It is customary to move into a new year with optimism and a heightened level of energy and excitement, but as we move more into 2021 we are reminded of the lesson that 2020 taught us so well – the only constant in life is change, and that we need to adapt and be flexible if we are going to thrive in this new world that we find ourselves in.
More and more companies are continuing to work remotely and I can’t imagine what it must be like to start a new job during these trying times, especially a first-time job… How do you feel welcome in such a distant and remote environment and how are you going to learn and grow to your fullest potential? For existing team members, how do we keep morale and optimism high so that we can continue to better ourselves and progress?
There is no doubt that technology has been the enabler in all of this, allowing us to carry on “business as usual” and giving us amazing platforms to engage, interact and learn in the process. But online fatigue is real, and especially in such a socially-driven industry as advertising, we need to acknowledge that we aren’t in this alone. There is something to be said about not forgetting the human side of things in all the madness, so when looking at mentorship, training and motivation there are three human layers that we can tap into – our leaders, our teams and ourselves. If we are going to achieve our best potential, we need to leverage off this human ecosystem.
The evolving role of leadership
We all know the common traits of good leaders – charisma, vision, influence, passion, confidence, accountability, honesty, the list goes on. But now more than ever we need our leaders to be agile, inspirational, empathetic and engaged. Agility speaks to speed and flexibility, knowing how to adapt and change to stay ahead of the curve – within days of Covid-19 hitting in March 2020 our teams were all set up and ready to work from home, and a new work reality was re-imagined.
Along the way we have also had many team members having to deal with sickness and loss of family, friends, and colleagues, as well as depression from being isolated and alone – being there to listen and to offer support, whether personally or in the form of providing access to councilors, has helped enormously and demonstrated sincere care for teams and employees. But most importantly, leaders need to regularly engage with all employees, from the very senior to the very junior, being accessible, communicating regularly, and providing forums to interact in a positive and motivating way.
The power of the team
A lot can be said for the power of the collective team – the sense of belonging it brings can be very powerful and that is why developing and nurturing team identity and togetherness is essential. Building on values such as support, connections and inspiration can only build the team up, and when the team does well, spirits are lifted and motivation increases.
It is also important to leverage off each other’s strengths and cultivate a team culture of sharing and learning. I often say that the most valuable training I ever received was on the job as opposed to formal courses and training programmes. Identifying “champions” that can mentor the more junior team members is invaluable – firstly, it gives the champions a sense of purpose and pride in being able to transfer their skills and knowledge, plus it helps to grow good leaders of the future. Secondly, it gives the junior team members priceless experience and helps them feel like valued members that make real contributions.
And yes, it is important to connect regularly. I’m not just talking about work, but also talk about what’s going on in our lives – bringing humanness back and creating a safe space to learn, grow and build each other up.
Self-motivation becoming an integral part of our DNA
The first step is ensuring that you are mentally in the right frame of mind, otherwise you won’t be able to function, let alone grow and thrive. The second step is to ensure you have good work-life balance, which is particularly difficult in the work from home environment, so a conscientious effort needs to be made.
Then you need to really and truly want to do better and be the best you can be. This takes pro-activity and taking an active role in your development. It also requires a keen sense of curiosity and not being afraid to ask questions, work hard at finding the answers, and getting your hands dirty by practicing while you learn new skills. Lastly, it takes optimism and courage – stay positive and be brave, and you will see the rewards.
So, as we contemplate what lies ahead we need to look to our leaders for clarity, guidance and inspiration, and hold them accountable for their role in our development. We need to integrate fully with our teams and play an active role in this world of give and take. And we need to hold ourselves accountable for our own career development and work satisfaction.
Wishing you all a productive, inspiring and happy 2021!