Now is the Time to Lead16th Mar 2020
I suspect that the recent decisions made by the New Zealand and Australian governments requiring inbound travellers to self-isolate for 14 days have been an ‘awareness tipping point’ for many. The realities of the Covid19 threat are no longer something happening ‘out there’ in the world. They’re now hitting right ‘here’, where it hurts. I’ve just cancelled a long-planned work trip to Sydney, and it looks like I’ll need to cancel a family trip back to see my parents and friends in Perth in April.
But, in the scheme of things, that’s nothing. Think of the many thousands of people who have been immediately affected by the sudden turning off of the tap in the tourism, travel and hospitality industries. That’s real pain.
And then there’s the potential disruption for how we work, how we socialise and how we live our lives for the foreseeable future. The rug is being pulled pretty firmly right now.
And yet, with disruption comes opportunity. As Robert Kennedy said back in 1966:
Like it or not, we live in interesting times.
They are times of danger and uncertainty,
but they are also more open
to the creative energy of men
than any other time in history.
Let’s include women in that statement as well (remember, it was 1966).
What was true 54 years ago is true today. What I love about that statement is the second part: “more open to the creative energy…”
Now is the time to lead.
The ground is fertile for trying new ways of working. The opportunity exists more than ever to choose what we focus on in our conversations. What we deem most important is up for renegotiation. Now is the time to respond, and at the same time create a reality that we want to have more of.
Here are some thoughts about how you can lead now.
- Create the space for human connection and sense-making. The fundamental human need is to have a sense of belonging and connection to others. Leadership, at its heart, it’s about creating the space for this to happen. Invest time in coffee chats, walks around the block, and open-ended agendas. People are going to need it.
- Promote useful information over gossip. In times of disruption, gossip and rumour-milling is natural. And what really helps is to be informed of the realities of a situation. Put your energy into helping people get their head around what they need to know.
- Create hope and possibility. It’s easy to focus on the bad and the scary. Leadership is about creating and amplifying a better future. Your language and your energy can be the amplifier and the catalyst here. Dial up the good.
- Give people permission to experiment. What was seen as a nice idea ‘but too hard to do’ yesterday could be the answer to the issues that are suddenly right in our face. Encourage people to run with ideas.
For example: I was talking with a colleague yesterday who’s been working to help one of her client organisations to design and implement their flexible workplace policies. It’s been an important initiative but without a huge sense of urgency and quite a lot of internal resistance. Now, with the spectre of people needing to work from home, there’s been a breakthrough. They’ve suddenly rallied and are moving fast to make the ideas a reality. The ground was fertile, and they acted. For the better.
In closing, I have three questions for you:
- What do you need to be thinking about now?
- Who do you need to be thinking about now?
- How can you help people think and act more creatively now to create a reality worth living in?
Get to it.
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