Two Power Tools in Ambiguity
Updated: Apr 24
Audience: Team Leaders, Entrepreneurs; Organizational Learning, Reflection
Two of the most important weapons in times of ambiguity: Perspective and Preparation.
Though we are faced with uncertainty during this global virus crisis, we can stand firm in the truth that we are here, we are capable, and we now have the gift of opportunity. Reduced commute time, less distraction as people lay lower than usual...we can make a choice to embrace opportunity and decide how we will use the extra time. My experience with hundreds of leaders leads me to conclude that above all else, a positive outlook can be the most important predictor or resilience, whether you are leading a family, a team or an organization. We can also leverage two tools of power in times of change: perspective and preparation.
How many of you were ready for this new form of self-leadership? Many of us are leading and inspiring teams remotely. Many of us are needing to manage ourselves in a new independent way. Many of us are using new technologies for the first time to stay in touch with our staff, clients and customers. The wisest of leaders are leading with their strengths (and they are highly self-aware to know what those are), they are staying anchored to their vision and long term purposes, using time for strategy, and digging into the strength of their teams and their network to get a pulse check on the market and best practices. They are utilizing a powerful weapon in their arsenal -- seeking perspective.
"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed"
As the proverb teaches, there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. This wisdom is based in humility. To seek counsel, to seek perspective, to ask questions, to be curious about others' success and thoughts takes a measure of vulnerability. Especially when we ask those who are not like us. It is to admit that we don't know it all, that we may be stuck or doing it wrong, that we are open to new ideas which may be better than ours. Our world today has the technological advantage of learning from all kinds of different people and research sources, listening to a whole host of opinions, so that our own go-forward stance or actions can be founded in data and diversity of thought. Perspective is fundamental to growth. It is fundamental that businesses accept that the psychology of business is changing. There is a need for more balanced perspective, a broadened horizon of thought and emotional intelligence to access new and stronger talent and ideas.
Our best course of action in any situation or downturn, after crisis priorities are addressed, would be to stop and reflect, re-asses, learn from our mistakes and take the learning into our next season. Teams who score highest in adaptability know how to unlearn and relearn as they investigate and solve a problem. Global human capital firm KornFerry calls this Learning Agility.
How agile are you in learning the "right" lessons from your situation and using them for future problems and success? Are you stuck in old or fixed thinking that is slowing down your innovation and process adaptation? Systematic Inventive Thinking TM is a tried and true globally recognized innovation process used by Propelle that does three things:
1/ recognizes fixed thinking that stifles new ideas
2/ brings diversity of thought to the table to accelerate creativity
3/ uses a systematic method to manage the creative thinking process, to harness the best ideas under time, money and resource constraints.
Innovation results are enhanced even further when a team can leverage diversity of thought in this innovation process with gender-balanced teams.
If you cannot pivot your business in a relevant way for this current crisis, how are you using this time to gather perspective for the future, to reflect on how this change is truly impacting you, your teams, your customers? How are you including the troops for new ideas so that you are better prepared for crisis or unexpected shifts?
The second most important asset in crisis is creative thinking. But that deserves an article on its own. (Stand by!) So the other power tool to be promoted here is preparation. I am referring less to a knee-jerk reaction list of survival tools to prepare us for the short-term, and more to a measured, strategic approach, where the habits of needs anticipation and preparation is built over time, throughout the culture of an organization. Building the discipline of preparation begins with the habit of regular, systematic, meaningful review.
These common Five Questions can guide a meaningful hour or a two-day offsite with your team.
1/ What is working?
2/ What is weak?
3/ Dan Pink's Hot Shot Question: What would a Hot Shot come in here and change? See PinkCast.
4/ Why are we here again? (purpose and vision review)
5/ What's the tweak we need to make?
Other measures of strategic preparation include innovation labs, contingency planning, succession planning and crisis management plans. Let's focus on question #4 above. Begin with the end in mind is Stephen Covey's famous second Habit of Highly Effective People. When faced with crisis, organizations will often realize that their vision was not strong enough to remain the beacon to guide them through.
Vision is a necessary piece of preparation. It is the glue that holds all actions together. It ensures that effectiveness (doing the right things) is more valuable than efficiency alone (merely doing things right). And vision is the very priority that our strongest leaders communicate in times of disruption. Perhaps it's time to innovate your vision.
Preparing ourselves for what might be ahead is what our wisest counselors have taught us growing up: put aside 10% of your income for savings, rebuild the muscle from your injury slowly and consistently, have some homemade chicken broth in the freezer for when you get sick, teach your kids in the way they should go to be responsible citizens who see and care, build a balanced portfolio or nest-egg for retirement. Slowly, simply, steadily. Listening is a big part of preparation.
Regularly and actively listening to your customers, your teams about what is really going on, in a systematic way, will bring new, unexpected ideas that can be brought to market quickly, with the teams and tools you already have. Preparation is a bottom-line-friendly, engagement-boosting practice that ensures your best chances of agility in crisis.