“Where We Can Go From Here” — This is the final entry in a series of blogs on adaptive leadership.
It is my belief that foundational leadership principles give leaders the ability to build teams capable of handling whatever might come their way. This series is based around what we at Level Five Associates have as one of our foundations: “The Big Six.”
The Big Six are the result of years of personal experience and observation of what make great teams work.
Part of what we consider so important about The Big Six Leadership Principles® is a belief that these concepts are, essentially, universal and unchangeable.
The underlying principles are always the same, giving us as leaders a foundation to build resilient — and adaptable — teams.
A very important topic I’d like to cover is moving forward.
This blog series is based in part on a webinar I held. There were a couple of questions in the webinar that were related to how we might adapt to whatever lies ahead when this global pandemic is over. (The webinar was conducted shortly after we found ourselves in the midst of the pandemic, so references to when it might end were clearly optimistic. But, the questions — and their underlying concerns — remain valid.)
One input was “This pandemic is creating significant anxiety. Lifestyle restrictions add to the personal toll everyone feels… What will people need to do when we return to normal? What will re-entry look like?”
Another question was “What specific adjustments and actions might you recommend leaders make, or carry out, as teams and businesses hopefully return to in-person working environments..?”
Here are my thoughts about re-entry:
It’s not going to be like flipping a light switch. I believe it will be a sort of hybrid environment. Some of the changes designed to adapt to the pandemic are going to stay with us. I would say that re-entry will not be easy. We may think that we’re just going to plug back in, but what’s really going to happen is a gradual transition to a new environment that has components of in-person and distributed settings. After such a long period of isolation, we will have become a little more distant, at least from the standpoint of communicating with each other. We have spent time with each other virtually through FaceTime, Zoom, phone calls, and other forms of visual and audio communication. The rest of the time we may have gotten used to living in our own bubbles, our own worlds. When the time comes to transition to more and more in-person interactions, we’re going to have to step up as leaders to guide people through the transition. Your leadership talents are going to be vital to easing people into reestablishing these individual relationships.
I truly believe that some of the most powerful moments in my life occurred when I was around other people in a physical environment, and I felt the energy of the group. Since some of that energy has dissipated during the pandemic, I think it’s going to be incumbent on us to work very hard to keep it alive and keep it bubbling along.
We’re going to have to lead the return back to more in-person interactions in a deliberate way, building and rebuilding some of the energy that we gain from being members of a team or a group and working together. Positivity is going to be a key factor here.
The attitude you project should be “When you need me, you can count on me as your leader.” I think that ability to trust and count on each other, which we embody in “walking the talk,” is going to be fundamental to where we are now and where we’ll be in a post-pandemic world.
Here’s good news. The Big Six principles will serve us well both now and as we adapt to the changes ahead. I think one of the outcomes, when we’re able to fully have in-person relationships again, will be that we’re better listeners. We’ll be more respectful. We’ll honor the time that’s available and take more control of it. You may even have more effective meetings. (Wow, what a concept!)
Because we learned to do it virtually in a distributed environment, we now can do it in person.
All the hard work you currently put into implementing and renewing the Big Six principles is going to pay off in spades as you transition to whatever develops in our future. Just imagine … the forced adaptations of this pandemic can actually strengthen your organization and your teams! You have the opportunity to really build and reinforce the corporate culture you mapped out when you set (and reset) your azimuth. I think you’ll see a lot of benefits here, a lot of good outcomes, by taking the practices that you’re adapting now and keeping them.
The Big Six principles are not rocket science. I didn’t invent them! I’ve mentioned this before: I’ve learned these ideas from people who were wise enough and kind enough and thoughtful enough to lead me to understand these principles, and I’ll never be able to completely repay them for what they’ve done in that regard. I would encourage you, particularly in these challenging times of uncertainty, to start employing the Big Six principles in a framework more adaptive to where we are and what we’re in. (That’s what this series has been all about. Feel free to go back and review the entries in this series to observe how each of the Big Six relate to making us all a bit more adaptive.)
Here’s a quick review of some concepts/actions to think about, with links back to our pieces on those particular topics:
- Set and reset your azimuth
- Practice using effective communication skills (such as the backbrief)
- Listen with the intent to understand
- Think about how you’re trusting and empowering your team:
- Publish agendas in advance.
- How are you delegating both the authority and responsibility for people to come up with ideas, make decisions, and do things that you’re going to underwrite because they’re for the greater good and they’re within the azimuth of the organization?
- Do the right thing when no one’s looking. Be vulnerable. Be interested in the moment. When someone speaks, pay attention. Follow up.
- When in charge, be in charge.
- Expect people to deliver at certain times within a certain framework because we need that discipline in our lives.
- Watch for the warning signs before something or someone is off the grid.
- Think about those energy levels and how you nurture them.
- Watch for ‘silent soldiers’ and establish a ‘battle buddy‘ system in which people check on each other.
- Consider implementing a call system that allows leaders to check on their team members individually (just be aware that this call system isn’t a replacement for battle buddies).
Keep in mind we want to belong to a team on which we have a role to play and know where we fit. We want to be able to say, “I know that what I’m doing here fits within the mission of the organization.”
Put all the advantages and benefits of the Big Six principles to good use. Create a culture in which ‘doing the right thing when no one is looking‘ is the norm.
Trust and empower, listen, keep your eyes on the azimuth (and adjust as necessary), and, again, when in charge, be in charge.
Be sure to routinely take the pulse of your team to help keep a healthy balance.
And then: have some fun!
Think of ways you can have fun: a virtual happy hour is one; celebrating birthdays and anniversaries is another. (Maybe sometimes you can wear funny hats during video meetings!) There are all kinds of things you can do to lighten up the moment, knowing that everybody’s got a lot of anxiety back there somewhere. We can be compassionate and adaptable — we don’t have to choose. (In fact, we arguably can never have a truly adaptable team if we are not compassionate with our team members.)
Where we can go from here? It is up to us as leaders. Enjoy the Journey!!
This series was based on my eBook “Who Saw This Coming?” You can get a free downloadable copy of the entire eBook here.
Again, you can review the entries in this series to see the broader overview of the Big Six in the context of being more adaptive. If you feel stuck or would like to explore anything in further detail, please feel free to reach out to us via our contact page.
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