"Kristi helped our key management team build long term objectives and a game plan to achieve our goals. She helped us communicate more effectively despite our diverse set of personalities. We've had several retreats facilitated by Kristi that helped us develop solid ground rules for our management team "code of conduct" and the cultural message we want to send to our employees and the marketplace. We had our best year in our 43 year history; I attribute some of this to our work with Kristi. I value ethics, hard work and follow through-Kristi has all these."

Steven Caroll, President
Robert Mann Packaging

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Re-Entry Pkg Pt 5 - Leadership & Adaptation

(posted: June 15th, 2020)

How are you this week? How is your re-entry planning going?

I didn't think it was possible, but in the couple of weeks since we last connected the world has gotten even crazier. I hope that you are taking good care of yourself, your loved ones, and your employees.

As I work with leaders and their teams on their re-entry strategies, it becomes ever more clear to all of us that there is no going back to the way things were.

The lessons of the pandemic have been painful, but they also offer opportunities for savvy leaders and organizations. To use the turbulence of this moment to reshape your organization, shift the culture, and redefine the work your people do requires new leadership practices.

Foster resilience and adaptation.
As you deal with the immediate crisis, fix problems in the moment, and try to reduce fear, you also want to build resilience and a capacity for adaptation into your culture. Resilience keeps people from giving up, while adaptation allows them to be flexible and meet future challenges. Your empathy is critical here, because you will need people's engagement and enthusiastic, genuine help in identifying your path forward and adopting the "next practices" that will drive the future of your business.

Keep things out of balance.
Or, as the researchers say, embrace disequilibrium. Urgency drives change. When there is no immediate pressure, change can be avoided. The challenge, and the art, of leadership in crisis is to mitigate the current chaos so that it's not distressing enough to trigger peoples' "fight-or-flight" reactions, yet remains significant enough to make change desirable. This approach will make people uncomfortable, and your instinct will be to get things back in balance, but this is your chance to make the changes that will ensure a successful future.

In order to make this work you'll need to adopt some practices that we often talk about: Healthy conflict which encourages discussion of ideas, and courageous conversations. Dissenters need to be encouraged to speak, rather than shut down, and leaders need to listen to the unfamiliar voices, setting the tone through their own candor and vulnerability. A foundation of trust is critical to making this work. Much of this applies to the next point, as well.

Leverage diversity and encourage leadership.
The executive team isn't going to find the best way forward all on its own. Instead, draw on the collective intelligence of your people, and distribute leadership more broadly. To do this you'll need to increase the information flow in all directions so that people can make decisions and share lessons learned. Stop, look and listen internally and externally. We all tend to spend time with people who are similar to us. If you do not engage the widest possible range of life experiences and views, you risk operating without a nuanced picture of the shifting realities facing the business, internally and externally.

Take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally will be crucial to your success. You can't achieve your leadership goals if you sacrifice yourself to the cause.

  • Start by being both optimistic and realistic; balancing those will help you avoid the extremes of denial and cynicism.
  • Find a place or activity that takes you away and lets you reset and reflect.
  • Make sure you have someone you can talk to about your choices and decisions; someone who cares about you and isn't part of your organization.
  • Be more emotional and vulnerable at work. This lets people see that you are human. Of course, you have to balance it with reassurance that the situation can be handled.
  • Consider creating a mindfulness practice if you don't already. Here is a simple (free) guide to why, and how. Another resource I like is Headspace.

When you practice adaptive leadership, you can harness the opportunity in crisis to help your organization and your people thrive in a changing and challenging world.

This is challenging work, and it's harder alone! If you want to talk about your approach to leadership development in challenging times, please reach out. I'm providing frequent client support during these times, everything from quick phone pep talks to virtual team-building meetings.

You can’t afford the risk of this not working.

Re-Entry Resources

The following articles, videos, and podcasts offer more to consider, points to address, and tips for how to approach the process as you craft your operational guidelines for your re-entry.

  • Punt on a Pivot" - Chip Conlely
    A reminder to think before you leap - a major change may not be necessary. Plus some fun sports analogies.
  • The Upside of Conflict - Pat Lencioni podcast (~35 min.)
    Pat and Cody discuss the huge cost in our organizations and society when we don’t have enough conflict and how to have good, healthy – not mean-spirited – conflict at work and at home.
  • The Resart - McKinsey
    Balancing the operational demands with motivation and purpose.

And for inspiration and hope:

  • The Great Realisation (video, 4 min.)
    From crisis we can craft a better world. The bedtime story this British poet crafted for his younger brother and sister is wonderful.
  • Life Lessons from a Toddler (video, ~1 min.)
    An uninhibited child demonstrates unconditional love.

The Re-Entry Package Series:

Stay grounded, healthy, and hopeful,
- Kristi

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