Reaching a juncture – moving into the next new phase

One of the main themes coming out of this week’s work with leaders and leadership teams has been around ‘reaching a juncture’. We’ve been mulling this around for a while now, many of us having acknowledged that we are (like it or not!) now moving into the next new phase; having to consider when and how we remobilise and return to workplaces and of course all the complexities that go with this.

The juncture that leaders are referring to is two-fold. It’s of course about the practicalities of getting our people back, the when and the how but it’s also about the opportunity to reshape and redefine what it is we want to be known for post-COVID. Culturally, what do we take with us and what do we leave behind?

Getting back to the bigger world view

It’s front of mind for so many of the leaders we’re working with but it seems that carving out the quality time needed to really tackle this, either as a group or individually, is more difficult. As an Exec described it this week to us;

“We’ve been having to live in a much narrower world” – how we now get back to the bigger world view is the challenge.

Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash

In discussing why time is proving so problematic there’s a growing realisation that leadership teams are in danger of spending too much time ‘in the weeds’ – subsumed by detail and data and often the central/only point of decision making. Having risen to the challenge of leading in a crisis through being directive – allowing for the necessary ‘command and control’, the test now is to shift back to a more balanced and distributed sense of leadership. Taking us back to one of our favourite questions…

What is it only you can do, as leaders?

One of the issues in answering this question, is that lack of clarity, levels of uncertainty and ambiguity are still high, understandably so – how could it be any different at this point? But for those who crave structure, this constantly shifting landscape can generate stress and anxiety. In trying to instil order to situations that feel beyond our influence we often relocate responsibility (subconsciously or otherwise) to a ‘higher’ rank. In psychological speak it’s called ‘Compensatory Control’. By looking to leaders who have led so decisively thus far, we find reassurance for the loss of any control we might feel. Perhaps not surprising then that so much is still being escalated up even though the need now is for greater collective intelligence and ‘harvesting learnings in the moment’.

For leaders it’s about breaking the cycle, restoring confidence, encouraging some risk and experimentation and sometimes, simply pushing back – ‘toughness with kindness’ as one team described it this week.

Having checked in with a client of ours in Germany we were curious as to how they were feeling as they look to return from ‘Kurzarbeit’ (furlough). For them too so much is still unknown, but their answer is confident, giving that much needed sense of looking to the future, taking them beyond the all consuming ‘pandemic present’;

‘We are slowly waking up and getting busy with all the projects to bring us up to speed (it’s exciting) and feels like a refresh/restart button was pressed.’