We are living in difficult times. A lot of reflection on what is right and what is wrong is happening at the moment. We have started questioning ourselves about our ways and what we can do better. During my high school years, I was a very enthusiastic basketball player. By enthusiastic I mean that I played every day but was never a good player. I struggled most of the time, so I spent most of my basketball ‘career’ in fixing mode. My coach constantly told me “when things are not going well, go back to the basics and you will find the solution”. A couple of months ago, I decided to go back to the basics and reflect on how I could add value to the people around me.
In part 1 of this blog, I raised some questions about the need to change our approach to leadership during and beyond this coronavirus crisis to nurture and sustain the quality of organisations’ climates. In so doing, I revisited some of organisational psychology’s foundational theories, notably the work of Kurt Lewin. In this second part, focusing on Lewin’s seminal environment formula that avers behaviour to be a function of personality and situation, I explore why understanding one’s own and your employees’ personality is so important to creating a healthy climate.
Are you relying on the “scientific evidence”?
Social media displays countless articles about managing teams dislocated from their normal, intact work location to working from home. Many offer novel suggestions to deal with the novel virus. However, do they fall into one of three less effective categories of “science” (or research), namely popularist, puerile or pedantic, see Figure (1) below.
I grew up in a big family of 5 brothers. My mother, our commander in chief, was the one in charge of keeping us in line. She was the one who took the social risk of taking the hard and unpopular decisions that we would only understand once we became adults and were able to look back and see the benefits of these decisions. There was no democracy in my house and we did not vote for her to lead us. She was not taking decisions to get more votes in the next election or to raise acceptance ratings either!
In a democratic government, before most decisions are taken, the impact of the acceptance ratings is considered. This is in normal situations. Right now though, our world is enduring the COVID19 pandemic and the preservation of human life has taken preference over government popularity for the first time in history. We are living in a unique time where we have the opportunity to see our world leaders show leadership, some of them for the first time in their lives. We still do not know how this crisis will end but when it ends, what if we all decide to change our ways at the same time and we start taking the social risk of proposing hard and unpopular decisions?
The curse of the virus
“May you live in interesting times,” states the Chinese curse. Courtesy of a global pandemic that arose in Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei, we certainly are. (Conspiracy theorists may counter that America introduced the virus covertly into China, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china.) The world is in lockdown. Even President Trump has had to backtrack from saying it was a non-event and all would be sorted by Easter to saying things are going to get far worse. The picture of the huge US navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, entering New York harbour is deeply dispiriting.
Remote Coaching is one of my Quick Coaching Tools. They are exactly what the title suggests. Short snippets of coaching tips, tools and ideas for you to use on a just-in-time basis. Use them as an update and to refresh your coaching practice and professionalism. You could call it coaching in a hurry!
I have been fortunate enough to be part of a company that keeps transforming constantly at a pace that keeps everyone embracing change as a normal part of evolution. During this evolution I have been surrounded at all levels by brilliant and energetic colleagues who have contributed to my growth in so many ways.
I have never been good at embracing my story, but when I lost my mother, I started reflecting on my time with her and how she influenced me. By looking back at these memories, I encountered a feeling of passion for what I do and how relevant I can be for the stories of those around me.
Leaders Battle with Time
Having spent the last week training with senior leaders in a professional services firm, one of the clearest things they lack is time. Keeping the group focussed on our work while they tend to the needs of their clients and teams can be a frustrating challenge but there simply aren’t enough minutes in the hour for them to do their job. I sympathise with them because after an intensive nine-hour day in the training room, they then have hours of work to catch up on before joining us again the following morning.
It’s an impossible equation. How can leaders make enough time for all of the elements of their life, personal and professional, without feeling like they are failing in one or the other? In my experience, work always wins.
This most recent programme ended with presentations and vision statements for the future. One of the starkest things to emerge from this, though, was when they took more time, the message they were trying to deliver landed more powerfully and more clearly. Further than that, the sense of ownership they had over the message was far more keenly felt by the audience. For many of the group, this was a revelation.
Two recent events in working with clients have been an interesting reminder of the need for defining and agreeing on organisational values in strategic planning and subsequent behaviours in daily routines.
Both businesses are in engineering, with similar sizes of staff levels. Both were overhauling and re-writing strategic plans.
Company ‘A’ was writing the plan because, amongst other things, of an imminent customer – and industry approval – audits. On a different tack, company ‘B’s reason was it wanted to set the ‘True North’ direction of the business for the next three years – and beyond.
A key point here is that values are both current ‘the way we act do now’ and future, or espoused values and ‘the way we will act in the future’. Or the collective behaviours in pursuit of the strategic goals.
The process and outcome of the respective ‘Values Alignment’ for company ‘A’ and ‘B’ could not have been further apart…
As the person responsible for our approach to fairness in the organisation I am often struck with a sense of imposter syndrome, because the fact is, I’m a middle-aged white dude with a decent education who comes from a stable, supportive, nuclear family. Privilege you might say.
I have a great job, in a well-established, well respected business, that affords me the means to live in a nice house, drive a nice car and keep rabbits! How middle class could I be? Not to mention the fact that – for anyone that missed it – I referred to myself as a dude in the paragraph above!
So, when I’m asked to talk about our efforts in the area of equality or fairness, whilst I’m happy to do so, I often feel like a fraud. Let’s face it – what would I know about how it feels to face inequality?
Yet the portfolio remains mine and I continue to work hard to educate myself and push the agenda as part of all the work that we do – despite the niggle…