Life is about change. For many of us this fact has never before been so explicitly highlighted. Trying to predict the post-pandemic reality is a scorching hot topic right now. Without a crystal ball what we are left with is uncertainty and ambiguity. It can truly feel like being in the dark. Herein lies the first opportunity. Leaders, you can define your own leadership brand, and the brand of your organization, for years to come when you use this as a catalyst for emergent change.
After a critical disruption, the desire for predictability is high and the tendency to react and jump right to action is understandable. No one wants to languish in the ambiguous murkiness for long. I encourage leaders to use this ‘in the dark’ stage to ignite a different sort of discourse. Find a way to listen to the concerns, the wisdom gained from lived experience as well as the experiments that people tried in the pursuit of simpler ways of working. Hear the perspectives of people at all levels and also your contractors. The ONLY way to move into a bold future is to start where you are!
This foundational step provides rich data - what has worked, what hasn’t and what has been missed. This is not a survey, it is a conversation. Instead of a crisis response, this is the bridge to the future. With a quick bit of design thinking and the technologies at hand, you can do all of this dialogue online, if need be. HR and change experts can be brought in to help.
From this initial gathering and reflecting, your discourse must shift to aligning on a universally shared understanding of the challenge and opportunity. Your role as a leader is bringing the future into focus by integrating the contributions of individuals and the contextual truth of internal and external factors. Be prepared to let go of your own ideas in exchange for a fresh definition of the organization. The real power is in the reshaping. Let the future vision emerge.
“Alone you can go fast. Together we can go far.” This African proverb sums up the trend in organizations that are highly adaptive. Adapting to circumstances, these organizations are paying attention to re-humanizing every interaction. More deep listening, more open dialogue and reflection, ensures you are leading and preparing your people for easy adaptation. There will not be a stable new normal anytime soon.
A silver-lining to embrace is the involuntary shift to a more agile organization operating model for many. A quick Google search brings back 99 million entries on agile organization. Yes, the pursuit of agile has become an industry. Agile is here, so let’s get confident and capable. Let’s not lose this vital lesson.
Leaders, don’t let it feel difficult for people. Be masterful at inviting people to join the conversation and shape the future.
People at Work
The world of work is changing. More than we imagined just a few months ago, right before the global pandemic showed up to disrupt everything. With all the contextual conditions, both planned (including automation and digitization) and emergent (COVID19 impacts for one), we know that jobs are being lost. And most, if not all, jobs are changing. As an expert in organizational change and leading for the future I see a range of silver linings. And a curiosity from every corner about all aspects of workforce planning.
In ‘normal’ times, and I know this from personal experience as you likely do too, it is very difficult to get people to abandon what they have always done and do something different. And I’m not talking about active or even passive resistance. Organizational systems and structures keep us tethered to what we have always done, although our heads and hearts may desire something quite different. Now the ‘opportunity’ sign is flashing.
Trending now is the desire to have a changeable organization. One that reshapes and responds to conditions and opportunities with the least amount of pain. To achieve this you have to shift mindsets at individual and organizational levels. It's about people. It is me and we!
So whether you are the people hiring, the people managing or the people doing and delivering, here are some things I encourage you to consider:
Skills you need NOW
Regardless of the discipline or technical area, it is crystal clear that there are specific soft skills needed for the new order of work. People need an excellent ability to build relationships and understand how to be a ‘citizen’ of the work team they are part of. We need to be able to demonstrate character (and screen for it in interviews).
Each person must understand their part, taking it upon themselves to get clarity, and be responsible for that part. Each person must also be willing to cluster and help when there is need. This is the stability/flexibility we can observe in an ant colony. It is often described as proactive or creative behaviour today. It is about your trustworthiness and your ability to build trust.
Can you join and separate with ease? This is another critical skill as teams are coalesced and organically shaped for maximum impact. It is important to come with an open mind when you join a team; and leave with a constructive message. As the working groups are getting smaller in agile organizations, you hold your own brand as well as your organization’s brand in your hand in a manner never seen before.
Talent will move - between companies and within companies
People are educated and expensive, not robots, so we need to free them to do their best work. Do you have ways to ensure your talented people are connected with opportunities inside? Are you keen for people to try a different company or environment and bring back the learning? An agile organization needs new information at the level of team (squad etc.), discipline and the whole system. With the possibility of intelligent talent moves, you will have powerful knowledge cycling through your people.
Hire (be hired) more effectively
Not just “the usual suspects”!
In addition to a good track record of problem solving and making tough decisions, search out people who can tell their own story of how they are open to hearing new ideas, giving up their own long-held beliefs.
People who can work independently as well as interdependently, with a collaborative attitude and responsible ethics. Those who know you need to slow down to speed up. People who can manage inevitable contradictions. People who build networks so they have the means at their disposal to do what they are responsible for. People who are generous with hands on help and very spare with giving advice that might undermine someone’s ability.
And people who are working on themselves, growing their humanity.
The big silver lining
Best of all, there will be many organizations who take the disruption as an opportunity to shake off the conventional ways and let new energy flow through their most valuable asset - the intelligence in every person that is anything but artificial!
Urusla is recognized for her unique approach to simplifying change work. She is a thought leader in emergent change and an advisor, coach and consultant to executives and teams. Since 2000 Ursula has worked with several large national and global organizations, helping them build their change capability and confidence, while delivering large initiatives.
She is a professional facilitator, certified PRoSci change management professional and trained in Gestalt practice. Ursula is a Class of 2015 Peter Senge Executive Champion. Her passion is helping individuals and organizations discover a simpler way to change.