Projecting forward for the year – taking control to boss 2021

2021: Let’s be having you

So here we are at the beginning of 2021 and I wanted to start you off on the good foot by helping you consider your year ahead and how you’re going to take control of your year to make it as fulfilling, as energising and as you-shaped as possible.



Strengths, risks and energy

Now given that I’m the strengths guy and I look at life and work through a strengths lens, it would be remiss of me, nay reckless, to ignore the relevance of your strengths in helping you to navigate a positive path through the year. So that’s one area I would like to consider. I also want to give some consideration to areas that drain you and making sure that these don’t get in the way of your 2021 too much.

When we think strengths, we often think energy and while strengths are a great way of maintaining your energy during each day, they’re not the only source of energy replenishment for you to consider as you think about the year to come. So, energy is topic no 3. Where I want to start though is to get you to consider what you learned during the year past – 2020. The year that introduced the phrase Covid-19 to a global audience. So let’s start there – because in considering how you handled the seismic changes required during the last 12 months, you’ll get a better read on what to keep in mind during the next 12.

Driving forward by looking back

My last podcast of 2020 was titled ‘the benefits of gratitude and how to get them’ and in it I talked about being grateful for whatever the year past had brought, including the challenges. So in starting to think about your year ahead, consider what you learned about you when faced with challenges last year. Because when we’re under pressure, we can make conscious choices about how to deal with whatever challenge is in front of us – we can choose to get help, use our strengths, buy time, whatever tactic is going to be most helpful.

But often, when we’re placed under pressure, we can snap into ‘risk mode’, which will see us overusing our strengths or getting caught in a draining cycle where we’re trying to draw on qualities in ourselves that we don’t have much of.  So what have you learned about you that can help you shape your year ahead?

My learnings – the dangers of Optimism and Strategic mindedness in overdrive

For me, I felt that I was a little late to acknowledge the significant effects of Covid on our business. That was a combination of Optimism in overdrive (a ‘bubbling under’ strength for me) and being overly focused on the longer-term view (my Strategic mindedness) with a Flexibility drainer thrown in for good measure (I don’t like it when plans change). I had to learn to listen to others in the team who were calling for emergency scenario planning and taking quick action with the team to make sure we were going to be ok through some pretty uncertain months.

My learning this year is to ask for this support quicker and to listen to it more carefully. Sure, there is a place for hope and optimism and for a longer-term view but when you’re in a crisis, deal with it as a crisis until the crisis has passed.

The value of Collaboration and Empathy

I also learned how valuable my Collaboration and Empathy strengths can be to make sure that I find points of similarity and mutual interest with others that I’m working with and also outside of work (that’s Collaboration). And also, to bring in Empathy as a way of recognising how other people’s experiences are differing radically from mine. We are all different, we have very different experiences of the world and it’s important for me to always remember to seek first to understand and then to be understood (as the great Steven Covey once said).

How will you use your strengths to drive value in the year ahead?

So I’ve moved us on there to considering how you can use your strengths more effectively and mitigate your risk areas for 2021.  Personally, I will do that by choosing to use my most energising strengths to create value in my team and for myself and to keep myself energised throughout the year. That will come for me through Collaboration – working with and through my relationships on projects of mutual interest. And from Empathy – shutting up and listening more to understand others’ perspectives so that we can get a better solution and people feel more engaged with that solution. And remembering to bring in Leading to make sure that we all get from A to B directly, safely and with our energy reserves not depleted too much.

So how does 2021 look for you through that lens of strengths?  Ask yourself which strengths will define your year and specifically how will you use them?  To do what? How will they create value?

How can you avoid your biggest risks tripping you up in 2021?

Next up are risk areas – strengths in overdrive and drainers. I’ve already mentioned some of mine and how I plan to mitigate those risks. BTW, I also have an Efficiency drainer so will need to remember to share with them how much I value other people’s Efficiency and their delivery against the plan.  Plus, I resolve to move more quickly towards flexing the plan when we need to because of a change in our operating context. I’ll do this by drawing on other people’s Flexibility and dialling back on my Optimism and Strategic mindedness.

Again, ask yourself how this looks for you…what are your most significant risks as we head into the year – your strengths in overdrive…what triggers them and how can you manage the risks of them going into overdrive? And what about what drains you…what help will you need to get you through that and what other strengths can you draw on in order to get stuff done which doesn’t naturally play to your strengths?  For me, when it comes to my Efficiency drainer, if I can’t enrol other people to help with the planning, I’ll just nut down and do it anyway by drawing on my relational strengths, because I want to make sure that everyone else is ok and that they have their needs met.

Manage your energy by finding your joy and building resilience

The last area for you to consider in planning to take control of your 2021 is the broadest – how to maintain your energy throughout the year. So I have two earlier podcasts I want to draw from here which should help and I’ll give you some summary nuggets too.

First up: Find your joy – which lives at Season 7, episode 9 – for your year ahead, I think it’s really important to reflect on what gives you sheer, unbridled, childlike joy and to do more of it. It may sound indulgent, but if you key into what brings you the most joy and build those activities and experiences into your weeks and months ahead, you will be better able to keep your energy levels topped up. For me, I’m going to start planning in some new experiences (a big source of joy for me) and put them in my new wall year planner. Even if some of those plans need to change unexpectedly during the year, I’ll have them visible for me to look forward to as I go into the year ahead and that will help me manage my energy as it’ll give me something to looks forward to.

Second – stay resilient. My podcast on that topic is at season 8, episode 2. As a summary, you can build more resilience by controlling your controllables to manage stress and letting go of those things which you can’t control – most people have about 50% controllable and 50% not in their lives. Second, choose your mindset – you can choose to adopt a negative or a positive frame as a way of looking at the world and that choice makes a difference to your resilience…taking a positive approach, when you’re ready, helps you to open up choices on how to handle difficulty. And thirdly, build out your social network as this has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression which in turn builds your resilience.

Final point, if you’re keen on new year’s resolutions, I have a podcast on goal setting for the year ahead at season 6, episode 3 which gives you 4 top tips to do that well.

OK, that is it for this week, hopefully setting you up for a year ahead which is stronger than ever. If you’d like to get more from your every day, please do sign up to our emails for simple and practical hints and tips on everything strengths and life. Till next time, stay strong.

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