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Leadership Lessons From a Year of Fluency

Catherine and Colin

Time flies when you launch a business during a pandemic! It’s hard to believe the pace of the past months since we launched Fluency in September of 2020. We’ll blink and we will be at the end of our first lap of this latest race of our careers, with a formal year of operations under our belts. 

In reality, it was a year ago that the initial idea of Fluency came to light. The grip of the pandemic was tightening at work and at home (which had become the same thing). Economic peril was pervasive and unsettling. We all felt the burden of uncertainty that surrounded us. I wrote about my experience of Finding Clarity In The Most Uncertain Year as I emerged from that period with renewed clarity. It was probably the most raw and therapeutic piece of writing I’ve ever done. It got me through.  

Despite this, the opportunity to start a new company also emerged during this unthinkable time. And today we are moving forward with purpose and clarity.  

Right at the end of 2020, the great writer and leader Jim Collins dropped his updated and refreshed Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 on us and it instantly became our guide and north star in our pursuit of build an enduring company. It’s an essential read for anyone in leadership, and you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to gather its wisdom and practical tools. But it has shaped so much of our future and how we operate our venture. 

What we’ve learned through this journey is the passage of time and our lived experience offers us even more learnings and insights. New things to learn. Old habits to let go of. New stories to tell. Old stories that need a “6 Second Funeral” and then you bury them. 

These are the three biggest leadership lessons we’ve learned through a year of Fluency. We offer them as learnings and insights that we hope you can put onto the field of play in your leadership and with your teams. 

Shared Vision 

From the first conversations, we knew we needed to align on a shared vision for our new company. It took a few vulnerable and honest conversations, but we got there surprisingly easily. Before we built out the full “plan”, we centred ourselves on key words that represented our shared vision…words like “patience” and “purpose” and “personal growth”. We spent the time needed to talk about our values, so that as we built our company, we were clear on how we would build it and what would guide us. Recently, we completed the first version of our 5-year plan that drives us towards our shared vision. It’s big, it’s hairy, it’s audacious…and we love it! It includes things such as our revenue targets, our lifestyle needs, and our personal development goals. Each month, we have structured and purposeful conversations about our BHAG and how we’re moving towards it. We also complete our 20 Mile Marches through our measurable and achievable monthly and annual goals so that we know where are in the journey to our BHAG. 

Crucial Conversations 

As we started to build our plan for Fluency, we held each other capable of having the crucial conversations that would get us to clarity and alignment. We leaned into (and continue to lean into) our awareness and mindset as Leadership Coaches to have these conversations. We asked each other powerful questions, we REALLY listened to each other, and we stayed committed to each other. We were always willing to challenge each other directly AND always demonstrate and communicate our care for each other (keeping Radical Candor front and centre).   

One example of this kind of crucial conversation was one week before our formal September launch. While we were charging hard and working tirelessly to get all our marketing and events lined up to have a quality launch, it just wasn’t coming together. We were feeling rushed. I had two sleepless nights thinking about the fact that we were out of position. I had the conversation with Catherine and told her that I didn’t think we we’d be ready to hit the planned launch date and that we needed a bit more time. I went into that conversation with big hesitation. Have you ever tried to stop a powerful locomotive racing down the tracks toward a finish line? That’s Cath in execution mode! But I knew it was the conversation we had to have, and I trusted I could have it with Cath. It was powerful and we quickly aligned to hit pause on launch for a week. When we got to our announcement day on September 23rd, it was a great day that we could really enjoy because we knew we delivered everything at quality. 

Ask For the Help You Need 

Just to reset the story, we were launching a new business in the middle of a pandemic! There were lots of unknowns and despite the fact we’d both had past entrepreneurial experiences, much of this felt new and uncertain. One thing we were certain of is that we needed help. From key suppliers to colleagues to our families, we fully leaned into our greatest assets – our relationships – for the help we needed.  

One of the most important pieces of help we needed was feedback…on our story, our marketing message, and our service offerings. We reached into our trusted network, which we’d curated throughout our careers, and asked for the time and attention of more than 15 other leaders to review our plans. We benefitted from all the perspectives this group brought and the challenges they presented to us, and we kept the feedback that we knew we needed to improve. The feedback we got was the most important component of our success at launch. Without it, we would have carried blind spots and missed opportunities that would have blocked us from success.   

Leadership is much deeper than these three lessons. But in the moment of reflection we create for ourselves, we can see what we need to see and bring those lessons to life. We hope our story gives you some inspiration and learning that you can carry forward into your story. 


Reflective Questions: 

How clear is your team on your vision? 

What’s one crucial conversation you’ve been avoiding that you could have this week? 

Who is waiting to give you the help you need to move forward? 

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