When was the last time you took a class or otherwise devoted time to personal development? Maybe it’s been a while. For many, the last year and a half has been dedicated to survival. They focused their energy on keeping their business afloat during a pandemic. They spent time in virtual meetings and learning how to connect with clients, partners, and staff through a screen. It was a new skill, but not necessarily the sort of personal development targets that they envisioned at the start of 2020.
As we begin to approach a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we’re seeing a new truth emerge. The adaptations we made during lockdowns and digital-heavy spans may not be the new normal. However, we also aren’t going to return to the way things were before March 2020.
Some of what we accepted as best practice showed its weakness. Some of what we never thought we’d successfully implement proved to be the very thing that allowed us to thrive – not just in this passing season, but perhaps tomorrow too. Regardless of what you keep, what goes, and what new things your business must adapt to, one thing is clear: now is the time to develop new skills and focus on personal growth. If you want to be successful in the next season, you need to come armed with the skills necessary to propel your business (and yourself) forward.
No one should be surprised that technology skills find their way onto the must-have list for post-pandemic career success. The world was already evolving and adapting to the digital age of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The shift to work-from- home and other digital-heavy solutions for business survival spurred by COVID merely sped up the adoption of tech that was already beginning to make itself known. If you weren’t up to speed on everything from cloud computing, to data analytics, to the Internet of Things, now is the time to jump on board. You don’t have to know how to program or develop machine learning solutions, but you do need to know what those terms mean and how they may impact your business.
Communicating via email and other digital platforms takes a certain type of savvy you may not have had to develop when your entire workforce shared physical work space. Whether you’re using a collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams or Slack or video conferencing platforms, honing your communications skills for the digital age of remote work is a necessity. Not only do you need to practice getting your message across clearly and concisely without the benefit of visual cues, you also need to be able to identify the proper platform for the occasion. Sometimes a simple text-based message is enough. Sometimes it’s not.
Beyond the Box
If we could sum up a business concept we all needed to survive the pandemic in one word, it’d be “pivot.” You likely heard that word over and over again. Lockdown orders effective immediately? Time to pivot. Reopening some businesses with pandemic-related restrictions in place? Pivot. Customers not quite ready to jump back into the old way of doing business? Pivot. Businesses that succeeded were those that had the ability to be agile and adapt. The same is true for the professionals that own or work for those successful organizations. Developing this ability means focusing on your creativity and problem-solving. Good news: anything you can do to set your creativity free can help you tap into these skills and sharpen your out-of-box thinking. Take a class on watercolors. Spend an afternoon with the family at an escape room. Learn to play the drums. Take a class in literature and practice seeing the story that lies beneath the words on the page.
Your team may be back in the building, your customers may be ready to jump back in with both feet, your partners are itching to move the ball down the field with you. Even as the world reopens, there will be moments where we hesitate. Moments where we suddenly feel naked without our face masks or wary about stepping foot on the crowd trade show floor. As a leader, it’s going to be important to hone your emotional intelligence and empathy. Being able to recognize how you and your team members are feeling, and how those emotions may impact performance, will be crucial.