Celebrating the Harvest: A Shift in Focus

Celebrating the harvest

Unquestionably, the year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most bizarre years on record, at least in my lifetime. Between COVID-19, murder hornets, heightened racial tensions, polarized politics and more, this has certainly been a challenging year in many ways. As the year begins to draw toward a close, our friends and colleagues in agriculture are reaping the harvest once again. For their essential service in providing over 400 commodities in California alone for human consumption, especially this year, we are grateful. We are grateful for the freshest, safest, locally grown produce in the world. Thank you!

Several years ago, I wrote about what harvest means to me, growing up in California’s Central Valley. In my small town of Lodi, California, harvest was a time of measuring performance, and in some ways, a time of reckoning: Had we sown the crops and tended the soil properly? Had weather conditions been favorable? Had we sufficient water for irrigation? In organizational terms, we might reframe the questions to ask: Had we been strategic in our planning and execution? How had the market and other external factors contributed? How did we manage our resources – human, natural, material – to deliver on the promises we made?

In times of crisis, many of these factors are out of our control. It is human nature to desire control over that which is in our power to control. For this reason, we have seen increased depression, suicide and emotional duress over the recent six months of restricted or limited social contact. While it may be tempting to focus on all the negativity, and secretly desire to fast-forward into January 2021, let’s take the opportunity to highlight a few of the blessings that have emerged from this complex and challenging time. In my coaching conversations with clients, I have seen a significant shift in focus, as measured by goal setting in coaching engagements, in these 5 Key Focus Areas:

Focus on Wellness. Whether it’s a mindfulness practice, an exercise routine, a coastal walk with a Blue Health Coach, or other mental health breaks, many people have not only expressed an increased interest in focusing on some aspect of self-care, but also integrated new kind of new routine to support this focus. Although this may be balanced by the increase in consumption of alcohol and comfort foods, these indulgences may play a role, as well. After all, sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack. Long story short, leadership begins with self-care. One of the first lessons we teach Rescue Divers is, “You cannot rescue someone else by putting yourself in harm’s way.” The same is true for leaders. Leaders who are drowning in their own sea of uncertainty or inexperience are not in a position to help, direct or lead others. In fact, the very first module of our new Inspired Leadership offering begins with “Leading Self.” May we remember to continue caring for our own well-being in service to others, even when life returns to “normal.”

Focus on Family. With many parents working from home, and children engaged in a hybrid approach to online learning and home-schooling, more clients are reporting a return to family dinners, family walks, and other activities that are often squeezed out of our fast-paced lives. However you define “family”, more people are choosing to foster more meaningful interpersonal relationships, not only with loved ones, but also with long lost friends and family. The ways families have been engaging in celebration, whether it’s weddings, memorials, graduations, birthdays, are so creative! We are already beginning to hear the term, “COVID Baby” used to describe new additions to families during this time. It will be interesting to see how this return to family relationships impacts social and community issues in the months to come.

Focus on Community. In the absence of large scale public gatherings and events, people are finding creative ways to connect socially, while remaining physically distanced. A greater sense of community and compassion for our neighbors has emerged, such as deliveries of cookies on doorsteps, grocery and errand runs for the elderly, intentional efforts to support local businesses and restaurants. One of my favorite examples of this is local photographer, Lara George, who creatively began her “Front Steps Project,” as a means of reaching out, connecting with people, offering her services and simply bringing joy to surrounding communities. She posts on social media when she will be driving through a neighborhood, so families can come outside on their front porch, just as they are, and be photographed by her from the street for physical distancing. Be sure to check out Lara’s project, and show her some love.

Focus on Purpose. At least half of the coaching conversations since March 2020 have involved some discussion about re-evaluating one’s career or life path. While some are exploring retirement, others are considering a completely different type of work or field of discipline. Arguably, in some cases, this may be related to that normal stage of adult development we call “midlife.” In nearly all cases, the client is seeking something more satisfying, fulfilling or meaningful. Now, I thrive on these conversations, having experienced a bit of my own career re-evaluation not too long ago. More importantly, my clients are seeking a deeper sense of purpose, and choosing to leave a legacy for future generations on purpose.

Focus on Perspective. Related to purpose, many people are taking advantage of the opportunity to press pause, take a deep breath, and consider their situations from a different perspective. They are wanting to see the “bigger picture,” and make sense of how it all fits together. We have seen more interest in Blue Health Coaching™ than ever before, as people discover their desire to have a deeper connection with their own lives and with the planet, specifically our marine ecosystems. If you are curious about Blue Health Coaching,™ try one of our “Toe in the Water” sessions to have an experience, learn about the science of blue health benefits, and meet some cool people in the process.

As we prepare simultaneously for an unknown future and a return to some sense of normalcy, I am optimistic that we may preserve some of these positive lessons gleaned from this season of uncertainty. Take heart and know that this too shall pass, and hopefully, we will have learned and grown through the challenges into wiser and more compassionate human beings, more patient leaders and more purposefully leave a legacy for future generations. What are you harvesting?

Harvesting the Fruits of Our Labor

Growing up in the small, Central Valley town of Lodi, Harvest represents to me a season of reaping what has been sown, seeing fruits manifest, enjoying outcomes, and of course, evaluating performance. You’ve done the planning, laid the groundwork, tilled the soil, planted seeds of opportunity, and waited… sometimes patiently. Now is the season when all of those efforts begin to pay off!  The fruits of your labor are bursting forth with possibility.   How well does your organization measure its performance against strategic goals and objectives? 

Many organizations struggle to define clearly measurable performance objectives. When this happens, success metrics may not accurately reflect actual outcomes, impact or progress toward the organizations ultimate mission. Consequently, this complicates reporting, funding endeavors, and strategic planning initiatives for the following year.  What story does your performance measurement tell? 

Our strategic planning process begins with the end in mind. First, we evaluate existing key performance indicators, comparing against stated goals and objectives from the organization’s mission, 3-5 year and annual plans for alignment, measurability and validity, just like any good research project. To break that down a bit, here’s what we mean:

  • Alignment: Are we measuring what matters?  Sometimes we measure factors other than what was stated in the mission, strategy and annual plan. While this is perfectly normal and acceptable, let’s be certain we are doing so with intention. It is critical to determine to what degree are we achieving our mission. Performance indicators need to illustrate movement in the appropriate direction on the most important dimensions for your organization. These indicators tell us how close we are to achieving the goals, doing what we told our customers (and shareholders) we would do, and what needs to be improved as a result. 
  • Measurability: Can our performance indicators be measured?  Often, stated organizational goals are not only aspirational, but also esoteric, so they may not be captured in a quantifiable way. Even with the most subjective aspirations and strategies, quantifiable, measurable goals can be assigned to present a clearer picture of performance.  So this is an opportunity to revisit the organizational mission and objectives.
  • Validity: Do performance indicators measure what we intend to measure? For example, when measuring employee engagement, factors such as attendance or attrition may be interesting independent factors, but we can only measure the relationship between these factors, but we typically cannot argue causality from these alone.  What other data would better inform your planning for the future?
  • Recalibration: What story do the performance indicators tell? Every year, organizations large and small have the opportunity to recalibrate, realign and course correct for the following year. How would you like to envision the story at the end of next year?