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Great Leaders Do This in December!

December is my favorite time of the year. Typically, we spend time with family and friends, celebrate our religious beliefs, eat great food and let’s face it, people are just a little bit nicer during the month of December. This year, things are wildly different but the magic that is December still remains.

In 2016, I learned one thing, from two very different leaders, that changed my life. While most people are taking a pause and putting their careers on the back burner during the month of December, great leaders do the opposite. These two world-class leaders taught me to use the last week of December as “reflection week.”

Reflection week is used to help you clearly see the great accomplishments that you and your team made over the last 12 months and put you on a path for an even better year to come. This one simple act of reflection can accelerate your team’s momentum in the new year and help advance your career forward.

During this week of reflection, I learned to go through my calendar, month by month, and look to see what meetings and tasks I enjoyed. What caused me heartache? And who did I enjoyed collaborating with and spending my time with most? I reflect, through my calendar, on how I spent my time and where I was successful.

I also reflect on relationships, responsibilities and returns. I want to take a minute to go into more detail about these.

Relationships

Starting with January 2020, look at your calendar month-over-month. Which relationships helped you grow? Which ones stunted your growth? Sometimes the answers might surprise you. Although you hated every minute of your weekly business operations meeting with a certain vice president, you might find that was the meeting that gave you the most growth. You might remember how in January you held feelings of anxiety before that meeting, but by the end of the year, you looked forward to it. Look at every meeting with team members, peers and other colleagues. What can you learn from these relationships and how can you push for healthier relationships in the coming year? Is it time to gently cut ties with some people who were not a benefit to your future growth?

Responsibilities

Our lives are comprised of all the things we have to do. As you look at your 2020 calendar, are you doing the right things? Which responsibilities are truly yours? Are there things you did that could have been better done by someone else, or vice versa? Could someone else grow by doing something you have already mastered and need to let go of? What are the things on your calendar that can and should be done only by you? Plan to spend your time and efforts in 2021 making the most of opportunities that will grow your career and further develop those around you, including your family members and friends.

Returns

Beginning in January and ending in December, reflecting on your relationships and responsibilities should show you which items, projects, tasks, meetings and assignments brought you the greatest returns. What outcomes did the choices you made in 2020 produce? What did you love? What did your boss love? Did these choices move you forward toward your ultimate goals? Did the choices you made in 2020 make you hungry for more? Did they move you forward or drain your very existence? Think about which projects, meetings, tasks and people bring you the best return and position you to be greater and reflect on how to do more of those things in 2021.

At the end of the reflection week, consider producing a highlight reel of your accomplishments. It’s easy for your boss (and for you!) to forget all the great things you and the team have done throughout the year. Creating a highlight reel allows you to have documented proof of your successes year over year. This could look like a quick one-pager with bullet points. It could be PowerPoint presentation that you share in a meeting with your boss or peers. It could also be a fun video created by you and the team to kick off 2021 with some celebrations. Whatever method you choose, sing loud and proud. Celebrate everything and everyone!

The year of 2020 was a trying one for us all in many aspects. No matter your title, you were stretched in a way you didn’t plan for this year. You’ve seen some successes and you’ve probably also seen some true disappointments, both in your career and in your personal life. I feel you!

I’m looking forward to my week of reflection. I’ve been reflecting every year since 2016 and I know for sure the 2020 reflection week will be a lot different – more challenging but also a lot richer. I’m more grateful, more thankful and more focused than ever to be successful in 2021.  I also know next year is going to be phenomenal for everyone who makes the decision to persevere. I hope you’ll join me in reflection!

Blessings and prosperity to you and yours,

Andrea Oden

Special thanks to the leaders who taught me this amazing lesson of reflection:  Steve Carter, Author of Invitational Life and Brendan Reid, Author of Stealing the Corner Office.

Honeymooning… While Black

On January 6, 1996 returning from our honeymoon, my new husband and I arrived at O’Hare Airport. Holding hands, we departed our flight.  Outside the gate stood an African American limo driver holding up a bright, colorful handwritten sign, “Welcome Home Mr. & Mrs. Wilson”.  Those departing the plane and waiting in the boarding area smiled and began congratulating us, and wishing us well.  My husband noticed a white gentleman who was not smiling and nudged me in the side.  I looked over at the man and saw the racism written on his face. We had both seen this face many times throughout our lives.

As we began the trip home laughing and talking with our limo driver, police cars arrived and surrounded the car. The limo driver was asked to exit the car and was immediately handcuffed and thrown to the ground.  The door on my husband’s side opened next and he was pulled out of the limo, handcuffed and thrown to the ground.  A male police officer told me to stay in the car.  The trunk was opened and the car was searched, while both men lay faced down on the ground in handcuffs.  After 30 minutes, both the limo driver and my husband got back into the car.  A police officer leaned in and informed us that they had received a call that three black people had kidnapped a white woman and had thrown her into the trunk of a limo.

The “honeymoon” was over. The remainder of the ride, that started off with three African Americans chatting joyfully, was now silent. There was nothing to say.  I think we all silently wondered if there would ever come a day where this would not happen.  Would there ever be a day when there would be no “calls” to police reporting a man for doing his job, a day where a newly married couple could enjoy a peaceful ride home from a honeymoon. 

Today is June 4, 2020 and we are mourning the loss of a black man who was murdered on the street.  I see him face down looking like my husband and our limo driver.  I see the look they had in their eyes hoping they wouldn’t die. I can hear them catch a breath, struggling to breathe, as they were thrown to the ground. That day… it so easily could have been different. My husband could have died. That limo driver could have died. I haven’t thought of this day in years. I put it away. But today, I wonder if my daughter, my grandchildren and their children will have to face this same racial injustice.  Will racism continue to plague our nation, our jobs, our government and even our churches?

Can you hear us now?  I know you can.

You ask, “What can I do? How can I help?”

You can open your eyes when you see it and don’t turn away. 

You can open your heart and feel it as if it were happening to you.

You can open your mouth and say something instead of remaining silent.

You can be a voice… a voice for change. 

Be the voice that says,  “The joke isn’t funny”. 

Be the voice that says, “Your employment with this company is terminated.” 

Be the voice that says, “We don’t tolerate that kind of behavior in our family.” 

Be the voice that says, “No Sir… No Mam… you don’t have my vote.”

Are you in?  Will you stand with us?

Let’s stand together, hand in hand, heart to heart.  Let’s tear down the walls of injustice.  Let’s fight back against racism.  Let’s win the war on black men and black women. 

Jesus once warned and proclaimed, “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully. (John 10:10 CEV)

No more robbing, killing and destroying lives.  It’s time to have life and have it fully, abundantly.

Let’s stand together… one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for ALL!

My name is Andrea Oden and I am a Black Life that Matters!