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Reflecting On Lessons Learned

by | Aug 2, 2019

It’s my habit during transitions to spend time reflecting over the recent past and anticipating the unknown future. I know that 2016 was a challenging year for many and a wonderful year for others. I also know that some of you are entering 2017 with apprehension. I’m actually looking forward to the New Year. I want to embrace it all, good and bad, to help me chart my path. I am confident that I can apply the wisdom I’ve acquired and the lessons I’ve learned. This is an opportunity to use my experiences to find the resilience and motivation that will make 2017 a great year.

As I reflect on the good and bad of 2016, I think about the weather – something we always talk about to make conversation, it’s a part of every day. It’s true that storms are a force of nature and are out of our control. However, even in the biggest storm with the darkest clouds, rain and wind, when it ends, and the sky clears the air is refreshed. I love it after a storm; it’s hard to describe the purity that exists. In spite of all the cloudy skies, disappointments and the ways that this past year did not bring about outcomes that I hoped for, expected and wanted, I’m able to find some good things that happened and I’ve learned that I can adjust my thinking and can focus less on the storm and destruction and more on the fresh start that the clean air offers after the storm.

There were certainly plenty of “storm clouds” floating around in 2016. I could write a very long article enumerating them but that’s already been done, so if you want to focus on that, you can find dozens of pieces out there that talk about all the bad things that happened including losing numerous pivotal entertainers, a toxic election season that divided our country, ongoing impacts of climate change, terrorism around the world, and many other things. I’m looking beyond all this to find the balance with some of the good things that happened, and there were plenty of “clean air” moments.

Remember that the US shined during the Olympics, the Cubs won the World Series, and we had our first major party woman candidate for President. Women of color were elected to offices in record numbers, giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list and we hit an all-time low for unemployment in the US. The Ebola virus was eradicated in West Africa, and don’t forget about Hamilton and many other wonderful shows, movies and concerts to entertain us. In every year, there is good and bad and I’m reminded that as individuals and companies, it is how we react to what happens that matters.

For me, I was on the path of looking for my next company where I could make an impact. That didn’t happen this year. Instead I had a year of listening, learning, networking and advising, reading and writing, and focusing on myself. While I didn’t find that next elusive company to join, there were many good outcomes. I was learning, leading volunteer efforts, keeping very busy, being active, and working on many interesting projects. Out of all that activity and in spite of not finding the “job”, I got some unexpected gifts – focus and time.

I’m incredibly grateful for the gift of time. Time to spend on myself with better sleep, exercise and diet; time to read and learn; time to advance my thinking about how customers impact business; time to write and blog – making significant progress on my book; time to reconnect with people from my past; time to spend with friends and family; time to meet new and interesting people; and time to help others which always seems to correspondingly bring me value too.

I’m also very grateful for the gift of focus that I got by reading, writing, and attending conferences and networking events. I’m amazed at the wonderful people and companies I have met and how much I learned not only about them, but about me. I can better synthesize how my own experiences and learnings impact growth in companies and how to identify the kinds of organizations and teams where I will thrive and add value. With this gift of focus, and some time, I’m in a better place to be able to find a company that matches my personal values and approach. I know I will find the place where I will be able to contribute at the same time that I continue to advance myself. Time and focus have been enormous gifts.

I got great value from these gifts in 2016. Having them makes me realize that when I’m working it can be very challenging to find time and focus. I think a lot about developing these gifts in business. In the emerging field of Customer Success leveraging time and focus is exactly what companies need to do to drive value both for their customers and themselves.  Think about it, are you spending all your time addressing issues and problem solving or are you taking the time to step back and look at the big picture and understand what’s happening? Are you listening and learning from your customers to create strategy? Are you focused on the things that really add value to your customers? Are you thinking about what customers you acquire – hopefully ones that can successfully implement your product long term? 

All of these things are critical to being successful in business and leveraging your customers to help you grow and succeed. So many of us get caught up in the day to day and forget to take the time to reflect and find the right focus. I know what a positive thing it was for me this year and it makes me think how often companies disconnect from these practices.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of problem solving and jump into the day to day fire drills to “fight the churn” or “handle the escalation” or “get the deal”. Especially in the Customer Success world, it is important to take the time to step back and focus. This year helped to build the resiliency that will sustain me, and I know that pausing to take the time and focus can also help you build stronger companies that will sustain customers and revenue in the long term.

I’m anticipating the unknown of 2017. I don’t know whether it will be a good year or a bad year, a mixed year or a year where I just mark time. I do know that the gift of time and focus I gained in 2016 has left me in a place where I feel reinvigorated, resilient, and motivated to take on whatever the New Year will bring. I’m ready for action, I’m making my plans and I know that whatever the weather is, stormy or clear, I’ve got everything I need to make it a great year. I hope you do too!