Leadership for a New Era of Work

· insights

Everywhere we turn we hear people talking about the COVID-19 crisis. We’re so focused on it that sometimes we forget what life was before it happened. It seems we fail to recall the business problems we had to solve before the COVID-19 crisis hit us. And if we pause for a moment and we look at the situation with the eyes of our employees we’ll find out it’s much of the same really. We still haven’t become the leaders they need us to be.

According to some studies from before the crisis – 86% of employees felt connected to their team, but only 3% felt connected to leadership. 83% of managers claimed they give voice to their employees, but half of the employees say they feel voiceless.

So, let’s face it. There was a disconnect between employees and leadership even before the COVID-19 crisis. Now there is a big disconnect. A wide, deep, dangerous disconnect. If employees were feeling uninvolved and unsure about the strategic plan before, now they’re anxious and are asking questions like: What is the new plan? Is there a new plan? Is there a place for me in it?

As leaders we need to respond by being extra empathetic, optimistic and inspirational. We need to navigate the doubled ambiguity and uncertainty by inviting bold ideas, trial and error and we need to do it together with our people. And the time is now. We knew we had to to it, we know it now, we just need to act.

On a personal level it’s like when you want to change to a healthier lifestyle and you know exactly what you need to do – eat healthier food, exercise more, reduce the stress. Doing it and making it a lifestyle though is a totally different ballgame. As managers we’re in the exact same situation, we know exactly what we need to do, maybe we’ve even done some things here and there, but now we need to do all of the above and do it forever.

This is not easy, but mostly because it’s in conflict with the old school logic that still resonates with us. Good old business school told us that we need to be very clear – explain plainly what needs to be done and why, and let the how to people. Clear strategy + execution ticket – that is what we’ve been taught.

It’s wrong, we need to unlearn this. There is too much ambiguity and uncertainty, and unfortunately internal complacency too, to follow this formula. In the new era it’s OK to not have a clear plan as to what needs to be done, it’s OK to to not be able to predict the future, because actually nobody can.

In the new era it’s enough for a leader to give a direction and an exploration ticket to its team. It’s up to the team then to do some research, to formulate their own insights, to come up with some ideas and do some smart tests. We call this portfolio logic (borrowed by the VC industry). An investor is not involved operationally with each and every startup in their portfolio, by investing in them they give a strategic direction and an exploration ticket to come up with something smart.

Our new role as leaders is to become investors in exploration. We need to have a portfolio of strategic topics and allow our teams to explore them and to support them along the way. This means that as leaders we also have to equip our people with the right tools to do quick research, to ideate in a diverse team, to rapid prototype and execute smart tests. This also means that we need to invest in changing the processes, procedures and systems in our organizations that prevent this way of working.

At launchlabs we do just that – we help leadership switch the gear. We help leadership redesign the mindset of the organization and equip people with the tools they need to strive in the New Era. We’re experts in agile methodologies and design disciplines, which we mix and match according to the organizational specifics. Contact us for a one on one session to discuss your organizations needs: hello@launchlabs.bg.