Midair refueling for Leadership
COVID-19 has brought to the fore anxiety in leaders with a lot of uncertainty that’s there around most of us. A lot of them are exploring a change or are looking at being better off in their current roles. At this moment the desired state is to have a top of mind recall from internal & external stakeholder. What needs to be understood is that It’s no longer just about profitability and performance. Now it’s the ability to take care of well-being of people, environment & society that equally matters. You need to speak the language that gives a comfort that you can listen, collect different perspectives, know that pain for each situation can be different for different people (e.g. Still there are areas in Africa etc. wherein internet connectivity & power are not available full time) to strike a balance of both compassion & objectivity. Action in the future is not known but past examples of what you have done or experienced may help. Nowadays, for each leadership position that opens up, it involves proving yourself very differently. In many companies, there is much internal competition besides an overall apprehension in hiring an outsider. The focus for CHRO’s and companies therefore is to find someone beyond the usual desired competencies with a special lens on ability to deal with ambiguity, digitization, gender diversity, WFH, and cultural adaptability to name a few.
For business leaders, it’s not just about fitting in, but also accepting and appreciating what exists. Unless they are accepted internally, they cannot effect change. So, being curiously curious helps. At a time when the pandemic has ensured that job changes are even more fraught with risks, it always helps if the candidate first asks themselves the cost of coming out of the new role, as at times they may just not fit in. With remote onboarding and lower social capital across teams it may be a struggle to influence & deliver. This self-reflection enables them to jump into a new role, mentally prepared for success amidst ambiguity. Being able to break out of your own box of ideas and biases is therefore key.
To make the shift during the pandemic smooth, here are 3 competencies that both stakeholders and candidates should be aware of:
- Collaboration with Unknown Faces: You are in a new role and in a new company. People don’t know you, nor do you know them – in such a situation it’s important to create a safe space on both sides for sharing and collaboration to happen. How you make yourself visible and available while allowing others to do the same is critical. It’s also important to empathize with ground realities and plan for it. Being able to deal with ambiguity is a must & that comfort in the interview process is needed.
- Wellbeing is Key to Everyone’s Success: It’s important to focus on compliance, processes and output rather than ‘how you used your day’. It should not be something that a leader can control or want to control. For instance, the pandemic has created several challenges on the home front. Employees may be attending to family, who need care. It’s important to set expectations and block time systematically. Similarly, it’s also critical to be humane as long as expectations are set and are being met to a tolerable level. What ideas do you have wherein virtual gets a personal touch, but do not infringe on the private? Can be a Question for discussion.
A hybrid model is therefore important, where people intermingle to make a deeper connection, thereby making WFH a success. To avoid burnout, it is crucial to set aside ‘me-time’. Workaholics beware - you may not need ‘me time’ but others do. Demarcation of office work and home chores is a must. It’s also important to be aware of that Zoom fatigue sets in for most when they stretch beyond 30 minutes. Besides, the weekend for both employees and leaders, should be used as a source of recharging, needs to be implemented unless there is an emergency.
- Diversity and global mindset: Irrespective of the current pandemic, there should be awareness and respect for gender diversity, environment and societal change, racism and biases. How to ensure the carbon footprint is minimized? Leaders need to give data-driven examples to demonstrate a track record on increased diversity and reducing racism. E.g. ‘I hired 2 women instead of men’ is just lip service.
Think, write real stories and back it up with data in short, share some of your failures. play the devil’s advocate & take feedback …record a mock and review it! Remember, it’s not that you know it all or have to be right always. It’s all about being open to learning, unlearning & relearning.