7 Career and Business Boosters for 2021

I hope this finds you safe, healthy, and secure. 2020 cannot ever be compared to any other moment in our lifetimes.

Over the holidays, I spent 2 weeks with a small group of dear friends and loved ones. I was overwhelmed by gifts, gourmet meals, and time in the mountains with my beloved. I also know that the new year started with more drama than anyone ever anticipated, and I did not want to add to the noise.

A gift from Kelley during our working walkabout-River Bend Park

Yet, in spite of the social unrest and tribulations, most of my clients and friends are thriving. We are connected, committed to helping each other, and wise enough to focus on things we can influence and control.

Based on what I’m observing, I’m providing 7 strategies to help you seek opportunity and stay healthy in the frigid weeks ahead. I promise that they will help you feel more confident and prepared for the economic and social post-pandemic resurgence:

  1. Shift from skill building to building allies. Let me share one of the biggest insights I’ve had since joining the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches community: This is not a time to focus on being perfect at ANYTHING. Do a solid job, then invest a sizable portion of your day on relationships that are meaningful and reciprocal, and that can help position you for your next career move.

    Spoiler alert! As you climb your career ladder, people will value your expertise and formal position less. Those are table stakes. Your relationships and your executive presence will determine your potential impact. (Sallie Helgesen and I discussed this in last week’s dynamic livestream).

    Who are the allies that will help you climb? Who will tell you the truth, offer feedback, and help you keep your ego in check? Build that group NOW. Include customers and outsiders too. I pursuing my Stakeholder Centered Coaching certification, and I am applying this model with my coaching clients.

  2. Jettison junk and old projects. These may include legacy programs that deliver questionable or vague value to your customers or other stakeholders. Drop job functions that became outdated—such as in-person events and stale sponsorships (live tennis tournaments? Not so much). You can rebuild those roles later.

    Transfer these funds to improving your organization’s on-camera presence–ship them “studio kits.” Sadly, too many leaders are still using laptop cameras and microphones. It’s time to look polished, not pooped out.

  3. Shift from big plans to small experiments. Plans are comfortable because they can be debated and settled in committees, where no one person may be directly accountable. Many small experiments mean lots of failures tied to directly accountable people. Rapid experimentation helps us quickly and efficiently explore the boundaries of what’s possible.

  4. Focus on transfer, NOT technology. In other words, refine your change management acumen. Consider addressing your mindset, finding and confronting hidden agendas, fixing misaligned incentives, and killing the zombies (e.g. legacy programs). Leaders who can dance with change will outlast any pandemic. I now spend about 75% of my time on this topic with my clients.

  5. Show your humanity. Lines are blurred between home and work and may forever remain that way.

    In 2021, create safe spaces where teams can share their hopes, dreams, and concerns in the early phases of a new endeavor. Schedule regular “office hours” and celebrations with your teams; keep the agenda open and create time for them to share their reactions to world events and other stressors.

    Do not wait for HQ or corporate communications to provide guidelines for addressing social and political unrest. It may never happen. Schedule 1:1 meetings with peers, customers, and team members. They will appreciate the gesture. Believe it or not, some companies still offer no policy or strategy to address this! This is a lost opportunity to proactively communicate your values and galvanize your biggest fans.

    Now is also the time to improve your own financial foundation, sleep habits, mental health, and relationships. Self-care is essential to adapting to the fast-changing WFH future.  From what I’m now observing among high performing clients, human change capacity– their mental sponges– are saturated. The emotions we are all experiencing are palpable. It will take decades to restore our country’s safe democracy, repair trust in institutions, and reunite this country. A vaccine, snazzy sales kickoff, or a single term presidency are not the blue pill.

  6. Be directly disruptive. Here are a few ideas…

    – Emulate strategies that top DTC (direct to consumer) companies are using to grow margins and customer loyalty. This movement is getting stronger by the minute. They are successfully challenging brand houses such as P&G (for household products), hair salons (for hair color treatments), and Charles Schwab (for traditional brokerage firms) Some of my favorite DTC players are Nespresso, Felix Gray, Four Sigmatic, and Madison Reed.

    – Bolster your organic marketing efforts. My top clients are more aggressively building their email list and organic online customer communities. As we hear trust and antitrust conversations get louder against Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others, we need to be cautious about how heavily we rely on paid and earned media.

    – If you are in a traditional marketing role, volunteer for customer facing and revenue contribution opportunities and task forces.

    – Finally, be willing to challenge channel partners, sales or customer service teams who shield you from customers. That is scarcity thinking. The convergence of sales, marketing and customer experience has happened. Get on the train NOW before it leaves the station in 2022.

  7. Surround yourself with “Why Not?” people. Don’t be IBM, a faded tech industry icon that stopped asking that question.

    Safi Bahcall’s seminal book, Loonshots, describes their decline brilliantly:

    “For close to 60 years, IBM dominated the IT industry… There were a couple of tiny competitors in the 80s, who didn’t seem like much. A small company in Seattle called Microsoft. When they did their first partnership with IBM, they had just 32 employees…

    At IBM, invention was not the problem. Many widely used technologies originated at IBM. Leadership was not the problem. Leaders at IBM have been pounding the table for innovation for years. But IBM today is one tenth the value of Microsoft. It’s half the value of Intel. Good teams kept killing great ideas. That’s the adoption problem.”

    Here are 3 ways you can build your Why Not community in today’s virtual world:
  • Register for my Knowable audio course: Build Your Professional Community
  • Participate in our Mindful Marketer Livestreams, Fridays from 1:30-2:10 pm, on LinkedIn. Meet other marketing innovators and leaders, ask questions, and network.
  • Apply to our Marketing Growth Leaders private peer community. If you feel isolated, and want to propel your career forward now, this may be the time to join a board of advisers.
  • Tap into the power of my expertise and extensive global network of peers. Let’s schedule time to explore coaching or sponsorship opportunities.

The 2021 path to sanity will still have some potholes. With the right community and mindset, you can keep the axles from spinning out of control.

Comments open: True

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