Last year, I did a wrap up on 2020 and said that I hoped 2021 was going to be a far more positive and productive year. And while I can say the first half of 2021 was, obviously the second half of the year was quite the challenge! So at the time of year where a lot of reflection is done, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what the key learnings were from 2021 that I can take forward into 2022.
Set goals and inspire those around you to achieve them
Being based in Auckland through one of the longest lockdowns in the world, it almost seemed like everywhere you looked there was anger, opinions on how the government was handling things, opinions on what should be done, and a lot of people just doing it really tough.
The key theme for our team was, “How can we forget about all the stuff we can’t control and focus on what’s in front of us?”. So, we took a huge culture shift internally that I believe was the biggest achievement of 2021. We became incredibly goal focused! We set what we wanted to achieve and actively stripped away the things that weren’t helping us get there.
I found my job became being the #1 cheerleader of our people, constantly giving feedback, shout outs in front of the whole team and having the “What can we do to support you achieving your goal” conversation a lot.
Focusing on the important
Focus is something I said was very important in 2020, but it’s proven to be even more important in 2021. In a market where there is a lot of uncertainty, it’s easy to get caught up in an individual task or the hectic nature of day-to-day operations.
Again, this is where our goals and the culture shift came into play. Instead of setting goals and reviewing them every now and then, we focused on them daily! We were talking about them – how were we progressing, what needed to change in order to reach them and what support did we need?
This helped people stay aligned, get through the day to day, and feel like they were achieving. Surprisingly, this focus meant we were able to reach our 2021 growth goal, we added seven new staff in lockdown and have carried through a lot of momentum to 2022!
A ship needs its captain, but their job is to steer the ship, rather than sail it all by themselves. In the early days, I was salesman, project manager, creative director, accountant, HR manager, head of marketing… The list goes on. But, as a manager, you simply can’t do everything. More importantly, you don’t want to. The good news is that as you grow, you find people that love doing that stuff and given the opportunity, are brilliant at it.
The mantra for me in 2021 was “who, not how”. Instead of talking about how I could achieve something, I pivoted to “who is best suited to achieve this”. In some cases, this meant hiring new people, in others it meant giving responsibilities to other members of the team.
By focusing my time on “who, not how”, then supporting and championing that person, the gains we achieved through the latter part of 2021 far exceed expectations. And I’m going into 2022 looking hard at where I add value and where others do.
Time off is time earned
Before we went into the long lockdown, a lot of people had holidays lined up and were looking forward to a mid-year break. Of course, all that went out the window, but everyone thought that taking time off in lockdown was just a waste of annual leave. So, no one took any.
That was a mistake. We went into the latter part of 2021 with a lot of very tired people.
So I encouraged most of the team to take some time off, hit the reset button and started spouting that your time off is earned, so take it. Even if it means you are playing video games over a long weekend at home, you need that well-earned break – even if it’s mental rather than physically elsewhere. Something I’ll be taking into 2022 is encouraging the team to take more time to refresh and relax.
Even though the world is still in the midst of a pandemic, I feel like we have learnt more in the last 2 years than we have in the previous 6. And 2022 will be a big year for us if we stay focused, keep kicking goals, work together and take the time we need to be our best selves.
See you on the other side!