, but since having started with the above, I find I have far more free time to work on strategic actions, and to think and reflect.
New Ways of Communicating
With almost everybody working remotely, being able to communicate comfortably and clearly via phone, MS teams, video messages or email has become even more critical than ever.
The biggest hurdle at the beginning when I shifted from mainly face to face interaction to completely virtual communication, was the lack of feedback you get from your audience, which in all honesty can feel very uncomfortable.
But having been thrown into the deep end of the pool, I have learnt through feedback how to make virtual communication as interactive as possible.
Things I never thought I would do virtually, have now become a norm and I have learnt to feel very comfortable doing them. For example leading:
- Large customer webinars (150 people) to promote new products to tackle covid-19
- Virtual coffee session with the team
- Personal videos shared with the entire team in order to emphasise our vision
With the workplace of the future most likely being a combination of both remote working and office work, being able to communicate in both environments well, will be key to being a successful leader in the future.
With the current economic environment, it is more important than ever to be continuously improving as a team, in order to be able to quickly adapt to all the changes we are facing.
For me this is the reason why accelerating the amount of feedback we provide within the team is more important than ever, as only through both (positive and negative feedback) do we grow and improve quickly.
Having realised this, I started practicing providing more direct feedback and learning how to do it in a constructive manner. And at the same time asking for more feedback on how we as a team could improve things.
One book I read which helped me grow on this topic was Radical Candor. Not only did it encourage me to provide direct feedback quickly for areas of improvement, but also to make sure the positive feedback that was being provided was more than just “good job”.
At the end of the day being able to give and receive feedback openly both face to face and virtually is key for the teams and companies success.
In summary, whilst at a personal level I feel I have grown in the four areas of:
- setting better boundaries
- managing meetings
- communicating in new ways
- accelerating feedback
I have also noticed and realised that by trying to improve in these areas, I have also ended up setting an example for the team to find areas of growth (even if they are not the same). And by doing so, the entire team will achieve even greater successes.