For decades now, businesses large and small have relied on a standardized set of leadership rules: tactics, mindsets, behaviors, rules that have evolved in mostly small, incremental, digestible ways. Then…our entire world changed, seemingly overnight. We scrambled. We made do with makeshift set-ups and processes. It was okay when our child or furry pet randomly “joined” a virtual meeting. A bit of comic relief. We found ways to be agile. We let go of perfection and found that “good enough” really was good enough. In our personal lives, every team member and leader became stressed in multiple ways. This pandemic didn’t just affect our work world, it affected EVERYTHING. The world we had known with its reliable structures and systems is no longer the same. The traditional hierarchy crumbled as we all pulled together as humans fighting a microscopic enemy.
What is our new world? Unpredictable. Uncertain. Often harsh. Often kind. Full of opportunity. Laden with tough challenges. The last few months have revealed our personal and organizational character in bold, front-and-center ways for all to see. So, what’s a leader to do as we step back into full-time business? It requires a reset.
Any leader relying on the same tactics and behaviors they’ve been using with their team is now likely to be fitting square pegs into round holes. Command and control, standards that measure success among people and processes that relied on a certain historical trail of predictability simply won’t stand tall when, at least in the next year or two, uncertainty is a driving force we have to face.
In our company, we’ve shared quite a bit on how to be resilient. It requires an agile approach, openness, deep-breathing, tolerance, a defined purpose and strong relationships. Now, in addition to refining the resilience skill, what’s next? If we’ve found anything good through this time in our homes, it’s been our ability to showcase our individuality. Countless people have shared their best tactics for WFH and technology tips. We applied creative thinking to keeping the wheels on the bus for business, education, physical and mental health, while often adding humor, innovation and kindness in ways never seen. And through this, we’ve changed. Some of the change will be short-lived and much, I believe, will find permanence. Leaders will find that many of their people will show up to work wanting and needing different things than before.
This is the stage of innovative thinking, inclusion and clarity of purpose. Empathy and compassion. Merging individual skills and strengths of team members with the task and end-goal, comes in full force. Want increased engagement? Committed people to the job at hand? Improved satisfaction and retention? The job is to help them—and you—get into the zone. FLOW. It’s the state of being fully immersed in a task, where all attention and energy is directed toward a single objective while productivity and creativity surge, creating mastery and success. And that’s done by leading through each individual. By helping each person learn what flow means, how to get it, keep it and benefit from it, you’ll create stronger, more successful and engaged teams than ever before.
How often in your career have you seen the traits of ‘playing the game’, ‘pretending to know the answers’ and the ‘road of unmitigated drive’ be celebrated while the behaviors of being authentic, vulnerable, asking for help and the admission of a personal life with all its challenges, be left for another unspoken time and space? This time is about throwing out the barriers that limit individuality, that remove old systems that simply don’t fit any longer. It’s ok to toss things aside that don’t make sense, standards that no one is certain why they exist, a certain homogenous approach to business. It’s time to be brave. If we take advantage of this time to recognize and leverage each person’s strengths, desires and abilities in new ways, we’ll find a team of highly effective humans that have just elevated their capacity to succeed—and that’s not only good for them, it’s good for the bottom line as well.
Right now, we’re living in the extreme. It’s a basic law of physics, right? Remember Newton’s Law of Motion? Force and acceleration. The more force applied, the greater the acceleration of the pendulum and distance it swings. We’ll come back to a somewhat balanced state. The key is the journey in getting there. Operating in FLOW.
Alright, you say…where do I start?
- How well do you REALLY know each of your people? If you did prior to this shift, can you say the same thing now? Begin by having an authentic, 1:1 conversation. Find out what their world looks like for them.
- Ask them: What’s changed? What new challenges are they faced with? What are they worried about? How do they view their role now? What do they need to feel meaning and success in their work?
- Do they see how they fit into the organization’s mission and vision? Does it connect with the best skills they have to contribute?
- Does your mission and vision need to get a reset? Schedule time with your leadership team and dive in with an honest, open and fresh look. The most important time to dedicate to this effort is now, not when things “settle down”.
- Decide which standards and processes to toss. Unless we approach business by allowing team members to think and operate with fresh perspectives and strengths, we won’t arrive at the results we’re after.
- Learn about FLOW and how to integrate it into your team. They are the gems that can paddle with you into uncertain waters, help manage change and strengthen the business.
There’s a great quote from Peter Drucker that is constantly a filter in my mind. “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” This moment is calling us to reset as leaders, as organizations and as the entire human collective. It is possible if we’re willing to lead with a new perspective, empathy and compassion for each individual. Be brave and interrupt yesterday’s logic.