How’s Your Hindsight?
Spoken-word poet and filmmaker Tomos Roberts struck a chord this year. With over 60 million views, he unmistakably drew the heart of humanity into the plot of his reflective children’s bedtime story, The Great Realisation [sic]. Tom’s pre-reminiscent tale paints a portrait of a spuriously progressing world with blinders on that needed a global virus to heal from its own undoing. With tremendous wisdom, he drops this profound conclusion:
“And so when we found the cure and were allowed to go outside, We all preferred the world we found to the one we’d left behind.”
As I take in Tom’s penetrating poem and watch him share with his kids, I can’t help but wonder if my leadership hindsight about 2020 will be as strong as his foresight. Am I paying attention closely enough today to recognize what might result down the line? And, when the future arrives, will I be humble enough to ask hard questions about what could have, or should have, been done differently? When it comes to making sense of yesterday, we as leaders need to be mindful of our past long before tomorrow comes.
The choice to reflect, to revisit the good, bad, and ugly of the past, isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires leadership resolve to take inventory, tell the truth, and turn toward what’s right and good. Sometimes we cross a threshold where we can say, “Let bygones be bygones—the past is the past!” But more often, and if we’ve unearthed anything in 2020, it’s demeaning to sweep where we’ve been under the rug and don rose-colored glasses as we reminisce and dream up brighter days. True hindsight is only 20/20 for those who choose to pay true attention.
As you inch toward a new year, are you ready to reflect on where you’ve been? Are you game to ask the hard, deep, and redefining questions to let 2020 shape you, and those you influence, in 2021? To get you started, here are three hindsight builders to journal through and discuss. These exercises can also help your team or organization mine out meaning from the past year and trust one another more moving forward.
Disagree to Agree
“Agree to disagree” only works if people put their cards on the table, so it’s important to think back on where you withheld so as to avoid disagreements. You can’t build trust or produce stellar results when you or colleagues hold back on fully expressing deeply held convictions and concerns. Agree on where you disagree to discern how well you engaged in constructive conflict this year. Think back on past meetings and initiatives. Where did you avoid telling the whole story or sharing your full opinion? What’s an idea that you still believe has merit but others shot it down early on? Who is someone you aren’t on the same page with but they likely don’t know? Dig deep. Let this hindsight builder be a gamechanger.
2020 gave many leaders and organizations multiple opportunities to unplug from business-as-usual, evaluate what really matters, and recalibrate for more relevant impact. What did you rediscover about yourself or your organization during quarter one, two, three, and four? Did you notice your world afresh like Tom’s “great realisation” poem? It may feel like a yearlong blur right now, so jog your memory by revisiting your notes, emails, appointments, receipts, and call logs. Scroll through your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts. What stands out to you as a hidden gem, a diamond in the rough, that wouldn’t have surfaced if 2020 never happened? What changed in your priorities, home life, work productivity, and relational network? What dreams from the past came to mind and what visions for the future developed? Open up to yourself and others about what you found meaningful during this exceptional year. Remember, what looks like junk on the surface could be a gem to you.
Do You See What I See?
It’s common for fallible humans to remember life differently than it actually happened. The problem isn’t that what psychologists call “hindsight bias” happens; it’s that people rationalize and reshape truth away. As a leader, you need an outside perspective and a heart that’s ready to receive it. After completing one or both of the hindsight builders above, dive into this third one with a few trusted colleagues and friends. Share your insights in a way that welcomes fact-checking by transparently asking, “Do you see what I see?”