With 2020 behind us, it’s a good time to reflect, then act

Reflection is just the first part. It informs the driving question: What is needed now?

By Kathy Coffey / Leadership Snohomish County

I love the cathartic process of starting a new year. I find it the most powerful of times to learn from the past, make peace with what did not go well, celebrate what did and to look ahead with a fresh perspective and tabula rasa.

I choose the Latin tabula rasa intentionally instead of “clean slate.” It goes to origin: the mind in its hypothetical primary blank or empty state before receiving outside impressions. Now that is a new year.

The new year is traditionally a time to examine. In 2020, if we could not find flexibility, creativity and a willingness to examine, we were likely in a state of turmoil and disappointment. Most of our plans and projections were made irrelevant. As an alumni of our program liked to say, “On to Plan E!” Even the simplest of daily operations calls for regular assessment and adjustment. It has been a year that required us to have grace both for ourselves and for others. So many decisions, revisions and cancellations. So little social interaction. It has taken a toll.

As the leader of an organization, I am asking myself:

• What lessons have I learned from COVID-19 and how have those helped me to grow as a leader?

• What practices do I want to keep moving forward and what practices no longer serve well?

• Whom have I relied on in these times?

• How am I practicing self care?

Professionally, the input of others is key as I ask these questions and reflect. I bring a willingness to ask, listen and incorporate that input into how I shape my answers to what is needed now moving forward.

For me, journaling is key to support this kind of reflection. To glean insight into the questions above, I look back at self-care practices that nourished me. I write a gratitude list. I look at my part in what worked and what did not. I ask, “What can I do differently?” I ponder these things from both personal and professional perspectives.

But reflection is just the first part. It informs the driving question: What is needed now?

At Leadership Snohomish County, we will continue on a monthly basis to deeply examine all of the systems that tie in with our education days and alumni engagement events. These are systems upon which our community is built. Law and justice, health care, human services and economic development warrant examination at this time in our world. Our intention is about changing assumptions at the root of planning, program development, funding and governance. It’s thinking about how we create what we want to be as an organization and community.

I hope we can all take time to examine the systems we exist in and how they look now in our COVID world. I hope that we can all look at the narratives in our everyday lives. What stories are you telling yourself about how you engage and the systems that exist within? Where do you operate without stopping to consider, “Is this the most equitable and impactful way to act?” It makes a difference in how we show up, whom we engage with and what we choose to do.

When asking myself, “What is needed now?” it is not about me inserting myself, my strengths or my will. It is about looking at the current environment and working alongside others to address needs in our community and world. With reflection, our perspectives as leaders can reveal nuanced issues that others may not see and can also help us recognize what skills we may not possess that will be needed to best address those issues.

What does your community need from you in 2021? What do you need to give to yourself? Reflect, then act.

Kathy Coffey is executive director of Leadership Snohomish County, the local organization that connects, ignites and develops leaders to strengthen our communities. To learn more about Leadership Snohomish County, visit www.leadershipsc.org.

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