As I reflect on this year and the challenge it has brought for us in so many ways, I see that there are three skills of leaders that have continued to bubble up as crucial for promoting success on teams.  They have always been crucial skills but in easier times, it is possible to allow business and deadlines to cover up symptoms of lack in these areas.  This year, these skills are needed more than ever and teams and leaders that struggle with these skills have struggled to be what their organizations need most right now.


  1. Communication

While many leaders think they are great communicators, teams consistently rate leaders lower than the leader would rate them in critical communication skills. Teams often feel they lack clear definition of role and clarity in direction.  They feel as though they are not in the know about decisions that could impact the team or the company.  In times of uncertainty and change, communication needs to be more frequent, more consistent and have more clarity. Not everyone will hear and understand you the first time.

Actions you can take to be a better communicator:

  • Try to communicate in ways that match how your listeners like to communicate. That may mean doing an email, an infographic and a call or video.  Some people will want to hear, some to see and some to read information.  If you can adapt to communicate in each of these ways – you are more likely to connect with each of your listeners.
  • Check for understanding. Ask your team to tell you what they heard and what action they are planning to take.  Having someone repeat what they are taking from your communication will help you to understand where your message is clear and where you need to add more detail for clarity. You can also state your assumptions and check for assumptions of your listener.
  • Communication is two ways. Be sure that in addition to seeking to have other understand you, that you are seeking to understand them.  People want to be heard and seen and when you are a good listener, people are more inclined to listen when you speak.


  1. Empathy

Many people are struggling this year.  Circumstances change frequently and it is difficult to know what others are experiencing.  Understanding yourself and your attitude and situation is a great starting point.  Then, be kind, assume positive intent from others.  Empathy is not about agreeing with others nor about feeling sorry for them.  Empathy is about finding a way to understand what someone is going through.

Actions you can take to demonstrate empathy:

  • Acknowledge  Acknowledging someone’s feelings or actions means just that – that you hear what they are saying and tell them that you heard them.  Acknowledging may sound like say  – “I hear you saying you are having a bad day.” Or “It sounds like you are frustrated about this situation”.  Just stating an acknowledgement of what a person is saying can help build connection with someone and help them feel a bit more understood.  You don’t need to feel frustrated or even agree that the situation is frustrating to use a statement like the one above.
  • Validate – You don’t have to fix every situation, but empathetically listening can help teammates really feel appreciated and understood and that often unlocks potential in people. Validating someone’s feelings would be saying something like “It’s understandable that you are frustrated in this situation.” People often feel like they are the only one struggling on a team or that they shouldn’t feel the way they do, validating someone’s feels is an excellent way to empathize.


  1. Resilience


Resilience is defined by Merriam Webster as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” 2020 has been a year of misfortune for many and change for nearly everyone.  The ability to recover from setbacks as a result of change is a critical leadership skill.  As a leader or example on your team, how you handle stress and change will impact the people who work with you as well.

Actions you can take to cultivate resilience:

  • Create a Success List – recalling past times when you have been resilient is a great way to cultivate confidence in your ability to bounce back from a current set back. Create a list of all the times you have achieved something great, overcome and obstacle or recovered from a misfortune.
  • Find Meaning/Purpose – If you can recall a greater purpose for overcoming the current setback it is easier to stay positive and take action.  For instance, if you have had to let people on your team go and you are left trying to motivate others, recall what your purpose for work is, is it to create a better life for your family, to grow your skills as a leader, to be an example for those around you?  If you can tie into your values in the current situation, and look for the bigger meaning you begin to build resilience as you continue to take action to recover, motivated by your values and purpose.


As we wrap us this year and head into the next year, I will be thinking about how I can be a better leader by focusing on these critical leadership skills.  I hope you will join me.  If you need support in any of these areas, I’m happy to share more resources and tips with you.  Email me at

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