Maintaining focus amid challenging times
To paraphrase John Lennon, “Another COVID year over, a new one just begun”. How are you feeling about 2022? You may have seen memes half-jokingly reflecting a cautious approach (“Before I agree to 2022, I want to read the terms and conditions”) to our new year. That’s understandable, given the way the ‘20s began … and even more so when we consider how omicron brought a jarring, jolting close to 2021.
You’ve likely been spending time undoing or changing well laid plans
More than a few people reading this may have found yourselves in the position of putting a screeching halt to carefully developed plans, after a two-year absence, for a return to in person office or personal holiday celebrations. You or your colleagues may be among those whose business trips or family holiday plans were disrupted by airlines’ need to cancel flights. Extreme weather and the omicron variant were both factors.
We have reports that, in the US alone, more than 10,000 flights were cancelled in the last eight days of 2021. Globally, over 7,200 New Year’s Eve flights were cancelled in a single day. An additional 1,900 flights were cancelled for the first day of this year.
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley
It was the Scottish poet Robbie Burns, whose birthday we’ll mark on January 25th, who penned those words in 1785. In his poem, To A Mouse, Burns was acknowledging something we’ve all learned: even plans we’ve undertaken with great care can still go astray. This is something I mention in my project management and risk management presentations, and it also applies to the early ’20s!
Given the state of our world, you may have postponed or cancelled business and personal plans for early 2022. You may be reworking travel and meeting plans yet again this month, perhaps making the task appear effortless. It’s understandable, then, if you find yourself treading lightly as we embark upon this year. It could be highly tempting, after all the upheaval, change and accommodating you’ve managed in the last while, to lay low rather than embarking on any new career undertakings.
We need to move forward
The thing is, though, we can’t put the world on pause, no matter how much we could use a well-deserved breather. You may well be coordinating and attending remote and/or hybrid meetings for some time to come. For all of us, we’ll continue to encounter matters beyond our control.
Let’s control what we can
That’s why it’s all the more meaningful to be intentional in taking control over what we can when it comes to our careers – and that extends to our professional development, which can be rejuvenating.
The importance of the so-called “soft” skills
If nothing else, these times have demonstrated the value of having colleagues who bring strong “soft skills” to their roles. Quantifiable skills and expertise with various software programs were relevant in helping you attain your role. It’s the soft skills, though, that can make or break your success once you’re through the door.
Our soft skills can be differentiators
I believe soft skills are anything but soft. We know that readily quantifiable skills such as keyboarding accuracy and speed, and skills with relevant software programs impact career success. So, too, do the less quantifiable soft skills. Our ability and readiness to effectively communicate and contribute as team members combine to impact colleagues and other stakeholders. The extent to which assistants leverage influence and flex emotional intelligence (EI, or EQ) skills also impacts success in the career.
Adaptability, a growth mindset, self-management, capacity to prioritise
If you think about some of the conflicts you’ve witnessed over the course of your career, it’s often an absence of soft skills that led to such conflicts. A LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report shows that, as we approached the 2020s, 89% of 5,000 HR professionals and hiring managers surveyed believe that their organizations’ “bad hires” typically had poor soft skills. It’s unsurprising, then, even as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are on the rise, that 80% of the same group said strong soft skills are becoming increasingly important to company success. These soft skills can be differentiators.
Emotional intelligence, empathy, communication skills
In its latest Global Talent Trends report, Mercer highlighted the concept of winning with empathy. In a survey for its report, Mercer identified a few skills and asked executives which of those skills are critical for future resilience. Adaptability/growth mindset (openness to change) came out on top, followed closely by collaboration skills. Self-management/prioritisation skills ranked third. We’re back to emotional intelligence, accompanied by communication skills.
When it comes to communications and your career, you may choose to focus on anything from assertiveness to negotiating skills, developing influence and promoting yourself, or establishing or honing your personal brand.
Readily quantifiable skills still count
We can and should continue to pay attention to skills that are technical in nature. It makes sense to identify and work on any gaps between our current skill levels and expectations. It’s also wise to continue to develop and utilize expertise with software that’s in demand and in which you already shine.
Minutes: the bane of some assistants’ careers
If I was to ask everyone reading this to identify your favourite aspect of the career, I’d be surprised if many mentioned minutes. I present training sessions on minutes twice every six weeks or so, as even the best assistants can be daunted or frustrated by this aspect of the role.
We shouldn’t be complacent about skill sets we brought to the role
In other instances, some people have been preparing minutes for so long that it’s easy to assume standards that were entirely appropriate a few years ago reflect today’s standards and expectations. As with other aspects of the career, we shouldn’t be complacent that the skills that landed us a role should be left unpolished over time.
Supporting both personal and organisational resilience
Employers across sectors are paying attention to organisational resilience. We as individuals would be wise to pay attention to both personal and career resilience, and how to nurture both. If you’d like to up your game in 2022, it can be advantageous for you to invest energy in understanding both the challenges and opportunities your organisation and its leaders are facing.
Have you read your organisation’s strategic plan?
ESG, which represents environmental, social, and governance, is a prime example of an issue that can represent both a risk and an opportunity for employers.
Your strategic acumen
Your current role may or may not involve matters such as risk management or strategic planning, yet these – along with ESG, project management, cybersecurity, and even the governance structure of your organisation – can add to the level of strategic and business acumen you bring to the role. Paying attention to your organization’s strategic planning process may not be something you’d traditionally think of as professional development. However, familiarising yourself with your strategic plan can be informative – and it may prove useful in conversations where you can demonstrate your awareness and engagement.
Have you identified your professional development focus for ’22?
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