The leadership challenge steps up a notch!


I have had several conversations with various leaders in different organisations and industries and all seem to have a similar story to tell – tiredness from the grind of the past few months and mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation at the reality of a new normal.  I know that phrase may be slightly overused – but that is probably because it is true and a fair reflection – however you describe it we are moving back into a period of rapid change and for many of your colleagues and perhaps you, the mixed feelings are real.

This new dynamic creates an additional leadership burden on already stretched leaders, because the tensions and fears are real and colleagues need support and understanding.  I read a really interesting HBR article about Psychological Safety which explores this very point and is worth a read.  I think there seems to be 4 areas in particular that seem to be reoccurring themes with the people I have spoken to.

  1. Lock down / Covid fatigue – the adrenaline rush of the early responses has long since gone and there seems to be a growing and understandable reality of disconnected, demotivated and slightly fractious people across our organisations and also across society in general.  The impact on morale, commitment, discretionary effort is not clear – but it will surely have some sort of impact that will need good leadership to explore and mitigate.
  2. Leaders I have spoken to reflect that teams are worrying about the practicalities of a new way of working and potential hybrid model for those organisations who have been consistently working from home.  People are worried about reinstating the commute, concerned about how it will feel to share offices and desks and lifts again, sad about losing the space, time and flexibility to get the work done in the way that works best for them at home.   We are only human – and any change big or small has an impact, even if it is back to something we have wanted and missed.  
  3. I have also had conversations that point to a real concern about the strength of relationships and levels of connectedness across teams and colleagues – so much of the social glue that holds teams and relationships together has been eroded by months of zoom/team calls.  It doesn’t matter how hard you try – it is nearly impossible to replicate the impact of coffee queue interactions, chats as people gather in a meeting room at the start of a meeting, the physical connectivity you get by sharing a working environment.  Will the team gel again when it gets ‘physical’? How will we cope with some people physically present and others not? These are real concerns that requires empathetic and engaging leadership to bring to the fore and explicitly tackle early rather than just allow to play out and manage the impact.
  4. The cultural impact of new behaviours and new ways of working – if culture is “the way we do things around here when no one is looking” then there have been significant shifts to the culture of organisations, functions and teams.  We cannot see culture, only the behaviours that manifest; so much of the behaviour changes have been really positive and supportive of organisational success, others may be trickier to negate as we move forward – but whatever the case, strategic and explicit review of the culture that you have, want and need is another of the leadership jigsaw pieces that will be requiring attention in the coming months.

Like any other challenge that leaders face- there is no easy answer to these issues and opportunities.  As the article alludes to – part of the solution is open, authentic leadership that openly appreciates and recognises that the world has changed and some people will find the new normal difficult.  Creating the culture that allows people to talk about and share how they are feeling, exploring what the organisation and our colleagues can do to help each other is not rocket science – but it does require time.  I have talked many times about intentionality and the importance of paying attention to the important things – well employee engagement and wellbeing will be even more important moving forward and allocating quality ‘leadership’ time critical.

I have explored this topic in a short video too which you may like to watch and it is clearly a conversation or series of conversations that may benefit from some external support and facilitation. Kili Consulting have the experience and processes to be able to help with these difficult team conversations, so please get in touch if you would like some help. 


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