Being a "Better" leader during uncertain times



Here are some reflections from a range of conversations with leaders over the past couple of months as they looked into 2022.


"Checking in" rather than "Checking up" on people

Many employees want a hybrid working model (AKA remote) to continue; it likely will, and some leaders are less enthusiastic.


I ran a lot when we lived in London; on a Sunday, an elderly gentleman began running with me every week. We didn't speak much, just met on the track around the same time; after several weeks, he told me he had been running for years. As a teenager, he helped Roger Bannister train in the same park. He was one of the runners at various points on the track who checked in with Roger; they paced him and ensured he improved, as the coach couldn't be everywhere or at every session. Their role was not to tell Roger to run but to support him to run better.


Leaders encourage managers to check in rather than check up by asking how they can support their team in achieving outcomes and building a connected community ... avoid the temptation of monitoring attendance.


Concentrated decision making has its risks

The Vassa was a Swedish ship ordered by the king in 1626; it was highly ornate above the waterline with beautiful carvings and heavy bronze cannons. In August of 1628, the king ordered it to launch; after sailing a mere 1300 metres on its maiden voyage, it sank. The king's subordinates lacked the courage to explain that the hull was undersized and would cause it to topple. The king's decision was without all the information, and it was a disaster.


A leader said, "tell me the uncomfortable truth, support this with existing, new and emerging data."


What things are being left unsaid?

Leaders are likely to have fewer frequent interactions in a hybrid world, and they must count when they happen. Many meetings in person are now virtual and we have and will continue to refine our virtual skills. Often these virtual meetings have little time for casual conversations; however, when they occur, these conversations can offer rich insights and are great places to solicit feedback.


Try asking these three questions in your casual conversations or at the end of a meeting. - What went well? - What could have been better? - What are you thinking but may not be saying? - The final question may offer the greatest insights.


Choosing to do the right thing, rather than always being right

People in many organisations are promoted for their knowledge and then supported to develop their leadership skills further. They are problem solvers and evolve to become problem facilitators. Sometimes they are conflicted when they have knowledge that could solve the problem as sometimes there could be a better option.


Your thoughts may differ from others. Consciously choosing to listen more, and involving others help, will evolve your organisation's thinking.


Mistakes lead to new opportunities

In 2019 "Digital Is Everyone's Business" was published with several typos; I was mortified. The proofreader was managing a difficult personal situation, and some mistakes were made. The situation led to meeting Michelle Stevenson, who co-authored "Finding a Better Way"; there was a silver lining in that cloud.


"Some of the better decisions last year within our organisation were made based on the learnings and mistakes from 2020."