Michele Schiavoni serves as director of external relations and marketing for Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the state’s public-private economic development agency. Prior to that she spent more than two decades in service with ChristianaCare. In her current role with DPP, Michele oversees all marketing and creative strategy to promote the benefits of establishing, expanding or relocating businesses in Delaware; building a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem and supporting private employers in identifying, recruiting and developing talent.
We are living in a once-in-a-century moment that will be studied, written about and studied even more. In the early days of the pandemic there was an article in the Harvard Business Review explaining that what we are all feeling now are the classic stages of grief – a sense of longing and loss for normalcy. Two important steps in navigating grief include accepting that it is what is and recognizing this is just a moment in time that too will pass. As a leader, manager, or entrepreneur – ask yourself what you are learning about your leadership style and what you are doing differently.
This word is overused but the reality is that the DNA of COVID-19 was fully sequenced last January and by the fall of the same year, we were in Phase III vaccine trials. COVID-19 changed science forever. As Patrick Callahan, founder of the Delaware Data Innovation Lab, explains, “The pace of innovation increases during times of hardship.” The learning here is that truly breakthrough innovation is fueled by collaborating and sharing ideas.
I am here today because of Sister Regina Pacis, Brother Jack, Kathi Jensen, Carroll and Ned Carpenter, Dr. Bob Laskowski and others who took the time to listen and guide me, advise me, help me to find the courage to reach the goals I set out for myself. Be sure to thank your mentors, tell them how they helped you and then go on to mentor someone else to realize their potential.
The great Shirley Chisolm once said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” Regardless of your leadership style, by being the leader you have the extraordinary power to ignite the potential in others. Leading is about mentoring and inspiring a team to think and ask why and why not.
A self-professed digital minimalist, Georgetown Computer Science Professor Cal Newport explains, “Commerce in the attention economy is about businesses that make money corralling consumer attention, repackaging and selling it.” One study found we touch our smartphones 2,617 times a day and check email 74 times. Your next great idea won’t come from trolling Twitter. Now more than ever, the challenge to maintaining your creativity is to commit to focused, reflective, uninterrupted work.
Texting as the preferred choice for communication means we risk losing our ability to listen well and carefully, to understand nuance, the value of tone and nonverbal cues. Conversations unfold slowly, and we learn from listening. Ask your team, your partner, your colleagues their opinions. Choose community and connection, not technology.
In business and in life, strategy is about what you choose not to do as well as what you choose to do. Regularly evaluate whether you’re doing things just because that’s the way it’s always been done or because somebody started it and it was never truly evaluated. Take inventory of your purpose, your company’s core purpose and the “why” for the business you lead. Revisit purpose and intention on a regular basis.
A songwriter once said the words you speak become the house you live in. Last March I wrote an Op-Ed about the misuse of the phrase social distancing and that in fact – we should be committed to physically distancing not social distancing – now more than ever we need to find ways to stay connected. Don’t allow a pandemic to make us less social – let’s commit to being physically distant and choose to be socially connected – there’s a huge difference. Words matter; choose them carefully.
Embrace and find ways to support art, culture, and heritage. A world without culture is a world devoid of its most creative forces. Don’t let a virus dampen one of the most important aspects of our humanity. Support the arts.
Courage is a word we hear about most often in association with the extraordinary acts of bravery in military battles. But leading in business, whether it’s a publicly traded company, a startup or nonprofit takes courage. Making decisions takes courage; lead intentionally and decisively. Winston Churchill said, “Fear is a reaction; courage is a decision.”
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