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Four Leadership Reflections from a Snow Day in Austin

It snowed in Austin on Sunday. Real snow. For hours. If you are from the Midwest or Mountain States, what we had may not qualify as “real snow” in your opinion. But for us, the flurries swirled for 6+ hours and the local weather reporting station declared an inch-and-a-half of total snowfall between 9a and 3p. Several Austin suburbs recorded 5 inches or more.

Such fun! We’ve lived in Austin for more than 20 years. We can’t remember another snowstorm like this since we showed up in 1999.

As we sat looking out our windows, four leadership analogies came to my mind.

house covered in snow

First of all, sometimes it makes sense to just hunker down. The heater in our little house works fine, our Sunday agenda was pretty relaxed – we even put a “fireplace” YouTube channel on the living room TV and just hung out. Furthermore, the 35 degree snowfall meant that most of the snow that landed turned immediately to slush. Trying to get out or run errands just gambled unnecessarily with potential bad outcomes.

As I reflect on all the change each of us has undergone in our organizations since mid-March 2020, I want to give you permission: sometimes you just need to hunker down. Don’t sprint to the next change initiate. Don’t race from one workflow to another. Don’t proactively implement re-orgs.

Just-Hunker-Down

Secondly, enjoy the unexpected experience. I took one of our Goldens for a walk right in the middle of the storm. She romped, she rolled, she chased a snow-laden ball, she trotted through wet curbs. She came home a wet, sloppy mess. And she loved it. So did I. Seeing her having so much fun put a spring in my step for the rest of the day.

Fellow leader – during these challenging times, take time to enjoy the unexpected. Sleeping in late because your first meeting doesn’t start until 9a – and your zoom room den is 30 seconds from your bedroom. Time to cook. Time to walk the dogs. Time to garden or work around the house; whatever you now have time to do that you didn’t before – make sure to enjoy this opportunity.

Thirdly, plan as best as you can, but don’t sweat the details. We used to go skiing in the winter. We’ve spent a lot of time in the snow-covered mountains, and we have a bunch of winter-appropriate footwear and clothing. All of which is stored away. Our planning on Sunday consisted of making sure we had plenty of towels ready to wipe down a wet dog and figuring out a way to dry out my shoes and overcoat when I got home.

Don’t worry if your plans are unclear. Practice “Confident Uncertainty.” Stay agile. Make a plan, modify the plan, throw the plan out and start over. Vision, strategy and planning are all critically important in the life of a leader. Except sometimes when they aren’t.

Last of all, recognize change will come. Sunday afternoon was bittersweet. We loved the snow. And the whole time we knew 70 degree weather was coming by the end of the week. The slush was gone by mid-day Monday, and within 48 hours everything looked dry and sunny. While we don’t get horrible weather extremes in central Texas, what we do get is rapid change. 32 one day, 72 the next. Clear and sunny in the morning, storm warnings by the afternoon. Particularly in the winter, whatever the weather is today, there’s a very good chance it will be different tomorrow.

Leader – as a dealer in optimism, part of what needs to be true of you is the ability to keep your eyes up. No matter what challenging situation your firm is in, change is coming. Remind your people. Build hope into them. Encourage them to think “this too shall pass.” Your firm has survived other challenging seasons. It will survive this one. And be ready for the next season, which is coming sooner than you think.

Snow in Backyard