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008. My Leadership Lessons of 2020

2020 was a challenging year for many of us, but it was also a year that brought us new opportunities to grow and develop our leadership skills.
There are some key leadership lessons I have learned through the work with my clients and for myself as a business owner.

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Why empathy has proven to be one of the most important leadership skills
  • Effective Communication skills leaders have learned
  • The power of Connection
  • How leaders have learned to be more adaptable
  • The importance of leading by example

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[00:01:00]hello, and welcome back to this episode of the Lead like YOU! Podcast.

In this episode, I will share all the leadership lessons that I have learned in 2020. These lessons are things that I have learned through my own work as a leadership coach, through the work with my clients, and also things that I personally have learned for myself as a leader in my area this year.

Before we go into it, just a quick reminder that there’s still time to sign up for my “Lead with Courage” group coaching program. We will start on the 9th of December 2020, and we’ll work together up until the end of March. This is a group program for people who want to step into their confidence and really create impact.

We take everything we [00:02:00] learned in 2020, and we will define your courageous leadership brand that will help you to have impact speak up and be assertive and be seen for the potential that you have. Follow the link in the show notes for more information and I’m looking forward to welcome you in the program.

So 2020 has been quite a wild year. So much has happened for us so much that we have never experienced before. It has really tested our resilience and also our leadership skills.

I have thought a little bit about all the things that I have learned this year. I want to share some key skills that I’ve observed by leaders and also skills that I realized were really helpful for me to show up with impact throughout all the challenges of 2020.

The first thing I want to talk about is empathy. Empathy became really important this year and there it’s so important to look at empathy towards ourselves and of course towards the people that we lead or that we are in business with. When we start with empathy towards ourselves, it’s really important that we just [00:03:00] acknowledge that things have been tough. We could see that throughout the year. There were new challenges for us. We had to adapt really quickly and it was not always easy.

There were things we couldn’t foresee that happened. There were things in our personal life that got tricky. Working from home with kids was quite difficult. So it was really important that we practice empathy towards ourselves.

For me, this meant to allow myself to take breaks, to allow myself to accept that not everything is going to go to plan. There were also a few months where my business wasn’t going so well, where companies had postponed or delayed their projects. So I really had to adjust to that and I really had to accept that not everything was going to plan. When my son was out of daycare because daycare was closed, it also meant that I had to readjust my schedule. I couldn’t expect as much of myself. And to be honest, that will still quite difficult.

I always have high expectations and I was still sometimes quite harsh on myself, but I’ve learned to slow down. I’ve learned to accept that I can’t achieve [00:04:00] everything that I wanted to achieve and that it’s okay. I learned to listen to myself and I learned to give myself breaks when I need it. It didn’t always work, but I tried my best and I think empathy towards ourselves and self care and listening to what we need is really important.

When we think about empathy towards others, it was really important to show understanding and to listen to what’s going on. To understand that not everyone in our team has the same circumstances. For some, it felt easier for someone who was more difficult to adapt.

So it was really important that we took the time to listen and to really understand what was going on and support the people with exactly what they needed at that time. Some were challenged with daycare. Some were challenged with working from home. Some were just feeling frustrated and stuck. the leaders that I’ve worked with that have invested in their empathy and really started to tune in, they were the ones that kept strong relationships going and they kept their team together.

really closely connected to empathy is [00:05:00] effective communication. And we’ve seen with leaders that effective communication skills were really important throughout this year. Especially when suddenly your team is working from home, or maybe you had a split team and some were working in the office, some were working from home.

It was really important that you actually spend some time to look at your communication strategies. How are you getting in touch with your people? How are you staying connected? How did leaders create space to have these informal conversations?

One company I worked with were really great at that. Every month they had a really creative team gathering. They had dinner parties, they had quiz nights, they invited some guests or comedians, and they really made sure that they took care of their people. They had drink vouchers, food vouchers, and they all came together once a month for a social gathering. And that really allowed to build that informal connection.

Another leader. I worked with really invested in regular one-on-one meetings. They really ramped up the touching points for the teams.

My husband, and their team, they made sure that every day they have [00:06:00] a quick half an hour team catch-up. Sometimes they had important things to discuss, and sometimes they just used the time to chat. And he said that this has really made a difference for his team and how they stuck together throughout this time.

Communication with remote teams takes a little bit more effort because we somehow have to make up for these informal water cooler chats that we usually would have. You would meet people at the coffee, you meet people in the kitchen and the hallway outside of the building for a lunch break. This is obviously all missing when you work remotely. So it’s really important to understand how you can create these conversations. How do you make sure everyone is involved and up to date, you know, when you’re in your office, it’s really easy to quickly shout out updates to walk by everybody’s desk and give them updates. And so some leaders got really creative and made sure that they were catching up with their teams regularly.

I’ve also seen that leaders had to be much clearer on how they communicate statuses, goals, targets, and how they were following up with to-dos. You had to be much more clearer to give the context so that everybody understood what was going on.

[00:07:00] And another key thing that a lot of people underestimated at the start was the power of video. So we all started to use zoom or Teams or any other communication conference tool. And there were some teams that just did not put on their camera. So really quickly relationships started to drizzle out. The trust was gone. You were not sure who was really involved or not, who tuned out of the meeting. So the power of having the cameras on was so important for teams. And even teams that I worked with that then swapped and started to leave the cameras on. They said that it has made such a big difference for the way they’re communicated and they spoke to each other.

And here it’s also key that we watch our body language, that we make sure that we don’t slouch in front of our camera, that we actually still present a good, confident body language that is open, that is friendly. And that helps to build trust.

When it comes to communication for me personally, there were a few things that changed. For once, obviously networking is a big part of my business. It really helps me to connect to companies and individuals understand what’s going on and [00:08:00] what their key challenges are, and obviously also win new clients.

