Popular phrases such as, we live in a VUCA world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity and change is the only constant are now tired phrases that don't emotionally affect us as they did earlier.
That doesn't mean our world isn't changing dramatical and exponentially, but that we can't seem to keep up with it anymore. Emotionally or intellectually, we feel a bit numbed out and a few might even have mentally checked out of their teams.
Is your team suffering from change and disruption fatigue, perhaps? Would it help to have new skills and a new conversation?
We need to relook at what we are teaching our teams because a few might be left so far behind that catching up seems pointless. They are most probably coasting around until something more manageable comes along. A few others might have turned overly competitive in the hope that it will help keep up and on top of things.
What role do leaders have in this scenario and what can you teach your team that might serve them well?
Which brings me to the four skills that no one ever sat me down and taught me. My leaders tried helping me in other ways, of course.
So, these four skills are more my discovery over time. Often ignored or missed out in formal training, but invaluable in navigating our changing world.
Here's a paradox of leadership that can serve us well; when the going gets frantic and tough, steer your leadership style to be calm and gentle instead
I hope you find them useful and give a shout out if you have been having similar conversations with your team. Would love to hear back.
Skill #1 Curiosity
Change fatigue can result in shutting down and blocking out. We have our coping mechanisms when the brain is in overload. We ignore stuff as if it never happened or doesn't affect us. We just can't cope with changes around us. I've been overwhelmed by life much more than once. When I am overwhelmed, I stop listening and don't do my best work. As a leader how can you teach your team curiosity, so we don't reject or ignore life around us for fear of drowning in changes? A useful starting point might be getting curious about their aspirations and fears. Set a bold example by asking questions and listening hard. Share some of your life and make it more human. Let your team know that your big strength is curiosity, so you can support them and understand their needs. Teams love to share if you create the right environment. When what's important to us is brought in focus, we are more likely to stay engaged with the world around us.
What can you be curious about today that you don't understand, but would love to?
Skill #2 Patience
Not the most attractive word to describe leadership. Too much literature and perception of leaders is about being quick, bold and decisive. We don't often talk about being patient or procrastinating, even. Some of my best decisions as a team leader came by because I chose to step back and take some time. Even when there is no urgency, there is pressure to be urgent. This perceived high speed leadership environment can make it tough to be still and find better decisions. Sure, some decisions can't wait and are truly urgent. Most aren't like that. Yet, you must have seen enough leaders in perpetual hurry. Help your team to watch you step back and bring perspective to panic, both theirs and yours. Talk openly about patience being one of the team's best allies when big decisions need to be made. Slow things down by asking questions and challenging assumptions.
What decision are you feeling impatient about? What would change if you stepped back?
Skill #3 Compassion
Might sound namby-pamby, I know. Leadership is weighed down by big words like charisma, drive, passion, energy, vision, motivation and competitiveness. All of these qualities do serve leaders and have their place. At the same time, your team will judge you not just for getting stuff done, but how you got it done. We all loathe at least one boss we've had who's focus was on the what and when, not on the how or at what cost. As long we delivered, no one much cared how we got it done and the price we paid of ignoring our wellbeing or personal lives. It really hurts as a team to feel used. Work can be compassionate, and so can our leadership. I've turned this around for my own leadership style, so I can vouch for the fact that it can be done and you can still get results and meet your deadlines. That doesn't mean we won't make sacrifices at times, but that we do so sparingly and mindfully. We don't allow them to be swept under the rug and acknowledge and stay grateful for when the team stretches.
Whom can you show compassion to today in your team, so you can receive it, too? Is compassion your strength?
Skill #4 Inclusion
I am not sure if most leaders in my generation, and the one before, even understood this term when they began. I certainly didn't. There was never a mention of it in any training program I attended. We spoke of team cohesion, but never in the context of acceptance and respect for personal choices or diversity. Inclusion has become a crucial word for my own leadership style and practices. I've had to question my behaviour and my biases about my own team that stymie my leadership potential. Teams generally don't come together with a common understanding of inclusion, most never even think of the word. We do need education and a conversation about how we can be inclusive and why it's important in a highly diverse business environment. When a team feels safe and included, the kind of work you will do together might amaze you and them. Inclusion can catapult your leadership to a level that technical competence or bravado alone won't.
Whom can you be more inclusive of today in your team, and what would you like to be included for?
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I am am Inclusive Leadership speaker, author and facilitator. Check out www.equalityconsulting.com.au for how I can help your organisation build Inclusive Leaders.