Category Archives: Leading Through Change

In The Turn

How to Create a Personal Board of Directors and Accelerate Your Career

The meeting was over, and I returned to my office feeling extremely satisfied with the results. Then I heard a knock on the door and looked up to see a co-worker who had come to gently set me straight.

As it turned out, what I thought had been a successful meeting regarding a major decision instead had left others confused about my thinking and concerned about what was ahead. I thought I had done a great job of communicating and inspiring, only to learn I hadn’t taken the time to provide some much-needed context. In my eagerness to drive the decision, I had left out valuable details to earn buy-in.

We’ve all had situations when our self-awareness gets lost in self-denial, Or in my case, lost in my own POV. Realistic self-assessment is incredibly difficult. We’re either too easy or too hard on ourselves, and neither is good.

  • When we’re too easy, we begin to think our way is the best and only way, and we disregard the diverse views of others. We become overly confident, take chances we shouldn’t and think we’re more effective than we really are.
  • When we’re too hard on ourselves, we question every decision. We’re more hesitant than we should be and don’t trust our instincts enough. We need too much validation, don’t feel worthy of respect and suffer from the imposter syndrome.

Either way, we are not leading at our best and those around us suffer as a result.

The biggest problem: Getting feedback

It takes hard work to strike the right balance and have a fair appraisal of ourselves so we can play to our strengths while continually striving to improve our weaknesses.

The biggest problem is we often don’t get the feedback we need to inform our self-perceptions. It’s challenging for others to tell the truth or share less than flattering observations with us, especially if we’re in a position of power. We often don’t get accurate, honest comments about how our words, actions and intentions are perceived.

One of the best ways to gain regular, meaningful feedback is to put together a personal board of directors – a team of mentors who will tell it like it is when we need to hear it most.

Wendy Davidson, the president of U.S. Specialty Channels for the Kellogg Company, introduced this idea to me several years ago, because she believes her personal board has been invaluable to her highly successful career. I couldn’t agree more.

Benefits of a personal board of directors

Consider some of the countless ways a personal board can advance your career. They can:

  • Offer practical advice about how to tackle new opportunities to increase your chances of getting key decisions right the first time
  • Serve as an informal coach who can provide wisdom about challenging situations or interactions with others
  • Share subject-matter expertise to expand your understanding on a specific topic
  • Point you toward resources and tools that will further your development and learning Introduce you to people to help expand your network
  • Hold you accountable for changing an attitude or behavior impacting your professional performance
  • Offer diverse points of view and different life experiences to challenge your thinking and broaden your view of the world
  • Provide “big picture” perspective about your career as you consider job opportunities or career moves

How to form your board

The concept of a personal board of directors isn’t new, and most leaders I know see it as a great idea. But many never give the time and energy it takes to form and take advantage of such a board. So, how do you actually pull it off? It’s not as hard as it seems, but it does require a bit of thinking and planning. I’ve mapped out a simple process with these three steps to establishing a personal board of directors:

1. Assess your biggest needs

Start by listing of your five biggest challenges/needs — things that are potentially holding you back in your career or impacting your work/life balance. Some examples:

  • Unfamiliar with practical financial principles that impact my strategic thinking abilities
  • Not managing my emotions effectively under pressure
  • Not enough knowledge of front-line operations
  • Working too late in the evenings on a regular basis
  • Feeling confused and overwhelmed by complex decisions

If it helps, turn these challenges into simple “goal statements,” such as:

  • Develop a working knowledge of the most useful financial principles for my role
  • Keep my cool more often when I am facing deadlines

2. Identify prospects

Once you have a better sense of your needs, think about who could help you most. Consider asking people who:

  • Are in a position you aspire to have someday
  • Come from another company in your industry (that you don’t compete with)
  • Come from an entirely different industry
  • Are experts in an area you need to learn more about
  • Can feed your spirit and encourage you to invest in yourself
  • Are willing to be brutally honest to help, not hurt
  • Will always have your best interests at heart

List each prospect’s name, organization, area of expertise, and which one or more of your five goals can they help you with. Make sure you have current contact information for each prospect.

Make as long a list as you like, but an ideal personal board has 3-5 members. You’ll need more prospects since everyone may not be able to help.

