December 31, 1999- Chicago, Illinois
I am walking home after a wonderful New Year’s Eve dinner filled with great food, great wine, laughter, reminiscing, and lots of love. My fiancé and I wanted to get home before midnight to welcome the New Year with our 4-legged family. The streets were empty, and the city was eerily quiet. It was very cold, and that may have been some of the reason for the emptiness, but this lack of sound was unusual. Of or relating to a defect in the code of a computer program caused when a year is represented by its last two digits only
You are probably wondering what was going on? Y2K!
Y2K referred to the year 2000 and also to a defect in the code of a computer program caused when a year is represented by its last two digits only.
Companies employed teams of people to manage potential technology issues and prepare for the end of business and the world, as we knew it. People stocked up with an arsenal of water and food in the event everything shut down. The media anticipated the worst and people were waiting for the Year 2000 version of Armageddon.
We woke up on New Year’s Day to a new decade, resolutions, and the Rose Parade. Shockingly, nothing happened. Nada, bupkus, zip! The good news, many had stocked up their refrigerator and didn’t have to go grocery shopping for the remainder of the week, month, or year!
This experience has me wondering how much time we waste worrying about things that never happen. How much energy do we expend wringing our hands in anticipation? How much worry, doubt, and fear invade our space and precious lives? You might be saying to yourself, “They were being proactive in 1999, was that a bad thing?” Great question, but there is a difference between being prepared and being scared. There is a difference between excitement and anxiety. Excitement energizes and anxiety leaves others feeling helpless.
Miriam Webster Dictionary defines “prepare” as:
• To make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity–i.e. prepare food for dinner;
• To put in a proper state of mind-is prepared to listen;
• To work out the details of a plan in advance-preparing a campaign strategy;
• To look forward to–to expect.
Y2K checked the box for all definitions of the word “prepare.” Businesses prepared for technology changes and worked out the impact of moving from the year 1999 to 2000. The constant talk of pending challenges created a “fearful state of mind” and people anticipated a “doom and gloom” outcome. When I hear the phrase in the definition, “to look forward to,” I think about a holiday, vacation, or my birthday. These events are full of joy, happiness, and laughter with no dread or “doom and gloom” in sight.
So, what does this have to do with business and your team? It is time to prepare for 2020, a new decade, another new start.
• Are you planning and setting goals? Are you setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Sensitive),such as; Create a new employee handbook, develop an introduction outline, and schedule meetings for all employees by 1/30/2020.
• Are you communicating details of the plan? Clearly communicate information and provide structure and boundaries for employees to take the next step. Focus on short-term detailed information versus long-term broad statements. Employees can embrace and act on short-term initiatives with little worry.
Remember, when you plan and provide details you must “stick with it” for a set period of time or employees become confused and tentative.
• Are you ready? Do you have the people, processes/procedures, resources, and clarity to execute the plan? If enough people resources are not in place you are asking more from the existing employees. This may be a reality and requires you acknowledge the situation with the existing employees. Create a learning database to document issues that arise during implementation to help identify processes/procedures, or resources that are required.
• Have you set benchmarks to celebrate the outcome and the win? Milestones give employees a goal and provide the leader a measurement tool.
Start with the end in mind and work towards incremental goals to achieve the result, i.e. ¼ mile, ½ mile, to the result of 1 mile.
• Have you set expectations and engaged the team in the future outcome? Schedule project kick-off meetings to include; who, what, where, when, and how in an upbeat manner.
• Are you positive? Do you believe the outcome is possible? If so, communicate. If not, amend the goal and tactics with reasonable and achievable outcomes. If you believe it is possible to achieve the result, but you have an employee who is consistently dropping the ball, you may micromanage and act doubtful.
When you do not trust that people can achieve what you have asked them to do, you behave differently. Those that witness this behavior wonder and worry, “What does the leader think of me?”
• Do you have an accepting and learning culture? What happens when things don’t go as planned, this is reality. What is your reaction and response?
Do you accept the situation, learn the lessons, and pivot, or do you worry? This may necessitate resetting goals. Things happen, they always do.
The leader casts a shadow setting the tone and mood for the entire company team. You are the bird that flies at the front of the formation, setting the direction for the coming year. When you think of the coming year, are you optimistic and excited similar to a vacation or birthday, or are you looking at it with trepidation like Y2K. Your mood creates your reality and more importantly the reality for your team. The outcome and results for your business reflect this tone. Your clarity, support, acknowledgement, sense of calm, and positivity provide the team with hope which allows them to do their job. A leader who jumps from fire to fire, worries, or seems hesitant, translates that fear to the team. Remember, you know more about the state of the business than your employees. When they sense worry and fear, they wonder if the business and their jobs are safe and secure.
Huffington Post conducted a study of 1200 Octogenarians (the oldest Americans) and asked, “What do you regret when you look back over your life?” Their answer was simple, direct, and profound. “I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying.” The elders claimed in clear terms that worry is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment. One gentleman said it best, “Don’t believe that worrying will help or solve anything, it won’t. So, stop it!”
My mom was 19 days shy of becoming an Octogenarian, these were her last New Year’s resolutions and her “Five Lessons of Living a Good Life:”
• Learn something new every day;
• Laugh every day;
• Love every day;
• Say I love you every day;
• Be grateful for what you have.
When I get in my stuff, I try to remember a cold and quiet New Year’s night on the streets of downtown Chicago, when everyone waited for the worst.
The best was yet to come. I wish you good health, connection, joy, and abundance. Here’s to a beautiful new decade.
If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it. George Burns, American Comedian, 100 years old