2021 lessons that can be applied in 2022

Charles Phiri
Associate: Indalo Business Consulting

If you are anything like me, you are getting a bit sick and tired of the Covid-19 Pandemic. You are longing for the days where we can return to some form of normality leaving the past two years behind us.

From a business perspective, this is impossible. The Pandemic has created a new normal, a set of trends and protocols that we have to adhere to when conducting business. We are all looking forward to massive growth in 2002 (both personally and professionally), so how do we achieve this?

We have to learn from 2020 and 2021. These years did not exist in a void. In fact, they provided business rescue professionals and business turnaround professionals with ample opportunities to show our value to our clients. If we can help them navigate their distress, we can become the hero’s that this country desperately needs.

I recently read an article on the Harvard Business Review which focused on the top lessons that were learned in 2021.

How to give critical feedback — remotely
The article points out that giving critical feedback is one of your most challenging responsibilities as a manager — and if you’re working remotely, it’s even harder.

How can you update your approach to giving feedback in a WFH world? Here are some key steps to keep in mind:

  • start by asking questions. You need to understand your employee’s perception of their performance before expressing yours;
  • show specific appreciation before laying out criticism. They’ll be more likely to be receptive to your feedback if they trust that you value them;
  • State your positive intentions. Something as simple as “I’m in your corner” can go a long way;
  • clarify and contrast. I’m saying X, I’m not saying Y; and
  • ask your employee to state their key takeaways from the conversation.

We’re all under intense stress from the pandemic. Taking care to deliver your feedback with clarity and sensitivity will help people focus on the reality of your message, even in a remote environment.

An effective strategy leads to success
Photo By: Canva

The art of following up graciously
The article points out that we’ve all been there: You email someone asking for a conversation, information, input, or an introduction … and you get no response. It’s frustrating, but you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that you’re being ghosted. We’re all juggling a lot these days, so here’s how to reach out with a gentle nudge.

The article adds that you should start with a compelling subject line. Avoid generic phrases like “Following up” or “Checking in” that are not only vague, they may also make the recipient feel bad for being slow to respond (even further delaying a reply). Instead, be more specific, for example, Next steps on X project or Question on job application.

Next, be mindful of your tone. Research shows emails that are slightly to moderately positive in tone have a 10 to 15% higher response rate than more neutral messages. So aim to be friendly and polite. Finally, be succinct and specific about your ask — and offer your recipient an easy out. This will give them an opportunity to save face and preserve the relationship. If you do all this and you still don’t get a response, be judicious about following up again. You may need to cut your losses and move on.

4 strategies to improve your efficiency
The article points out that it can feel like 24 hours isn’t enough time in the day, and all the productivity hacks in the world won’t change that. Here are four proven strategies to help you make the most of your limited time.

First, batch your meetings. It’s hard to get into flow when you know you’re going to be interrupted every hour. By knocking out all your meetings at once, you’ll clear out some undisturbed time to work on deep-focus tasks.

Second, do your best to learn some keyboard shortcuts that can reduce how much you rely on your computer’s mouse and trackpad. This may seem like a small thing, but over time, it makes a huge difference.

Third, leverage your environment to change your self-destructive habits. If you’re losing time because you’re distracted by your phone throughout the day, leave it in another room. If emails are derailing your workflow, pause notifications. Finally, read your work out loud. No matter what your job is, chances are you write at least one email per day. Listening to the words you put down on paper will speed up and clarify your writing process.

Rethinking self criticism is important
Photo By: Canva

Break the cycle of self-criticism
It’s tempting to think that if you’re tough on yourself, you’ll perform better. But self-criticism can ruin your mood, focus, and productivity if you let it.

Try to take a more balanced approach to evaluating your own performance with these strategies.

  • Avoid generalization. Resist the urge to zero in on a single negative event and instead consider your performance on aggregate. Think of a bell curve: Some days will be below average, and that’s normal.
  • Think about what could go “right.” To avoid focusing on the negative, consider positive what if situations. For example: what if this idea isn’t stupid, but is the breakthrough that moves the project forward? What if this proposal revolutionizes how we work as a team? What if the senior leadership team loves my presentation?

The article adds that you should timebox your feelings. Set a timer for between 30-50 minutes (the time it typically takes for feelings like shame to dissipate) and allow yourself to fully experience and process your emotions. Once the timer goes off, make a conscious choice about how to put those feelings behind you and move forward.

Lead with questions, not answers
The HBR article points out that, chances are, most leaders are too focused on having all the answers — and not focused enough on asking the right questions. It’s time to recalibrate. Despite what you might think, expressing vulnerability and asking for help, clarification, or input can be a sign of strength and confidence, not weakness. The right questions are signals of trust — and they can inspire people to trust you in return.  For example, rather than telling your team about a new opportunity you’ve identified, ask them, Do you see a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than we’ve delivered in the past? A big, simple question like this can inspire a burst of collaboration and creativity across the organization. And if you consistently demonstrate a question-first mindset, you’ll help establish an overall culture of curiosity and learning that will keep your team innovating and responding to challenges effectively. So try it out this week: Ask your team a big-picture, open-ended question, and see if it doesn’t lead to some new and exciting ideas.