I’ve been struggling for weeks with my end-of-year thoughts. Now, we’re well into 2022. What is there to share from an unfathomable two years just as we start a third with the same-but-somehow-now-different overshadowing our lives?

If we’ve learned anything in these past two years, maybe it is that we should worry less about things we cannot change. I think we’ve also learned the importance of celebrating.

I value the thoughtful, insightful and compassionate leaders in my life. One of them is Kathy Tunheim, CEO of her own very successful communications agency near Minneapolis. I especially appreciated her end-of-year blogpost, “Goodbye, 2021: Advice for Leaders.” I am gladly sharing it below.

I especially agree with Kathy when she emphasizes, “… celebrating a year that we may wish we could forget is important for our teams and the precious individuals who make up those teams. People worked hard, grappled with fear and confusion; they delivered on tasks large and small.”

Life is happening in smaller bites now more than ever before. We need to adjust to that as leaders. Recognizing the need to celebrate things we may have taken for granted sounds to me like good advice to start a new year. Happy New Year.

Goodbye, 2021: Advice for Leaders
Kathy Tunheim

Like most business leaders, I suspect, I have very mixed feelings about the year we are about to close and the one we are ready to kick off. But as with every time of transition, it seems important to acknowledge where we are and where we are going.

First, there is much to celebrate and we need to keep reminding ourselves of that: slammed to an abrupt halt almost 24 months ago, our economy has recovered to a degree most didn’t imagine possible this quickly. Not evenly or equitably, it is true — but then we’ve known for a long time that we need to work harder to ensure fairness in our economy. We still have lots of work to do on that front. And while it is undeniable that COVID-19 is still a menace to everyone, we have vaccines and treatment options that were developed in record time. Again, more work to do, but much has been accomplished. Enough progress made that I maintain my overall optimism that we can keep accomplishing things for the common good. Lots more work to do.

I am lucky to be part of a small group that meets monthly for idea-sharing and support. Each member of the group leads an organization and can both empathize and cajole the rest as we share our journeys; this week we talked about the perspective gained in this challenging year.

“I remind myself regularly about the oxygen mask message on an airplane: you can’t help others if you are not taking care of yourself first.”

This was such an important offering from one of my colleagues. Maintaining the confidence and composure to lead in uncertain times requires physical and mental strength. Take care of yourselves.

“Staying nimble is a priority.” 

The days of having detailed plans that guide a whole year are gone forever and so finding ways to keep our teams ready to adapt but also feel focused and clear about objectives is an evolving leadership challenge. Encourage your teams to be creative and empowered to develop new systems that will respond to these new dynamics.

“Leadership development is as important as management development.”

We all know that leadership is different than management; we know that management potential and leadership potential are different — and sometimes almost mutually exclusive, it seems.

Most organizations invest a lot in management development: learning the systems and protocols that keep the operations running as smoothly as possible. Leadership development gets attention, too, in good organizations… but perhaps not as seriously.

Yet the dramatic changes now occurring in organizational life scream out for effective leadership: values, inspiration, motivation, empathy are all needed in unprecedented ways as our organizations strive to retain talent, maintain high morale and drive performance. Invest in leadership development.

“Celebrate — even if the successes aren’t all you’d planned for; surviving the battle is worth acknowledging and recognizing.” 

Another important reminder as we close the books on 2021: celebrating a year that we may wish we could forget is important for our teams and the precious individuals who make up those teams. People worked hard, grappled with fear and confusion; they delivered on tasks large and small.

Mask up, maintain social distance, do it virtually, perhaps. But celebrate 2021. And Happy New Year!

Read Kathy’s post on Tunheim’s blog.