It’s been an interesting year – I think we can all agree on that. And yet, here we are, at the beginning of the 4th quarter, where all years must go at some stage. Time has not stopped and neither has our world stopped turning. This week, I will start the process of unpacking the 4th quarter with a number of teams to assess where they are and what they need to focus on to make the most of what remains, and to prep themselves for 2021. As time marches on, so must we, regardless of the space and for many, the turmoil that this year has left us in.
Consciously checking and reordering our thinking occasionally is necessary. Not only is it necessary, but it’s a brilliant way to maintain sanity and to ensure you’re still on track for what you’re aiming at. When we set ourselves time to reassess, to “sense check”, and to examine where we’re sitting, we do not only ourselves a great service, but those around us.
There are a number of reasons I run a 4th quarter assessment with teams. Firstly, because we’re far enough into the year for what we’re aiming at to need refreshing, and for the route we were traveling on to have been significantly side-tracked (sometimes derailed) by the events so far. This is true for any year, and this one has been particularly “special”.
Secondly, time seems to speed up once you hit October. That there are three remaining months of the year is somewhat of a fallacy, considering that at least half of December is a weird illusion of holiday and downtime which, unless we’re mindful about grabbing it, will have disappeared in a flash and a blur without leaving us rested. Prepping now to reassess how to apply ourselves to a 4th quarter sprint means that we can prioritise, reorder, and re-aim – making us not only effective now, but ensuring we’re primed for the coming year and able to get that mind-dump time between this year ending and the next taking off.
What becomes super important about this part of the year – and this year more so than most – is how we manage our energy. We’ve spoken countless times over the past few months about how we’re dealing with the uncertainty and change this year has brought. We’ve recognised how it’s affected us all differently, how many of us feel worn down, and how things are starting to rub a little. Dealing with constant change is no small ask in terms of self-management – especially if we’re to remain open, communicative and centred.
One of the things I enjoy most about this 4th quarter assessment phase is watching teams discuss what remains on the plate and how they’re going to handle it individually and collectively. None of us are strangers to being in a situation where we needed to say, “this is a lot”, or “this is hard”, or “I’m worried this won’t work”, or “I need help”. How many of us have actually spoken up is a different story, and if we did speak up, did we give thought to the energy we shared with our group before we lobbed it into the collective pond?
In one of his videos this week, Simon Sinek quoted Alan Mullaly, former CEO of Ford Motor Company. He quoted Mullaly as having said, “You have a problem. You are not the problem.”. This is an important distinction when it comes to consciously communicating in a way that is helpful to our forward movement, and that of the people we share space with. The story goes that when the first executive had the courage to admit that a new vehicle launch would be delayed, instead of firing him (as everyone assumed), Alan Mullaly began clapping and said, “…that is great visibility… what can we do to help you out?”. From that point, confidence bloomed, communication flowed, and collaboration grew.
As we head towards the last quarter of 2020, acknowledge what it’s taken you to manage yourself and this year so far. It’s not been easy. In fact, it’s been considerable. It’s left most of us with some residual build up, and less energy than we’d usually have at a typically low-ebb time of year.
Now is a fabulous time to regroup. Whether that’s you and a piece of paper, or you and your team (at home or at work). Now is a great time to assess what really needs to be prioritised for the remainder of this year for the year to feel like a success. Focus. Swap your shotgun for a sniper riffle. Reassess your track and make the necessary corrections to regain it if you find that you’re a little off.
Stay open. Communicate. BUT, before you do, assess your contribution.
When you share your communication, you share the energy that you’ve attached to it. You contribute that energy to the average energy of the group, or whomever you’re communicating with. If you are frustrated, that is what you’ll add to the pool, raising the average frustration level. If you’re tired or uncertain, those will be the vibes that you add to the collective. It’s human psychology that, as soon as we have a thought, we try and decide what it means – whether it’s good or bad – and then we assign a feeling (emotion) to it. Often, rather than sharing our thoughts and actual problems constructively, we share those emotions in our words.
I’m a huge advocate of authentic and vulnerable leadership. I believe that for leadership to be strong, it must come from a genuine place of integrity. That means it’s not always going to look perfect or invincible. Along with leadership comes responsibility. And when we’re part of a team, we have a responsibility to that team to be conscious about what we contribute.
So, as we stand looking forward at the remainder of this year, figure out what’s truly important and what needs to be focused on. Figure out what’s realistic and what needs to be discussed. If you have a problem, or something that could snag up the works, say so. Remember that “You have a problem. You are not the problem.”, and present that problem visibly to the team so that they can see where they can help. But, before you make your contribution, consider what it is you’d like to add to the collective. Presenting a problem backed by frustration and angst is one way to go about it….. and presenting a problem with the belief that you can solve it together is another.
Whatever it is that you contribute from here on out, make sure it raises the collective – whether you lob it into the team pond at work, or at home, or on social media for that matter. If you’re not currently in a space to make an elevating contribution, take a break, take a breath, and ask yourself how you can better contribute to get things solved together.
by Christen Killick
September 28th September, 2020