The last months have made me questioned so many things I used to take for granted.
I realized once again that reality enjoys disruption, as John Lennon sang in one of my favorite songs from him “Beautiful Boy” (hence the title of this article). We constantly have to adapt and develop new ways. Darwin has been right all along, and I pity the leaders who have not shifted their mindset in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, I don’t see any other way than at least accepting, if not embracing the disruption, and finding a new vision.
We see that the sanitary crisis and the subsequent lockdown/ quarantine have forced most of us to carry on living and working, but in a significantly different manner. It has not really been possible to put it on pause and wait things out. From this point of view we can all clearly remember a ‘before’ (for instance: when I could travel back and forth easily between Poland & France to go to our Paris and Warsaw offices…) but I can’t even describe what ‘after’ might be (for a start, the moment I’m writing this, plane travel has significantly changed and is still scarce, many people I know are still working remotely…).
A major take-away of it is (for those who had not yet realized it): change is the only constant. And in order to not only survive the uncertainty but to truly adapt, we have to forget about trying to get everything perfect; we must embrace agility. Not as a nice trendy approach of developing products and software but as in “we will learn by carrying on delivering, while doing our best, we have to accept the failures which are bound to happen from time to time and learn from them”.
And while the danger (both sanitary and economic) remains, this challenges us profoundly and mostly dares us as leaders to be (more) human. In so many ways:
1- The capacity to reinvent oneself mentioned above relies heavily on empowerment, e.g. trusting others and actively listening, which implies encouraging all collaborators to speak their minds.
Which is only possible if I first attend to the primary needs of co-workers and teams. Have I taken all the steps needed to ensure everybody’s safety? How do I take their stress into account? And all their other emotions while we are at it?
2 – How do I generate engagement and build enthusiasm in the team, when the question in all our minds often is “will we still have a job in 5 months”?
3 – Have I changed my approach of work organization? What’s my new take on accountability & ownership? On results/ deliverables vs presenteeism? Yes, people usually make less outbound calls from home than if they are in a cubicle under the scrutiny of a manager, but does this really affect in a negative way the end-results?
– In AC Mentoring Poland for instance our lead-time to deliver a short list for recruitment has improved by 30% on average since we closed down the office and are all working from home, plus all my colleagues look fresher, in better shape and less stressed up –
Instead of controlling constantly HOW things are done, have I spent more time explaining WHAT needs to be achieved?
4 – Have I developed a healthier relationship to work/life balance?
This crisis has tested my patience (or lack of it) as it had rarely been tested.
“let’s try this new business development approach immediately?”
“it’s a very good idea for a new offer for our B to C activity! We should put that in place now”
… but we all had to contribute to our kids’ education from home, do rare but more time-consuming than usual expeditions to the supermarkets, while waiting on the phone for the administration to give us a number so we could fill a form in order to make a request for applying to the possibility of having our case studied in order to postpone paying some tax.
5 – Have I taken the time to work with everybody in order to restate our vision, our values our raison d’être?
I guess that all of us have in the past 3 months wondered whether we still liked our job (or had ever liked it for the most unfortunate ones among us), whether it was meaningful. I think we all have asked ourselves whether we liked the way our companies have reacted to the crisis. Shouldn’t it be an excellent time to go back to the basics, rework or make ours again the pillars of our WHY?
My conclusion, at least for now: leaders have to challenge their role constantly and ask the question: AM I EMPLOYEE-CENTRIC ENOUGH?