Thriving in the New
What happens to you as a leader when a significant period of uncertainty or change, such as a global pandemic, affects your organisation and you have no prior experience of how to deal with it?
What happens when this change causes people to reconsider their futures both in terms of the work they do, who they do it for and where they do it?
Do you try to batten down the hatches and hope to ride out the storm, or do you adapt your leadership style reflecting that this is new ground for you and the organisation?
We have seen a lot of changes to the norm over the last 18 months, and many businesses are facing unprecedented challenges ranging from a significant loss of staff, to supply chain constraints, to adopting new work practices and many more besides.
For those following the principles of the Adaptive Leadership Framework, developed by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky these new challenges can represent opportunity.
Opportunity to better understand what your organisation needs to grow, plus gain support collectively to implement those required changes.
So, what’s involved?
GET ON THE BALCONY: Remove yourself from the day-to-day ‘dance floor’ so you can properly assess what is going on. This will give you much-needed perspective. It requires discipline to go there. It should be regularly undertaken.
IDENTIFY THE CHALLENGE: Is the challenge something ‘technical’ - it can be solved by current expertise within the business or ‘adaptive’ – it has never been seen in the organisation before and therefore may need a different approach e.g., developing different competencies, processes, or procedures.
REGULATE DISTRESS: Create a psychologically safe space for staff to manage their own turmoil. This means supporting staff to share their thoughts without fear or favour. It also means as a leader being aware of your own turmoil and managing the impact that may have on others.
MAINTAIN DISCIPLINED ATTENTION: Keep your focus and that of the organisation on the real challenges, not getting distracted by the inevitable day-to-day ‘noise’. It may involve getting people to face up to uncomfortable changes, which needs to be done in a psychologically safe environment.
GIVE THE WORK BACK TO THE PEOPLE: Once the challenge has been identified, empower your employees to own their roles in achieving solutions. Leadership needs to play a supportive rather than controlling role.
PROTECT THE VOICES OF LEADERSHIP FROM BELOW: It may seem obvious but can often be in short supply. It’s really important to make sure that ongoing input is sought from the previously unheard from voices. Their perspective will be critical to making sure there are no solution blind-spots, and any changes are fully embraced throughout the organisation.
As people are faced with new working and lifestyle practices, be it fully in the workplace, fully remote or hybrid, the challenge this throws up is just the next chapter in the ever-evolving nature of work. For the businesses that flourish they will have done so as they adapt successfully to the ‘new normal’.
Leadership comes from all areas of the organisation and so it is critically important that adaptive leadership is modelled from the top and encouraged throughout. Doing so will bring new solutions to new problems but may also very well bring new solutions to old problems.
What have you got to lose?
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