It’s been quite the year hasn’t it, folks! I don’t know about you, but this has proven to be a voyage of self-discovery for me personally as we build businesses that can thrive in a world where it doesn’t matter where you are anymore, where the rules of the game are being re-written in a way we could never have imagined a year ago.
If you’d told me we’d be doing multi-million dollar deals over Zoom and holding the attention of a global industry captive for an entire day online while we shared experiences of vaccine brands, I would seriously try and shake myself out of this bizarre dream. Not to mention the spate of billion-dollar-plus deals being constructed on the back of an envelope…
In fact, I may still be having the same bizarre dream while I sleep-write this, and will wake up shortly to check my seat and meal-selection on my next trans-Atlantic flight, so I hope my ten learnings from the past imaginary year of bizarreness are worth a read:
- Take control of your career. Whomever you are in today’s corporate world, the playing field has been leveled – however, almost everyone you know relies on the same vehicles to get things done. You have more time than you’ve ever had to focus on covering all the bases of your professional and personal lives, so make this time count and prepare for the future with a new attitude of self-assurance and confidence.
- Be a great communicator. During his career heyday, my father was a world-famous scientist in protein science and biochemistry. His one (career) piece of advice to me was “always assume stupidity in your audience”. People love to hear you talk about the basics of what we do and build from there. I have never veered from this advice and it always serves me well… and those who engage in my narrative have proven to be anything but stupid!
- Make a concerted effort to develop your relationships. While nothing beats a great dinner or a few glasses of good wine, beer, or whisky, the people you knew before the big change are still as important as ever, and you need to do what you can to keep them close and keep the camaraderie moving along. Relationships got you where you are, and during these new times, it’s even more important to keep the dialog going. Make time for the people who matter, and develop deeper relationships where you can. Also, focus on more one-to-one dialogs with people than sitting through hours of turgid discussions with too many people… nothing beats the intimacy of a direct conversation where you can see each other and share your genuine thoughts, ideas and feelings.
- Keep learning new things. No one has any excuse to keep doing the same old things the same way, and in today’s environment, you really don’t want to become a dinosaur… post-covid world is definitely not dinosaur-friendly! If you are in sales, learn to sell over Zoom; if you’re in marketing… learn cool new apps to run promos, get familiar with analytics that help you understand your market, and make publications look awesome; if you’re in finance, put yourself on some data science courses; if you’re in IT learn how to cloudify business functions and understand the context. And if you’re ready to break free of the corporate treadmill, there is no better time to start your own business and reel in some clients.
- Show your emotions more freely. Don’t you prefer to know how people really feel about things? Or if you’re pissing someone off? And doesn’t it feel good to get things off your chest, instead of letting them simmer for a long time until you blow up like a pressure-cooker? We have no choice but to preserve/build digital relationships with people, so be more expressive, and people will know you better, and maybe they’ll be more expressive in return.
- Demonstrate your true values. We can peek into each others’ homes, hear our kids screaming and dogs barking… so why not peer a bit deeper into what makes us think the way we do? There are just too many issues conflicting our world these days, and it helps to share some of our views and beliefs – when it is appropriate. While it’s wise to avoid politics (unless it’s plainly apparent you’re with like-minded people), it’s healthy to discuss how to manage people better, the culture in which we like to work, how to cope better with stress, how to get a better balance between work life, health and family life. It’s also healthy to discuss how to balance diversity issues in the workplace, ensure equal opportunities for candidates when we are hiring for roles, respect our planet more, and what we can do collectively as an organization to address sustainability issues. Because if we never share our values, we can never learn from each other, and we can never evolve with how we think and act. This also means we need to avoid public shaming of people for behaviors that some people may construe as racist or sexist. That only creates deeper divisions between people and does nothing to promote better attitudes.
- Make peace with people you value. It’s so easy to fall out with people these days when tensions and stress levels are running high… but it’s also just as easy to smooth things over and get relationships in a better place. It’s also easy to reconnect with folks you’d fallen out with years ago and find new areas of common value – bury that hatchet! The modern business culture is so relationship-driven these days, so drop the ego and cultivate relationships with people who matter.
- Move on from people who don’t appreciate you. And on the flip side, those people who just use you when they need something… aren’t you just sick and tired of the take, take, take, and never getting anything back? These people are already getting left behind, and you need to move on from them. It’s all about valuing each other, listening to each other, sharing ideas, and mutually helping each other out.
- Take the higher ground. How many times do you get pulled into petty squabbles, and you suddenly realize “why am I bothering? This really isn’t important to me”. Always take a deep breath and think about your higher goals and consider whether you need to fight every battle and distract yourself from the war you need to win? This isn’t being “political”, it’s simply smart about how you handle yourself.
- Don’t forget those who got you here. One of my most important rules is never to forget the helping hands you’ve had during your quest for greatness. People who supported you know what they did and really appreciate it when you recognize them for it. I have lost count of all the favors I have done for people over the years, but I do remember when someone mentions they appreciated it – even if it’s years later. However, those who just “take, take, take” get struck off my list pretty fast these days – who has time for the entitled liberty-takers who want whatever they can get when they ask for it?
Peace Out… 😉