3. Make the ask

Once you have your list, take some time to write a short script or a few bullet points to guide your conversation so you can articulate your thinking clearly and succinctly when you call each prospect.

For example, you’ll want to explain why you are forming a personal board of directors, what is involved if someone agrees to join and how each person could help you with one or more of your five opportunities for growth.

Here’s an example of what you could say and why you need to say it:

  • I’ve been evaluating my career, identifying my strengths and my opportunities for growth. I’ve set some specific goals for myself that I believe will further my career. (establishes that you have done your homework)
  • I greatly admire what you have accomplished, particularly ___________ (name something related to one or more of your five areas for growth). This expertise and your career success would be invaluable to me. (explains why you are asking them)
  • I have decided to form a personal board of directors and would love to have you as a part of this team of super mentors for me. (clarifies your plan of action)
  • What that simply means is I would like to connect with you once every few months to ask for your advice or seek your expertise when I know it could make a big impact on me. I would like to treat you to lunch or dinner, or we could arrange to meet by phone/video call, too – whatever is easier for you. (tells them how much time would be involved on their end)
  • I would like your help as I continue on my developmental journey. Would you be willing to be on my personal board of directors? (makes the ask)

Start with your top prospects and work your way through your list, ensuring that you create a board with diverse strengths and expertise. Make notes of the feedback you receive to help shape how you bring your board to life and what their preferences might be for how you engage with them. Even prospects who cannot take the time to join your board now will likely have some advice for you.

TIP: Don’t fear ‘the ask’

One piece of advice Wendy shared with me is not to be afraid to ask. Many times, we worry that asking for help is a burden to others. Wendy reminded me that looking to others for advice can be a compliment. You’re saying, “You have something that I can learn from, and I’d like you to be a part of my career moving forward.”

Next steps

A few suggestions on next steps:

  • Once you have secured the agreement of and feedback from your board members, send them a thank-you email or hand-written note.
  • Look ahead on your schedule to identify times you can connect with them in person or by phone/video. Make a note to reach out to them several weeks in advance so they can make time to meet.
  • Prepare for each meeting so you can give them an overview of what’s going on in your career. If you have a specific request, let them know the topic in advance so they can think about how to help.
  • Always send a thank-you note any time your board members help you. Let them know the result and the impact they have made.

If you want to take a deeper dive on this topic – to hear the full story about how and why Wendy created her board, and how she used this throughout her career – read Chapter 3 in my book, Leading Through the Turn.

I am proud to say Wendy is on my personal board of directors, and I am on hers. Her impact on my leadership journey has been profound, and it is an honor to help her whenever I can. Imagine how your personal board of directors will impact the trajectory of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask!

 

 

 

Copyright (c) 2018 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

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In The Turn

The Authentic Leader’s Toolkit: 5 Ways to Cultivate Greater Authenticity in Your Daily Leadership

Do you know someone at work who comes across as a fake?  One of the worst mistakes you can make as a leader is trying to be something you’re not. Any positive results are almost certainly short-lived. And when it’s carried to an extreme, you can become a destination leader who is focused on someone else’s destination.

Authentic leadership is a powerful – and increasingly more common – style of leadership built on the idea of being who you are, and then striving to become the best you can be.

But how do you bring your best – and whole – self to work?  Let’s take a closer look at what makes someone an authentic leader and how you can cultivate greater authenticity in your daily leadership style.

 

Qualities of Authentic Leaders

When you think about what makes an authentic leader, what qualities come to mind?

Transparency, Great listening skills, Self-awareness, perhaps?

Authentic leadership can be defined in many ways, and it is a style of leadership that has been studied for a number of years. It was first introduced in the 1960s as management theorists were thinking about what makes an authentic company. Then in the early 2000s, Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic, wrote two books on the subject: Authentic Leadership and Discover Your True North.

