2022 is behind us. As a person always interested in learning from experience, now is the time to look back and reflect a bit on what the past year provided that can be carried forward and hopefully put to good use in 2023 and beyond.
There are many ways to do this, and I have chosen one of the simpler ones: To do a list (in no particular order) and comment on each one of them. Here goes.
Adapting to a new reality is hard. There is little doubt that the past many years have been favorable to founders with plenty of opportunity and funding to build great businesses. So when the market dynamics suddenly took a shift to the worse during 2022, can you blame founders for finding it hard to adjust? For trying to keep as much ‘as is’ as possible? For thinking that the whole situation is a bit unfair?
In 2022 I learned that even if you’re a super pragmatic person yourself with absolutely no problem in making adjustments, you cannot expect other people to be like that. Especially if they built the company and all their experience rests on navigating a landscape that has now fundamentally changed. Change takes time. Accepting necessary change takes even longer.
You will need to help the best you can and be prepared to be the scapegoat for a lot of anger and frustration, as the new reality dawns. Be the safety valve for allowing others to let out steam. Even if it can feel unpleasant.
There is no right way to communicate. One of the things people most often complain about in any team at any time is communication and the lack of it. It is probably one of the largest sources of frustration, you can have in a group of people. Having said that, many of the same people also complain when you send too many emails. They also don’t see the Slack updates etc. It’s just super hard to win.
It can be no surprise that my 2022 learning on communications is that there really is no right let alone perfect way to do communications. Everybody, who’s claiming the opposite, is full of BS. So just accept that fact and find the style that suits you. The only rule of thumb? Never ever hide anything. If you think something could come back to haunt you, chances are it will. So better be upfront and communicate openly about it.
Transparency is your friend. When things need to change, people around you need to know. And the best way to let them know is to be transparent, so they do not only understand the upcoming change(s) but also the reasons why. The more you’re not telling, wrapping in meaningless words or only selectively sharing, the less your challenges will get solved.
2022 taught me that being transparent pays off. Even if what you’re asking may seem a bit steep at first, the more you pursue it and remain transparent about your reasons, the better the chances are that you will finally end up with a result. It may take a while, but you will get there if you persist. Openness and honesty is the best defence towards any challenge. You just need to stay the course.
Be tough, but never an asshole. Decisions – especially on change – often require some sort of toughness. And for people who are do’ers, taking that first step into making an important decision may make them seem pushy, insensitive, crude or arrogant to others. You may even look like an asshole to them. Especially if they’re stressed themselves, the temptation to put someone in that unenviable category can be strong.
However, it is absolutely possible to make tough decisions without being an asshole. The difference rests somewhere between the subject matter and how you conduct yourself dealing with it in front of others. You can be tough but professional, have your eye on the ball at all times and get your agenda through, because that is the right thing to do. And you can ‘spice it up’ by getting personal, scheming, unpleasant, downright nasty etc – be a complete asshole.
What 2022 reminded me of is that there really is no reason at all for being an asshole or giving other people the pretext to think you are one. So don’t act like one. Keep your path clear. People might still think you’re an asshole some of the time, but if you know for a fact, you have been tough but fair and have played it straight, it is a problem that lies solely with the person(s) giving you that less than flattering description. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. And that’s actually a relief that helps you pull through and come out stronger at the other end.