David Wray

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Ending the Year on High Notes!

High notes clipart courtesy of Wikiclipart

Ending the year with an eye towards 2022

To end 2021 on a few skill high notes, I wanted to share the top three blogs this year as judged by each of you, our regular readers located in over 80 countries. The most popular themes this year are:

  1. Dealing with difficult people and workplaces
  2. When team members don’t pull their weight
  3. Finding everyday purpose in life

What should we infer from these themes?

Perhaps everything, or perhaps very little. The pandemic has without doubt continued to affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Pandemic fatigue has changed – whether temporarily or permanently – the way we look at many things around us.

Friendships and relationships have become frayed over vaccines, opinions are often strongly held, and our sense of “normal” is upended. Is it really a surprise that some of these forces are creeping into workplaces?

The question becomes what lessons can we take from 2021 and end 2022 year on an even higher note?

A very useful realization is that each of us holds the keys to the car and, ultimately, the driver’s seat of our lives. When we claim the driver’s seat, we recognize that we control ourselves (and little else). The outcome is liberating and dramatically increases our ability to find happiness. Three high notes at that moment are:

  • Our values define our purpose, our priorities and how we use time
  • We own and control our behaviour, emotions and reactions to anything and everything
  • Even in our most challenging moments, there is a door just waiting to be opened

Interestingly, resilience was the least viewed blog. This is interesting because it is the skill that helps us cope best with challenging moments, difficult workplaces, and stress. I will explore ways to bring this skill to life in new ways in 2022.

The people skill high notes from the top blogs

Four personal leadership traits during difficult moments

  1. Optimal timing: Timing is everything, the best time to act is when there is objective evidence that an individual’s track record of behaviours is negatively impacting the performance of others. If everyone around knows s/he must deal with it and s/he waits to act, s/he will lose the respect of peers and the team. Leadership is about acting and tackling issues head-on before it’s too late.
  2. Understand boundaries: Individuals deal with conflict differently, so a leader must ensure s/he knows the risks and rewards of conflict resolution for other individuals. We can each help others know when they tend to cross the line by engaging with them; identifying situations that trigger unwanted attitudes; provoking a shift in mindset or shining a light on “you don’t know what you don’t know” situations (i.e.: encouraging self-awareness).
  3. Respect Differences: Leaders must respect individual differences allowing themselves to see things from differing points of view. This will help in understanding how to avoid future conflicts. Beyond avoidance, respect helps us better understand how to generally manage conflict with others. Note: conflicts are rarely binary. Arguably workplaces are more generationally and culturally diverse than ever.
  4. Confront tension: Conflict can provoke an emotive state making it more difficult to manage. So, a leader must confront it and not allow it to fester and grow (because s/he failed to address the issue when it first surfaced). Adversity is big when it is all we can see and conversely tiny in light of all else that surrounds us. Eradicating a toxic workplace is about seeing opportunities that others don’t see.

Identifying purpose in everyday ways

The journey starts by recognizing that purpose is not a thing you find, it is something you create for yourself. It is about how you see what you do as meaningful. For example, my sister is a police officer. Her purpose, beyond enforcing laws, is one of community security, childhood education, and often a reassuring face when someone might be at their most vulnerable. Contrasting this example with a barista, an equally purposeful role. Beyond serving coffee, they are a friendly and uplifting part of someone’s day, often when it is most needed. The key point is recognizing the importance of focusing on what’s meaningful and purposeful about what we’re doing.

The journey continues by recognizing that purpose is more than one single thing in our lives, akin to “not putting all of our eggs in one basket”. For instance, President Joe Biden is obviously the president but he’s also a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer, amongst other things. Why is this important? If he attaches his purpose only to the presidency then transition after office will be challenging. If he sees purpose in the multitude of things he does and is, then the transition is more meaningful. The key point here is recognizing that we look for purposes, not a purpose, to help us recognize the value in our work and lives.

The journey is complete when we recognize that purpose is an evolutionary experience, one that changes over time. 

Final Thought

I look forward to sharing more essential people skills and a few funny stories in 2022. Enjoy a safe and happy new year, wherever in the world you are!

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views on the most useful skills you relied on this year, and which ones you think will become the high notes in 2022.  

Give it a try!

Picture credit: Wikiclipart

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