Post-Pandemic Priorities for Leaders
We’ve dealt with the loss. What did we gain?
As humans, we are well aware of all the negative impacts of the pandemic that began to impact our daily lives in early 2020. But in my work coaching leaders, I often help professionals reframe negative situations and look for the learnings or silver linings we can distill from them.
If I expect the leaders whom I advise to walk the walk, I should be prepared to do the same. So, as we enter our third year of pandemic living, I’m sharing some of the ways I now approach my professional and personal life that differ from the “before times.”
Leading up to 2020, I had begun to feel disconnected from my core purpose of helping others to succeed in business and in life. My days were a flurry of activity, moving from one thing to another without time to process and absorb experiences. Every day felt like Groundhog Day, similar and repetitive. I felt exhausted. But I didn’t recognize that sense of exhaustion for what it actually was a lack of a clear focus on purpose.
When the pandemic hit, the world came to a halt and we were forced to reckon with the in ability to control a global threat that would take millions of lives. As I saw people around me get sick, I thought about my own mortality. If I died, what would I leave behind? This forced pause, this moment of required reflection enabled me to get clear about priorities and purpose. I leaned into myself with intention to make significant changes and find a better approach to my daily living practices.
These are the guardrails I put in place for myself to live and work my best today.
Family Focus and Healthy Boundaries – I set boundaries for myself and for my family to ensure we have quality, uninterrupted time together. I set times of the day when I cannot be reached easily. For instance, once I pick up my school-aged kids I don’t conduct any business calls. I need to be present to attend to their needs and hear about their day. Plus, this gave me the added benefit of modeling these boundaries for my kids. They are aware of my “work time” and my “family time” and I do not allow overlap. When I am on vacation with my family, I am on vacation with them. My two boys, ages seven and eight, need my time. I want to develop a strong rapport with them so that they feel comfortable talking to me about anything, including and especially the special challenges they face as young Black men.
My wife is my best friend and my love, and she is the person who makes everything better in my life. Being a true partner to her requires me to make time to nurture our relationship. Rather than leaving it to when there’s time left over from everything else in my life, I plan and make space to do just that.
I also set boundaries for my health. During the pandemic, the stress affected me, as it did so many others. The uncertainty and fear of the moment made it easy to let my commitment to fitness and eating right slide. But I couldn’t show up as my best self not feeling great, with low energy. I now carve out time each day for exercise and take the time to prepare or get healthy meals. I recognize that this is an investment I make in myself, that helps me recharge and bolsters me to handle the stress of daily living.
Friendship – While we quarantined or stayed isolated at home, I also noticed that I had let some friendships slip away. I did not reach out as often as I could have or should have. I did not invest the time and care required to have fulfilling relationships with the people I want to have in my life. Recognizing that I need to engage with friends to provide an oasis of support and enjoyment away from work and its stresses, I now prioritize time with friends, both old and new.
I reinvigorated friendships with fresh energy and now have a group of friends that meets regularly. There is just one major requirement for our friendship beyond trust and transparency in our communication and interactions. Each has to make the others laugh. I can’t tell you how therapeutic it is to laugh at a joke or funny situation. It’s even better when we can laugh at ourselves. I highly recommend it.
Meaningful Work – The pandemic also allowed me to truly refocus myself on work that I find enriching. I concentrated on attracting the kind of work I would do for free if I didn’t have to worry about money. This is the kind of work that brings me great personal satisfaction and I see its results and benefits for my clients. Coaching individuals to have greater self-awareness and achieve higher levels of success is my vocation. I love doing it. There is just no other way to describe it, and I approach partnerships with enthusiasm and a genuine passion to support success. If you don’t feel that way about your work, consider evaluating a different path.
Gratitude and Thankfulness – In a world where many things go wrong, I rediscovered that I need to focus on what is right and good in my life and in the world. This doesn’t mean I walk around with rose-colored glasses but it does mean that I need to have a balanced perspective. I remind myself to be grateful for awesome kids, great friends, a loving wife and sisters, nieces, nephews, and cousins that love and look up to me. Life isn’t perfect. But there sure are some things that make it worthwhile. Taking the time to acknowledge that can keep you grounded and whole.
Picking My Battles – At times we can feel like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills and finding ourselves outraged by everything. When so much is out of our control, it can seem empowering to attempt to take control wherever possible. How dare that person take my parking spot! How can someone be late when we have such a tight, carefully constructed meeting agenda? But assuming positive intent is a better way to manage the inconveniences of daily life and keep your personal peace intact. Since the pandemic, I now make sure I pick my battles, and only ones that I deem truly important. For each person, what is important will differ. It may change over time. Currently, the only issues I choose to deal with are those that affect the safety and welfare of my family and myself. I don’t sweat the small stuff. If someone is late to a meeting, I react with concern rather than annoyance. We don’t know the issues that each individual is confronting in their personal lives, and we often get more in our interactions with others by giving grace.
Kindness – I look for opportunities to be kind and considerate to others in my daily life. Do I compliment someone on their new cool glasses? Do I pay for the coffee of the person in front of me? Do I smile when making eye contact with everyone I meet? If someone is calling me for advice and counsel, am I making time for them even though it might make my to-do list longer? The answer to these questions is yes, I do. The world needs more kindness. The world needs more leaders. When I model kindness in my community and with my leadership cohort, I like to believe I’m adding more of both to the world.
Many leaders found value in reassessing and prioritizing their responsibilities and how they interact with others since the pandemic began. Perhaps these guardrails will find their way into your daily practices or provide the catalyst for making a change you’ve been considering.