So suddenly I had to adapt to networking online. I had zoom coffee catch-ups. But of course it felt a little bit different than in person meetings, but I still found that you can create some really great connections online.

With regards to how I deliver my business, it has changed just slightly because I had already done online workshops and individual online coaching sessions. What has changed was my teaching. I teach at Melbourne university and we had to quickly, within three weeks, adapt to online teaching. So there I had to learn a lot about online teaching and facilitation, and it was an amazing development for me, how I could use tools and online tools to keep a group engaged. That has also helped me to transfer my corporate workshops to online environments really successfully. And we had some really amazing times with teams.

I also had to think a little bit more about how do I follow up with my clients? And I did check in a little bit more often to make sure that they were okay and that they had everything they needed and they felt [00:09:00] supported throughout this time.

The other key skill I’ve observed is the power of connection and building connections. It’s so important to listen and to just ask them questions and understand who they are, where they’re coming from.

That is key in any kind of leadership role, but especially this year, it was so important because it gave leaders the chance to really understand individual circumstances and adapt your expectations, your management to these circumstances.

And the power of connection is so important to keep everyone feeling safe,. Like they belong that they’re not forgotten. That you’re holding space for them. And that they feel like they’re being taken care of. It really fosters the trust and it made such a big difference to the teams that I saw.

I worked with a small non-for-profit in the middle of the year, and we worked on strengths development for them. And they felt so supported . We did something positive. We focused on their strengths. We brought them together as a team, even though they hadn’t seen each other in such a long time, they also had some new team members joining that they had never actually seen in [00:10:00] person. And bringing them together, building that connection again with a team, made a huge difference for them.

Another key skill that I observed in leaders I worked with, but also in myself, was the ability to adapt. So many things happened that we had never seen before. For me personally, when the pandemic hit in Australia and when all the businesses started to work from home and lockdown began, a lot of organizations actually paused our contracts or wanted to delay it because they had to focus on their teams and how to keep all their processes afloat.

So for me, there was this time in March where I thought: Oh God, what am I going to do when all this work is actually gone? But what I did was I just accepted that that’s just what’s going to happen right now. And that these customers will come back. And I focused on the individuals. I thought about who are the leaders at home now that need support to lead and invest in their teams.

So I developed group coaching programs. I developed programs for individuals, and it really helped me to adapt my business quickly to the changing circumstances and provide my clients what they needed in that time.

In [00:11:00] businesses, the leaders that were adaptable , they were able to lead the way for their teams. They were able to give the teams a clear path forward, to make tough decisions and to quickly adapt to the new normal. The quicker you as a leader, adapt the quicker your team feels safe to follow you to follow this change. But when we manage change, we always need to keep in mind that change can be difficult for some people. Change can mean that they have to give up something that they truly care about. For some people not having the connection, not having the face-to-face interactions was really difficult. Some people love working from home. Some people found it really hard at the start. So when you are adaptable and you can move quickly, remember that your team might need some time.

And then lastly, one of the key skills I’ve observed was leaders who were leading by example. Again, this is key anyway, all the time, but this year it became really important. There were some businesses that announced that their leadership team are actually going to cut their [00:12:00] salary. They’re not going to take a bonus in order to keep their teams. And in order not to having to make people redundant.

Some leaders shared their struggles at home, their shared their struggles with having to manage everything. They were quite vocal of taking time off to be able to take care of their kids. Some managers were sharing their routines. They were sharing how they were taking care of their mental health. They were sharing how they can find the balance. And that is leading by example, showing your team members how to adapt to this and what they can do to take care of themselves, take care of the job and take care of their family and friends.

taking care of themselves also meant that some managers actually were making it a key point to sign off on time to not send emails late at night to also not send emails on the weekend. That signals to your team, that it is okay to sign off.

Just because we have the laptops at home now. And just because we don’t travel as much to work and we don’t have the commute, does not mean that we have to work all the time. And we actually suddenly have to work more hours. I heard from a lot of people that they were suddenly working way more [00:13:00] hours. I mean, it was also probably a good distraction, but it’s really important that leaders lead by example, they turn off the computer, they turn off the phones, they don’t work on the weekend. That really helped their team to follow suit and to make sure that they also weren’t burning out.

For me leading by example was about taking care of myself and sharing my tips to my clients, sharing my tips of how I built my resilience, how I take care of myself, how I fill my cup.

I shared tips of how I built my support network. I share tips around how to make sure that we regularly reflect on all we have achieved. Shared my tips around empathy and how to be more empathetic towards ourselves. It also meant to take breaks and it also meant to find ways to still feel inspired.

There was a time in lockdown in the second lockdown in Melbourne, around August, September, where I felt so uninspired and I had lost all my positive energy. I share my stories of how I came back to that energy. How did I take action to really get back into [00:14:00] it. And for me, it was setting small goals, setting small targets, and just thinking about new creative ways of things that I really wanted to do.

And one thing was to start this podcast. I’ve always had this creativity inside of me. I wanted to share my message more broadly. So I started this podcast as my way to feel more inspired again, and get more motivated and have a goal to work towards too.

So these are my five lessons that I’ve observed and learned for myself this year where leadership really mattered, and that were really important for leaders to keep their teams engaged, motivated, and also inspired.

I hope you found these tips helpful. I would love to hear your feedback of which skill you have observed for yourself or the leaders that you work with, or are there any other skills that you have found that were really helpful this year for leaders to keep their teams inspired and to keep their own motivation up? Let me know by tagging me on Instagram @annekoopmann_leadlikeyou

and as always, I would love to hear your feedback. I’m looking forward to speaking to you soon. .