As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” As we look back upon the year 2020, hindsight reveals some incredible lessons that we should carry forth in 2021 and beyond. I wanted to share eight lessons from 2020 related to organizational wellness for individuals and teams. Here I share the last four lessons in Part 2 of this two-part blog post. I encourage you to consider these lessons as you “CEEK a Better Way” in 2021 and beyond.
1. Environment Matters
After a year in which many of us worked from home or in isolation from our colleagues, we were forced to establish new routines and confront distractions. As I experimented with when, where, and how to maximize productivity, I learned that the physical environment from which I work has a significant impact. At the onset of the pandemic, my morning routine typically began in a shared space in our home with background noise and distractions including an online high school civics course, a microwave on autopilot, ringing phones, Sports Center highlights, unsolicited interruptions from someone named Alexa, and of course a “barking alarm clock” named Moxie. I subsequently turned an upstairs guest room into a new home office. It is peaceful and quiet. I am more focused and I now joke about the difficulty of my morning commute up a treacherous flight of stairs. Find and create a space where you can focus without distraction, even if it is only for brief intervals of time throughout the day. Your productivity is sure to improve – mine did.
2. Inputs Equal Outputs
When it comes to science and mathematics, we accept that inputs determine outputs. Similarly, we know that the effort you put into your work (input) correlates to your productivity (output). This past year demonstrated that such relationships apply as much to our mental state as they do to science, mathematics, or work productivity. If you spent several hours each day watching the news and scrolling social media (input), you had a high probability of exhibiting a negative or pessimistic disposition (output). It is critical to monitor what you take in. Exchange negativity for positivity and observe the impact on your general disposition. While it is important to stay informed, it is more important to maintain a positive outlook – even in the midst of significant adversity. Read good books, listen to inspirational podcasts, surround yourself with optimists, and maintain a positive, healthy mindset. This brings us to our next lesson…
3. Look For the Good
As a native of Pittsburgh, I’ve always been a fan or Mr. Rogers (and his neighborhood). He famously quoted his mother in response to scary things he would see on the news. “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” she would say. In the midst of the chaos in our world it is important to look for the good – it is far more prevalent than most of us would assume. Peaceful protesters standing up in the fight against systemic racism – that is good. Development of a vaccine in record time – that is good. The communities that pull together to share food, pay rent, or simply lend a hand to those in need – that is good. A boss or colleague who offers flexibility and grace in the midst of disruptive home and work schedules – that is good. Search for the good in life. It will shape your perspective and get you through difficult times.
4. Perspective Is Not Truth
I attended a virtual seminar this past year on how to build one’s brand as a speaker. The trainer stressed the importance of sharing one’s perspective with utmost certainty. “Take a stance on a controversial subject and preach it without compromise,” he said. Not surprisingly, the presenter was a frequent guest on a leading cable news network. If the past year taught me anything, it’s that our world needs A LOT more empathy. Too many of us treat our opinions as though they are fact. We fail to assess circumstances from the perspective of another. Doing so, is not weakness…it is strength. Recognize that few situations are black and white. Your perspective is neither true nor false. While it is important for leaders to take a stance, it is critical to maintain the humility and respect needed to understand that others have valid reasons for another competing perspective. A simple acknowledgement of the validity of alternative perspectives will promote civil discourse, cultural unity, and organizational wellness.
In spite of the adversity, I am grateful for the year that was and the many lessons that we have learned. I hope you find some wisdom and knowledge to carry forth in 2021 from these and lessons of your own. And always remember, smart people know what to do…exceptional people do what they know. May you take action in 2021 toward organizational wellness and personal fulfillment. CEEK a Better Way!