Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt
  December 22, 2021 - Portland, Oregon

Happy New Year!
  by Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt

There has never been a more challenging time to lead than right now. Amid the ongoing pandemic, it’s more complicated than ever for leaders to determine a long-term vision when the day-to-day seems so uncertain and urgent. But like many challenging moments in our lives, we learn to evolve and become stronger, more resilient. Through it all, it’s crucial for business leaders to remain courageous, empathetic and adaptable.

Now, with almost two years of Covid-19 under our belt, it’s time to focus on the future and start thinking big again. Look to your long-term goals with fearlessness and embrace the opportunities emerging rather than viewing today’s environment as a never-ending challenge. Having recently led my team through our strategic plan refresh, I’ve found the following essential: Be courageous, be intentional, and think big during these unprecedented times.

Value your people. As you envision the years ahead and set your strategic plan, it’s important to look inward, consider learnings from the pandemic, and examine how your company can act with agility. While external factors – like attracting clients or finding new market opportunities – are critical, your people are key to achieving strategic goals. It’s paramount to look long term at the behaviors, support or new skills your team needs to drive success. We must push through the haziness of the moment to the clarity of tomorrow.

For instance, as our firm planned its return to office, employee input was central to our plan – and that allowed us to develop a powerful hybrid work model that enables intentional collaboration centered around people and service. We provided the option to work remote three days a week and developed “learning pods,” or cohorts of cross-functional employees, that learn and tackle challenges together. Looking inward gave us the opportunity to enhance our hybrid model, adapt it to our people’s and our clients’ needs, and ultimately improve our client service.

Plan in short sprints. Business leaders often plan in years and/or decades. Long-term goals are essential for the longevity of a business, but they can feel overwhelming when the present is uncertain and if you don’t take smaller steps to get there. Set shorter-term metrics that span weeks or months to achieve your vision. Most importantly, remember that change is constant. It’s essential to be flexible when the unexpected happens – like a global pandemic.

Don’t be afraid to take risks. As leaders, the pandemic offers a unique opportunity to act courageously and identify opportunities where others perhaps don’t see them. Consider what your company excels at and how you can leverage it in new and different ways. By taking calculated risks, you can double down on your strengths.

One of our firm’s biggest strengths is our industry group model, which provides comprehensive, proactive and industry-focused advice to help our clients achieve their goals. At the start of the pandemic, we saw an opportunity to significantly enhance services for our Native American law clients. This led to our firm bringing on a group of attorneys in Anchorage – most of whom we’d never met in person due to Covid-19 travel restrictions – that would allow us to serve these clients in more meaningful ways. By leaning into our breadth of industry expertise, seeing the forest through the trees, and having the courage to take a risk in an uncertain time, we grew our firm substantially during the pandemic.

Lean on your peers. Find a trusted leadership network to share ideas with and lean on for support. After all, you’re not in this alone. The pandemic has brought us together in ways we never thought possible, and learning from the experiences of other leaders is invaluable to your business. I’m part of a group of women leaders from across the Northwest, and they have been a source of strength and inspiration throughout these challenging times. A network of leaders in your industry can provide the support and perspective necessary for you to take bold action in the year ahead.

Courage might look different these days, but remember the moments that led you to this point. You’re right where you’re supposed to be. Now it’s time to regain your footing and think big.
A version of this article was originally published in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

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