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LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM A CHRISTMAS CAROL

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny

Ebenezer Scrooge, we all know one. And I’m pretty sure that we’ve all watched a version or two of Charles Dickens’ most famous tale, whether curled up on Christmas Eve with the family and laughing along with Kermit and Miss Piggy or making a night of it at with essential mulled wine. 

However, nearly two centuries after being published the holiday classic still leaves us with some poignant lessons to be reminded of. And what better time of the year to reflect on the past, look to the future and be present.

Learn from your mistakes.

Transported back in time, Scrooge sees the mistakes that he made and the opportunities that passed him by. He could not change the past, but he could learn from his mistakes and ensure that they were not repeated in the future.

Mistakes make us who we are. We have all made them, and will still make them in the future, it is what makes us human and it’s how we learn.  From an early age, we are taught to think that if we make a mistake, it implies that we are bad at something. We need to change that thinking.

Mistakes have schooled me to be brave and they have shown me the importance of being authentic. The problem lies in not learning from them. If we make the same mistake over and over, then the value of the lesson is lost. Embrace them as an opportunity and learn valuable lessons. Know who you are and accept that, know your strengths and areas for improvement and proactively lookout for ways to improve. And take responsibility.

No leader is perfect. No leader has all the answers. By saying ‘I made a mistake’ and this is how I am going to fix it, by being authentic and open, you are demonstrating strength, courage and, ultimately, respect.

What is more, we need to create a safe business culture where employees are empowered to make mistakes too, to try something new. As leaders, we need to encourage good, honest mistakes – those made with the best intentions but reeling poor results (as opposed to bad mistakes due to poor decisions and a lack of care).

Be kind.

As a small business owner, you may be feeling a bit Scrooge already this holiday season; things aren’t falling into place as quickly as you predicted so holiday bonuses or the big end of the year bash have had to be scaled back. Being kind isn’t measured this way however, it is measured by the kindness you share throughout the year. 

We all have our own battles to survive, our own bias or negativities to overcome and acts of kindness are sometimes not high on our agenda as we come to terms with them. On the other hand, we can all remember a time when the simple kindness of a stranger perhaps, made a difference to our day. When we feel safe and positive, we are kinder to ourselves and others, encouraging connections with others and cooperation. Social scientists call it the ‘survival of the kindest’. And it usurps ‘survival of the fittest’ any day of the week.

What’s more kindness has a ripple effect. It not only creates positivity and boosts your mood, but studies also show that it is causally linked with your health; releasing hormones to lower blood pressure, for example, reduce isolation, anxiety and stress.

Add a dose of kindness to your day (it doesn’t cost a thing, by the way) and before too long you will be reaping the rewards both personally and professionally. A happy workplace is a kind workplace and a more productive one. 

See the opportunity.

We do not have a spirit of the Christmas Future by our side to predict how things will turn out depending upon which path we choose. What we can be certain of is that the future is ever-changing, the constant is change.

People and organisations need to be proactive if they want long-term sustainable success. They need to use all the resources available to them to analyse, strategize and plan but they also need to build in agility and resilience for an ever-changing business landscape. 

People are naturally drawn to leaders that are upbeat and have a positive attitude; they are optimistic. A key role as a leader is to engage with your people, connect them with the values and strategy and lead them with you on the pathway to success. 

Scrooge learned from the past, he made changes based on this and he took others with him on the journey, supporting them to succeed. He applied his lessons to the future, and it became an optimistic one. 

Live in the present.

Being a good leader isn’t just about creating a safe work environment for your teams, it is about creating a safe environment. Full stop. People naturally respond anxiously to uncertainty however well prepared they may feel that they are. 

If you work at Ferrari pace, then you should also have Ferrari brakes. By that I mean, know when to stop and when to have some fun. As adults we spend over half our lives at the office, so making work a place people actually want to go is a no-brainer.

Without your good mental health, you cannot lead and without your team’s wellbeing they cannot support you. Like Scrooge, fling open your window and build connections with those around you. Take some time out of your schedule this festive season to live in the present, enjoy your friends and family and remove that phone from your grip. Once gone, they are in the past and I think we’ve had enough lessons to learn this year.