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Embracing What Is and Letting Go of What Used to Be – Five Key Insights From Year Two @ Fluency Leadership

Year Two

The somewhat ominous statistic is that 60% of businesses fail within the first three years.  

As we finish the second year of our venture in building future-ready and human-centric leaders, we feel optimistic we won’t add to this number. In fact, we are immensely positive and excited about the year ahead. That’s not hard with one founder (Cath) being one of the world’s great optimists. Even the sometimes-suspicious other founder (me) is feeling lots of good vibes about what’s to come. 

Year one was a year of building foundations and finding our way through the fog of starting a business in the dense uncertainty of a pandemic. Year two saw some big progress shaping and honing our core leadership content, onboarding new coaches and facilitators, and achieving the right level of sustainable growth and expansion to fit our life and career needs. 

But this blog isn’t about seeking a high-five from our loyal readers or patting ourselves on the back. 

What our year two milestone gives us is a moment to reflect on and harvest the goodness of the learnings and experiences we’ve been connected to in the past twelve months as we’ve journeyed with our clients. No surprise, there’s a ton to share. 

The Relational Deficit is Real   

This spring, it was a total joy to meet with a new client IRL at their very creative (although somewhat empty) office in Mt. Pleasant.  They were crystal clear about their biggest challenge and leadership pain point.  “Our relationships are a mess,” was the dagger quote they used.  

It was also affirming to hear directly about what we’d been observing over the past months as well. Relationships are how the work gets done, and during the pandemic we neglected the relational side of work and became too transactional.  The reality is that we didn’t build relationships with new post-pandemic people, and those trusting, powerful relationships we had pre-pandemic were now at their breaking point. Connection was lost, conflict was becoming personal, communications were fractured, and everything felt hard. So, this client, and many others, stepped back from the overwhelmingly transactional mode of work and chose to focus on re-building trusting relationships. Human time, 1:1 conversations, team reflection and experiences, and more time to get to know each other (all over again) have all been in the mix. It’s making a big difference. 

Getting Over Returning to Work 

As we got to the fall of 2021, we had conversations with many teams who were opining that they wanted things to go back the way they were at work. They were hopeful they could recreate the past to get back to “normal” again. But it didn’t happen, and in reality, it was never going to happen. It’s like going back to your favourite Italian restaurant that’s been through four new owners and seven different chefs since you last visited. You order the spaghetti and meatballs, and you are disappointed because it doesn’t taste like you remember it. How could it? So much has changed. This food metaphor (my money move) has a good overlay on the work world. The past 2.5 years have profoundly changed the shape of work and the people who do the work. There is no going back.  Work will never be the same. The office where we went to work has left us for good. We need to embrace the change that has been knocking at the door for a long time and welcome it in with the belief that it will be great again…but a different kind of great.  

Investing in Learning for Retention 

The saying goes, “if people aren’t learning, they are leaving.”. Amid the Great Resignation or Great Reframe or Great Whateveryoucallit, many organizations saw they needed to get their learning and development mojo back with the clear objective of retaining their best teammates and top performers. The learning atrophy was becoming a huge retention risk. We loved the courage and honesty of those who declared their learning and development investment was expected to pay off by stemming the potential tide of resignations. That helped us focus on the experience within our team sessions to get the blood flowing back into the veins of peer learning and connection. Because when great people learn together with other great people, they usually stick together. 

Optimism and Resilience Shining Through 

In December, after what felt like a very flat fall in the world, the metaphorical phone started to ring. Many clients reached out to say, “we want to get on with it.” They wanted to start 2022 with purpose and a future focus. They wanted to get out of constant crisis and get back to a long-term view of their teams and people. They wanted to leave past models of work behind and declare a new direction and way of working. And maybe for the first time in a long time, they allowed themselves to let the tide of optimism rise and take them out to sea with the knowledge that their resilience and passion would keep them afloat, no matter the conditions. 

Re-Centering on Culture and Vision 

As companies and teams started to think about the future, many hit a pause point and realized they had some work to do before embarking on the next leg of the journey. We spent time with leaders who realized their once crystal-clear vision, mission and purpose statements that guided their teams had drifted out of sight during the uncertainty and changing waves of the pandemic. We worked with leaders who felt the culture they had once nurtured was no longer relevant because so much had changed. The emphasis on efficiency and productivity in a remote/hybrid world has come at the expense of knowing why they exist, where they are going, why it matters, and who they are now.  Re-thinking the vision and culture has been an increasingly present and critical challenge for the leadership teams we work with today. Helping teams build a new healthy and inspiring vision and culture that reflects the future is the most prevalent aspect of our work today. It sure beats trying to put the paddles to revive the past vision and culture. 

Living Into Our Fluency Roles 

As we celebrated our second anniversary with some cheers and good natural wine at our favourite local spot (Dachi in East Vancouver), we also got to clarity about what the next year looked like for each of us relative to our business. We started as the founders of this business in the most remarkable of times, so it compelled us to reflect and declare what each of us needed for the future and where we felt the most purpose in our work. We crafted new titles for each other that go well beyond just being a name on a business card. Cath is the new Chief Learning Officer at Fluency, as she is the engine and thought leader behind our workshops, learning content, and leadership insights. And I am the new Chief Business Officer, which matches my passion for the business dimensions of Fluency and building a great brand and client partnerships. 

Oh, and we’re finally printing real business cards! It felt like it was time.  

Here’s to another year of amazingness at Fluency and the learning to come. We look forward to connecting with more of you in the coming year, and we’ll even give you a business card if we get to see you IRL.  

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