As organizations across the world begin to make the transition from a “preservation” to a “restoration” mindset, the pressure to execute has never been greater for many mid-level managers. What was known has become vague, what was expected has become unclear, and what worked before can now feel like a “hope strategy”.
The speed and degree of change can be overwhelming, and the shifting priorities can leave teams frustrated and feeling as if they are building a sandcastle during high tide. All of this disruption can leave people leaders building, directing and repairing only to have the next wave seemingly wipe away all their efforts. So, where do you begin?
Having spent over 30 years helping organizations develop and shift mindsets to create greater ownership and accountability for results, Partners In Leadership has found 5 key competencies that leaders need to utilize to make the switch from preservation to restoration during disruption. Each is valuable on their own, but when deployed as a system of leadership skills, they help a leader create incredible speed and engagement from their team or organization.
In the absence of clarity of the desired results, individuals tend to self-select the actions they believe are needed—causing teams to seemingly chase everything. While long range objectives may be in place, this is rarely enough during uncertain times.
Unfortunately, only 16% of employees surveyed in the Partners In Leadership Culture Advantage Index strongly agree that individuals in their organization are clear on top key results. With the uncertainty we’re facing today, that number is likely much lower, both for short-term results and certainly year-end results. The need for clarity is more important than ever.
Besides yearly or quarterly results, what are the top 2-3 priorities to be accomplished by the team in the next 30 days? How will you measure success and ultimately ‘why” should your team be focused in these areas at this time?
Keep these priorities simple and measurable and continue to regularly communicate them to your team while you transition into restoration mode. Building a strong comeback for your business will be much easier with everyone aligned around the same goals.
During massive change, the ability to learn fast and move fast becomes crucial. Learning has to do with acknowledging our realities; What are we facing? What are we ignoring? What do we have available to us?
When teams are able to address the reality they are facing, they are more inclined to find ways to innovate and move around that issue to continue moving toward reaching results. Ask your team, “What are the obstacles getting in the way of making progress?” This question allows your team to willingly acknowledge the reality they are facing. Once they see the obstacle they are facing they can start taking ownership for closing the gaps.
Acknowledging reality also looks at what is the role each person plays, how are they involved, and where they need to be more involved. This is a conversation that needs to happen regularly with our teams as a whole and with each individual. If you expect to have engagement and involvement, you need to know where each person stands relative to their mindset and willingness to learn and move fast. Once each team and employee knows how their individual actions contributes to reaching results, they are more inclined to work hard to obtain those results.
Holding a weekly Zoom meeting or daily huddle may not be enough. Just because your team sees you or hears from you does not mean they believe you are accessible for them to express their ideas or concerns. If your team normally has meetings once a week, you might consider doing them two or three times a week. One of them could be the normal length. The others could be briefer and feature a “huddle-like” atmosphere. The longer the period without seeing and hearing from a leader and peers while recovering from disruption, the higher likelihood of distraction, confusion, and a lack of focus.
When you consider the number of press conferences, daily updates and virtual meetings that have taken place in the last few months—are you just adding to the noise and confusion or are you creating experiences that let your team know you are accessible and appropriately transparent?
Accessibility should accompany greater visibility. Those closest to the customer and those making critical decisions need access to leaders during moments like this. When leaders and teams don’t intentionally increase their accessibility, speed suffers, affecting an organization’s ability to pivot as needed.
Some leaders demonstrate visibility and accessibility but still aren’t seeing enough acceleration. They’re likely missing transparency. Transparency leads to trust; and trust fosters engagement.
Transformation demands radical candor. It requires acknowledging reality. Some leaders and teams aren’t listening or are holding onto the past. They don’t want transparency; they’d prefer to stay in preservation when restoration is what’s needed. Transformation is hard, and it requires speaking and dealing with the truth.
Accountability is always a “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances”. If you find yourself, your team, or organization using the words “they” or “them” quite frequently vs. “I” or “we”, take pause and ask yourself: Am I/We looking for someone or something else to solve the problems in front of us? In times of crisis, as humans we tend to externalize the need for change, often ignoring, waiting or expecting someone else to solve our greatest challenges.In what circumstances do you see your team externalizing the need for change or waiting for someone else to tell them what to do?
Increase your personal and your team’s accountability by asking the questions, “What’s the reality I most need to acknowledge? How am I involved in the solution? What else can I do? What do I need to do, and by when?”
Organizations where individuals choose to be part of the solution will accelerate the shifts needed to navigate disruption and move to restoration. These people are constantly asking, “What else can I do?” and create a huge competitive advantage for their organization with an 86% increase in innovation and 90% faster execution than organizations with low levels of accountability, according to our Culture Advantage Index.
Empathy effects our ability to adapt and achieve results. It is the capacity to understand what someone else is experiencing. Leaders who practice empathy consider what people in the organization are experiencing through their frame of reference.
While having empathy during times of disruption seems like a must, it may not be comfortable or natural for some leaders to demonstrate empathy to the same degree that others naturally exhibit it in their interactions. One of the simplest paths to showing greater empathy is to become more curious. Start asking more questions. How are your team members feeling about the project, their role, your leadership? How can you really know about what your employees are feeling? Ask.
The goal of practicing empathy is not to solve problems or even offer comfort. The experience people need from their leaders is to be heard and understood.
Take up residence with your employee’s perspective. People need to be able to reflect to release their anxiety. As you do this, you can identify the root cause of concerns while building trust and higher levels of collaboration.
Keep these connections strong right now, which may mean changing the way you connect with your team and how frequently you communicate.
Don’t Get Caught in the Middle
The complexity of leading through change can feel overwhelming, especially when making the transition from preservation to restoration. These five competencies provide a framework for systematically driving the restoration mindset — ensuring you are creating appropriate experiences for your team to drive greater ownership, engagement, and achievement of desired results.
Watch replays of our weekly live online series for more ideas on how to Lead During Uncertainty.