In his first book Authentic Leadership, Bill George defined the concept as leaders who had the ability to incorporate certain characteristics into their leadership style:

  • Purpose– Authentic leaders have a deep sense of purpose for their leadership, they really search to understand their focus and what they can uniquely contribute
  • Values – They are true to their core values, they know what they believe in and live up to that consistently in all they say and do
  • Head/heart– Authentic leaders lead with their hearts as well as their heads, they are willing to show some emotion and empathy
  • Relational – They invest in others over time, they are loyal and patient with people, and they strive to do what is right and best for others not just for themselves
  • Self-disciplined, focused on getting results– Authentic leaders work hard and help others stay focused on the most important goals that must be accomplished

As you look at George’s list, how does it sound to you?  I like it, but I also wondered: Does this mean every authentic leader has to be the same?

 

Be Yourself

No, definitely not. That would be the opposite of what being “authentic” means. There are all kinds of leaders, each person has their own style and voice. So we can each strive to attain these qualities George outlines, but we don’t have to exhibit them in the same way.

For example, you may be very passionate and demonstrative in sharing your purpose while others will show this through dedication and hard work.

We all have many different values as leaders. Or we may have a unique sense of purpose for our leadership that is unlike other leaders. That’s good, and again, really illustrates that we can – and should— bring our uniqueness into our leadership.

What can you do to be a more authentic leader?

 

Authentic Leadership Toolkit

Interestingly, George’s second book True North, considered this question of whether there is a cookie-cutter mold for authentic leadership. He and his team interviewed 125 leaders between the ages of 23 and 93 to find out how they were becoming authentic leaders.

While many of them were very different, there were some similar things they did to be uniquely themselves.

Based on their study findings and a few of my own thoughts on authentic leadership, here are a few tools and tips on how you can bring your most authentic self forward in your leadership journey.

 

  1. What’s your story?

You can use your own unique life experiences to inform your style. Your childhood or perhaps a defining event that has shaped who you are today. What if you were applying for a promotion at work and I asked you to tell me about something that happened to you that helped define who you are today – what would you tell me?

It’s important to have a way to share your life story and to have clarity yourself about who you are today because of it.

 

  1. Define your values

Use your personal values to guide your actions and decisions. Have you ever written down your values?  Most people have four or five words that really capture what they believe in.

I encourage you to go through that process if you haven’t already. Find some think time to reflect on this over the next several days, if you can, and jot down a few words.

When you put all the words together, does that capture the essence of what means the most to you?  I think you’ll find this to be a really powerful experience to help define your authenticity as a leader.

 

  1. Listen to your inner voice

It’s critical that you learn to listen for and to your own voice rather just the opinions of others to guide your leadership path. Authentic leaders have a strong internal drive and clarity that can be louder than the voice of others.

I have a friend who was being marginalized at work due to a merger; she decided to do something about it. She became board chair of a major non-profit with some high-profile aspects of it. She also applied for and was accepted into a fellowship program that gave her exposure to other community and business leaders.

These things helped change how she felt about herself and helped her take back her future, regain some control over her own development as a leader. Eventually, this move led her to a very prestigious job as a CFO in a prominent organization.

 

  1. Keep both feet on the ground

Leaders who lose touch with reality and stop listening to honest feedback from others struggle to remain authentic. Instead, you should rely on your trusted advisors, family and friends to help you stay grounded. Let them help you maintain a sense of humility.

They can also help you find some balance between your personal and professional life. Sometimes you lean into family, sometimes into work. Each will let you know when they need you. We should give each other permission to respond in order to keep both parts of our life nurtured and growing.

 

  1. Live a full life

You also need to find time for you – to have a hobby or personal interest, to find a way to maintain your physical, mental and spiritual health. Engaging in the things you love allows you to stay in touch with your true self. Finding joy in our personal passions is essential if you’re going to make it all the way on this leadership journey without burning out.

 

Becoming an authentic leader may require a change on your part, plus some time and effort. But having a learner’s mindset is the key. When you’re willing to learn as you go, you will continue to grow and become the best you can be.

 

 

 

Copyright (c) 2017 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

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In The Turn

7 Inspiring TED Talks You’ve Probably Never Heard

 

Looking for a little inspiration?

If you’re like most busy leaders, you’d love something to kick-start your thinking or give you a fresh perspective. But you just don’t have the time to search out the best stuff. Which is why I wanted to share a few things I’ve found.

Some of the hidden gems in the TED talk library pack just as powerful a punch as the better known presentations. I’ve pulled together 7 of my favorite TED talks on leadership that you’ve probably never heard. These are all really good, and have something interesting to offer.

