How to Change the Narrative in 2021 and 5 Key Lessons on Change from Successful Leaders

The first few weeks of 2021: A simple exercise that you can do to make a difference.

Out for a walk on the weekend, I was thinking about the last few days. Name-calling and labeling people as “us vs them” or “left vs right” (or whatever you or I would like to substitute) rarely works. Has it ever worked in your organization or family?

Probably not. Hasn’t in mine.

And guess what, as we’ve seen recently, it doesn’t work in politics either. While people have some shared values that you may believe are right or wrong, people are much more complex than any labels you put on them. We know at work when influencing or negotiating that trying to find the middle or common ground works better than labels or name-calling. This works in our personal lives as well.

Here’s a simple practice you can try at work and at home this week:

When you catch yourself trying to fit someone into a box, remind yourself about how you feel when you are labeled a certain way. I know I dislike it! Yes, certain things can make us angry, but taking a step back, removing the label you may have put on, and not jumping to conclusions can help you move through these days as we all balance the need to be informed with the need to maintain peace in our world that we have influence over.

As a reminder, you already know this!

Good luck!  Wish me luck, as I’m consciously doing this practice as well. (A side note, labeling and name-calling are the same online as in person.) #hope #leadership #bettertogether

How to Lead and Work through the Pandemic: 5 Leaders… 5 Questions

Late in 2020, I reached out to 5 leaders who I admire and asked them 5 questions about how they’ve survived, thrived, and supported others and themselves through the pandemic. These leaders come from a mix of private business and government.

Whether you have the formal title of ‘leader’ or not, I’m sure you’ll find their responses interesting, warm-hearted, and useful! (If you’d like to be a part of the next round, shoot me an email

Each month, you’ll see one leader profiled. I hope you will learn as much as I have from their responses. You will notice techniques that you already do well and hopefully a nugget or two that you can incorporate into your ‘work’ toolbox.

I had the experience to work with Jim as I was leading a virtual session for members of Synergy Solutions Group, where Jim is also the Managing Partner. He’s a busy guy! Jim’s knowledge, warmth, the way he engaged with the team, and most of all his commitment to provide a valuable experience to the members in the context of the pandemic, made me want to know more.  (Jim is clearly an over-achiever as he answered 6 questions for us!)

1. What is a daily ritual you have done to stay focused throughout the pandemic?

Keep perspective. While the pandemic has certainly provided unforeseen challenges, I’m fortunate to have a wonderful family and an amazing team at work. Each and every day I look for the positives and don’t let fear or uncertainty consume my thought process. Taking the “woe is me” approach wouldn’t be good for my mental health and certainly wouldn’t send a feel-good message to those around me. My mom’s sage advice rings thought loud and clear which is “There is always someone that has it much worse off than you and complaining won’t make your problems go away.”


2. What one NEW skill, practice or quality have you developed since the beginning of the pandemic?
Connection through technology.  I’m a hugger and a people person so not having the opportunity to do so meant learning how to connect via Zoom, text, social media, and additional phone calls to check in on the people I care about and just talk about life. 


3. What surprised you the most about your capability to lead through this crisis?
I tend to be a positive person in general and that helped more than I could have ever imagined this year.  While concerned and taking precautions, I was never afraid or lived in fear.  In talking with our team I at first assumed they knew we were doing ok as a business since being classified “essential” meant we kept our team employed and working.  Yet, they had no idea if we were profitable, what it meant for us long term business-wise.  The longer the pandemic dragged on, the more I realized how important it was to have those conversations and reassure our team that we would not only survive but thrive as that’s what great companies (and teams) do in difficult times.  Our focus on the positive was a bright light when our team needed it most. 
4. What one word would your team use to describe your leadership style?
Collaborative – I realize that part of a leader’s role is to make decisions on behalf of the team and provide direction. Yet, I’ve never been one to think I have all the answers and work hard to listen and gain advice and feedback from everyone so that they feel they are part of what we are building. I encourage everyone to challenge the status quo and give permission to disagree and assure their voice is heard. It’s ok to battle a bit (in a good way) as long as we all agree to come together as one and support whatever initiative the team has developed. 


5. How do you motivate yourself to stay focused when you may feel low on energy, frustrated or just plain overwhelmed?
Exercise is key for me.  When feeling that way a good run listening to my favorite playlist that week helps get me back in focus and feeling so much better.


BONUS: What’s a book that you’ve read in your life that you think is a ‘must’ for everyone to read?
Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. – Culture is vital to an organization’s success and I really enjoyed how this book laid out what happens when someone on the team is not rowing as the others.  How vital trust is to a team and that it’s ok (and necessary) to deal with those that are dragging the team down. 

21 Books to Make Your Life Better in 2021!

For those of you that like lists, this one is holistic and includes business books, personal development, finance, relationships, and others. I’ve read a number on this list.

Happy January! #BeChangeReady