In the years ahead, we can be certain that exposure to unknown situations will amplify. For many of us, this is deeply discomforting. We’ve been hoping to stagger through the chaos of our current times until some sense of normality (familiarity) returns. For some, change is welcomed. New demands mean new frontiers to explore and this brings a sense of excitement at what could be done differently. This continuum of response, from waiting it out to being energised to experiment with the new, is critical to our survival and success, and this is true for humans and for businesses. We need a variation in response to shifting demands.
For this article, I reflected on my experiences of working with management and leadership teams over the course of 2020, and specifically, the variations in response. I asked:
In those companies starting 2021 on a relatively good footing, what is working? What do they value? How are they energising a workplace that is dispersed and remote?
There are many factors that influence the energy, health and sustainability of a business. These are three insights I have drawn out.
Top 3 insights from companies starting the year well
- Operating ‘above the line’ is an important part of their daily practice, interaction and language
A focus on being positive, confident and exploratory is called operating ‘above the line’. To spot hidden opportunities, you need to believe that opportunities are out there and to be curious about finding them. ‘Below the line’ describes a defensive and fearful position, a fully human one too, but that results in us withdrawing. From this closed-in position, we are less likely to ‘see a way out’, or to assemble the motivation to face what’s ahead.
- They invest in shoring up reserves of social capital
Social capital refers to the bonds of loyalty and trust that form in teams. Social Capital has powerful effects – it orientates us towards supporting each other and convenes our collective imaginations to pioneer new ways of doing business. In virtual times, our reserves of this form of capital can gradually deplete if they are not nourished. Consistently nurturing relationships through connecting, speaking up, listening, and empathising shores up the reserves of social capital.
- They act, they take calculated risks
Acting is essential to pick off the new opportunity that arises through change. Action spurs learning and expands our ability to explore, discover and chart new paths. With the right foresight and preparation, rather than being paralysed in the face of uncertainty, we can continue to decide, act and take calculated risks.
3 experiments to run in 2021
Experiments are one way of carrying us forward through uncharted waters.
- Ask more beautiful questions
Questions are key to building cultures of inquiry. They demonstrate empathy, which drives innovation and incremental business growth.
Learn more about Warren Berger’s notion of beautiful questions and introduce them in your meetings. This kind of simple action can spur incredible results.
- Make taking time off / out sacred
Home used to be more separate from work. We are juggling added roles and responsibilities each day. Anxiety levels are rising.
Breathing space decreases the risk of burnout. Give people time out to do what they need to do, and respect that time.
- Invest in identifying impact data in your teams
Impact data is crucial for productivity. It also boosts employee satisfaction, if you act on it. Appetite for risk, bigger picture thinking, the craft of perfection, the pragmatism of where to focus first, these are all different kinds of people impact. Your ideal state is a team of diverse people whose voices are heard and whose contribution is activated. Respecting and tapping into different responses to change has risen to supreme levels of importance. In the past we saw this as a nice-to-have. Now it is a business survival issue.
Identify where people make their biggest impact and what might derail or block them so that your collaboration is more impactful and contribution to role, team and business outcomes is optimised.
The task ahead is to lay the foundations for a diversity of response. If you value the human imagination in all its messy assembly, and drive for collaboration and iteration, the path through unknown situations emerges. Life and work become infused with a sense of possibility, there is momentum, energy to carry us and to move us forward.
In chunking up the elephant that is 2021, where will you start?
This article was first published on Talent Talks Africa.