Jill Walker: Write your own leadership script for 2022
IMI Associate Jill Walker explains why leaders can no longer live by the old rules.
We’ve experienced the biggest disruptor most of us have ever seen, which has changed what is normal in almost all areas of our lives. While this has brought many challenges, there has also never been a better time to pause, take stock and reimagine work in a way that fits you best.
“When nothing is certain, everything is possible.” In the past, leaders have often felt that much of how they worked was outside their control, such as travel commitments, not feeling they could work from home or finding it hard to exercise due to a long commute.
With all this change and disruption to how we live and work, now is the perfect time to write your own script and to decide how you want to set yourself up for 2022 and beyond.
If you could create your ideal way to work, what would it look like? Many leaders now have more autonomy to choose how and when they work, but some are still living at least partly by the old rules.
As Auschwitz survivor and clinical psychologist Edith Eger says in her wonderful book ‘The Choice’, “The biggest prison is in your own mind and in your pocket you already hold the key”.
Are you still sitting at your desk during ‘office hours’, when you could be working in a way that complements your life a little bit more? Does taking calls while going for a walk mean you could get some fresh air while you work? Now that you’ve been getting some exercise at lunch time, how might you continue that when you’re back in the office?
I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions as they usually just put us under pressure and make us feel bad when we break them a few weeks later. But I am a big fan of intentions. This is a great time of year to reflect and ask yourself: what do I really want for myself or my work for the year to come?
Rather than a list of goals, setting an intention is more like creating a theme or tagline for the year. Once you have an intention, it then becomes easy to spot the opportunities as the year progresses.
I’ve worked with clients who decided to have “A year of fun” (for someone who worked too hard and needed more balance), or “A year for me” (for someone who always put others’ needs above their own), or “A year of learning” (for someone who wanted to challenge themselves).
Intentions can also be about how you want to be in the world, rather than just what you want to do. For example, you might set an intention to be more relaxed, more positive, more assertive, or more strategic this year.
Managing your energy
An important theme for leaders for 2022 is also going to be about energy. Covid-19 has been like a marathon that, just as you’re approaching the finish line, you’re told you have to run another one – and then another.
Now more than ever, our energy is our most important asset as leaders. When our energy is low, everything becomes more difficult. When our energy is high, we are more creative, resourceful, we think more clearly, and life and work are more enjoyable and easier.
To start improving your energy, make a list of all the tasks that energise you and those that drain you. Then, systematically try to eliminate, or at least minimise, the drainers. Can you stop doing any of them, delegate them or mentor somebody else to do them? Can you automate any of them or even work towards changing your role to one that has more of what energises you and less of what depletes you? And what can you do to focus more of your time on what genuinely motivates and energises you?
Identify your dealbreakers
The other priority for 2022 for many leaders is going to be boundaries. Since we no longer have the demarcation of home and work in the way we used to, we must create our own rules or boundaries. A good idea is therefore to identify your “dealbreakers” or “non-negotiables” and make sure they are exactly this.
This could be things like deciding what time you’re going to “leave the office” if you’re working from home, starting your day with a 10-minute meditation or picking up your child from school every Friday. The important part here is that these are decisions and commitments you make, not just a wish or aspiration.
With clarity on how you work best, a clear intention for the year ahead, prioritising your energy and having watertight boundaries, you will have created a powerful foundation to set yourself up for a positive 2022.
Dr Jill Walker is an Associate Faculty member at the Irish Management Institute and an Executive Psychologist and CEO Coach at www.jillwalker.com – ‘What next, after success?’
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on December 17th, 2021.