This article is part two of a two-part series on leadership by Andrea Syverson. Read part one, which includes tips one through three, here.
As leaders, we’re continually pulled in many directions — both in and out of the office. How to stay centered? How to lead with clarity in a world of constantly changing variables? How to not just survive, but thrive? This spring, I had the honor of joining Sheryl Clark, president and CEO of Boston Proper, and Margaret Moraskie, vice president, marketing and e-commerce, Levenger, at the Women in Retail Leadership Summit in pondering these questions out loud. We shared seven verbs that serve as meaningful guideposts as we gain clarity day in, day out in both our personal and professional lives.
Here are the rest of our seven soulful verbs:
RECESS: WHAT BRINGS ME JOY?
As take-charge leaders, we sometimes need to be reminded about the importance of off buttons. Not fake breaks, but the all-the-way-off buttons. A true recess.
“I’m an introvert in extrovert clothing,” Clark shared. “Couple that with my passion for all that I do, and by the weekend I’m in dire need to recharge my battery. My Sundays are sacred — no obligations as I need that day to just chill. Even when my daughter was younger, we kept Sundays for the family to rest and recharge for the week ahead. Alan Cohen wrote, ‘There’s virtue in work and there’s virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.’ I strive to take his advice seriously.”
Therefore, perhaps now is the time to create your very own “Joy List” so that when recess opportunities present themselves, you can quickly and easily take advantage of things that make you smile. Knowing what brings you joy, as well as what brings joy to those with whom you’re closest, is an ever-changing practice that’s an important part of caring for your soul.
REIMAGINE: WHAT NEEDS RECALIBRATION?
As you do the work of looking at the learnings of the first four verbs and their accompanying questions, take a moment to see what may need recalibration in your life. Do you need to make tiny tweaks in some areas, minor adjustments in others, or a complete and major overhaul? All three of us are advocates of recalibration.
When Moraskie took on the role of vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Levenger, she saw the need to conduct a brand refresh. “I felt the brand and its leaders needed a bit of tending,” she said. “We embarked on a collaborative journey that brought us closer to our founders’ mentality and gave us a chance to polish our positioning and focus on our core strengths. What we accomplished was enlightening, aligning and set us on a path of action and accomplishment. It was hard work, but it was fun work!”
Clark believes in the wise words of change expert Susan C. Young, who once said, “Reimagination is the birthplace for vision and change.” Clark shared this example from Boston Proper, referencing a reimagination of its merchandise. “I decided to go back to our archives and repeat about 25 best-sellers from 2009-2012,” Clark said. “We refit them to be modern, picked new colors and launched Beyond Basics as a web-only opportunity to scale the brand, increase frequency, and prove we could sell things without ‘circulation’ behind them. It was hugely successful. I’m definitely a fan of reimagining. The world is changing so much and so fast these days that I believe we must continually imagine we are starting our business from scratch, and challenge what we would do to attract customers, stay relevant and grow the business.”
REJOICE: WHAT DO I NEED TO CELEBRATE?
This is truly one of my favorite verbs: REJOICE! I don’t think we do it often enough. Like our joy lists, rejoicing sometimes gets neglected in the press of our other priorities. However, taking time to celebrate is truly a force multiplier. Remembering to recognize our achievements — small or big — nurtures our soul.
Moraskie makes it a habit to celebrate little wins and reward her team. “Post-mortems aren’t just about what went wrong,” she said. “We must take time to catch and celebrate people doing things right.”
Clark rejoices in this very tactile way: “‘Embrace the Journey,’ those are my words of wisdom and I finally got them tattooed on my arm so I will never forget,” she said. “It took me almost 20 years before I really understood what this meant, and now I live by these words both at work and at home. Good, bad, easy, challenging — it doesn’t matter. Embrace it, learn from it, live it. Because life is precious and the journey is life.”
So, why not take a moment to pat yourself on the back? I encourage you to jot down three things you want to celebrate this week, and then plan some time to revel in those wins.
REPEAT: WHEN WILL I MAKE MORE TIME TO GET EVEN MORE CLARITY?
I find Saint Benedict’s wisdom encouraging: “Always we begin again.” Leadership clarity isn’t a once-and-done endeavor. It’s a daily process. Consider these seven powerful verbs and their accompanying questions to be a clarity checklist of sorts. They’re small but mighty prompts to turn to when your soul needs a bit of sustenance.
Then reach out in real life and turn to a friend, colleague, supportive mentor and share your verb work with them. Sheryl, Margaret and I do this over dinners and phone calls. It settles our souls. It prompts new habits. It reminds us of previous, productive ones. It marks our accomplishments. It celebrates joy-filled accomplishments. It bonds us as leaders, as friends.
Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg wrote that, “Clarity is the most important thing. I can compare clarity to pruning in gardening. You know, you need to be clear. If you’re not clear, nothing is going to happen. You have to be clear. Then you have to be confident about your vision. And after that, you just have to put a lot of work in.”
So, this summer, let’s put the work in. Let’s tend to our very own souls.
Andrea Syverson is the founder and president of IER Partners, and has dedicated more than 20 years to providing clients both domestic and international with innovative approaches to branding, product development and creative messaging. She’s the author of two books in which she shares her hands-on approach for both brand building and creating customer-centric products that enhance brands: “ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators,” and “BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants.”