In 18 minutes or less, I guarantee you’ll get at least one thing you can use – a new idea, a little practical advice, and undoubtedly some timely inspiration.

So grab a cup of coffee, and take a quick look.

 

Photo Credit: Ted.com

How to Use Others’ Feedback to Learn and Grow — Sheila Heen: Most of us have a love-hate relationship with feedback. This is an exceptional talk that hits home on why it’s so hard to hear honest feedback from others. But how learning to accept and leverage feedback can significantly improve your performance and fundamentally change the trajectory of your career. Sheila Heen is a Harvard lecturer, business consultant, a New York Times best-selling author, and a mom of three. She has a charming delivery with a hard-hitting, practical message.

Photo credit: Ted.com

5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change — Jim Hemerling: As a leader, you must constantly work to become more nimble and adaptable to change. This is often daunting. Does change always need to be so hard?

Organizational change expert Jim Hemerling thinks adapting your business in today’s constantly-evolving world can be invigorating instead of exhausting. He outlines five imperatives, centered around putting people first, for turning company reorganization into an empowering, energizing task for all.

Photo Credit: Ted.com

Two Reasons Companies Fail — and How to Avoid Them — Knut Haanaes: Is it possible to run a company and reinvent it at the same time? A tough challenge, for sure. If you’re involved in an innovation project right now, this would be a good one to watch.

Business strategist Knut Haanaes believes the ability to innovate after becoming successful is the mark of a great organization. He shares insights on how to strike a balance between perfecting what we already know and exploring totally new ideas — and lays out how to avoid two major strategy traps.

Photo Credit: YouTube

Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life — Bill Eckstrom: After documenting and researching over 50,000 coaching interactions in the workplace, Bill Eckstrom shares life-altering, personal and professional development ideas through the introduction of the “Growth Rings.”

The rings illustrate how dangerous it can be to remain in a state of comfort and how being in discomfort is the only way to sustain growth.

You know you have to push yourself to grow. Don’t be afraid of discomfort — it can change your leadership journey in a good way. 

Photo Credit: Ted.com

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work? Dan Ariely: This is a really fascinating talk and super useful for leaders to hear. It explores what motivates people to work. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money. But it’s not exactly joy either.

It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and feeling a sense of purpose. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work.

Photo Credit: Ted.com

Lessons for Women in the Workplace — Leila Hoteit: Professional women in the Arab world juggle more responsibilities than their male counterparts, and they face more cultural rigidity than Western women. What can their success teach us about tenacity, competition, priorities and progress?

Tracing her career as an engineer, advocate and mother in Abu Dhabi, Leila Hoteit shares three lessons for thriving in the modern world.

Photo Credit: Business Growth Blog

The Puzzle of Motivation — Dan Pink: Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with the fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2017 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

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In The Turn

3 Ways You Can Find Opportunity in the Midst of Change

Every leader I talk with these days is leading through some kind of change. I suspect you are, too.

Maybe you’re in an industry that’s being disrupted by technology. Maybe you’re leading a team that’s been part of a merger or acquisition. Maybe you’ve been assigned an under-performing team that needs coaching or a complete shake-up. Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur leading a team through the uncertainty of the start-up phase.

If you’re dealing with change, this post is for you. And I’ve got three very practical lessons to help you find new opportunities in times of uncertainty.

I’ve drawn these lessons from a conversation I had recently with a good friend of mine who has been knee-deep in change for years. She leads nearly 4,000 employees in 83 offices worldwide, and they are smack in the middle of the digital industry.

My friend is Ruth Stubbs — a fearless leader and an inspiring change agent. I’ve learned so much from her over the past few years about leading through change. She’s a pioneer in digital marketing with more than 25 years of experience in the media industry and today serves as global president of iProspect, a digital performance marketing agency and one of our sister agencies in Dentsu Aegis Network.

Ruth is a wife, mom and endurance athlete. She lives in Singapore and is a tireless champion of female entrepreneurs.

But what really strikes me about Ruth is how she brings a journey mindset to dealing with change. She’s learned to view change as a part of the leader’s journey, and she looks for ways to help her business and her community find new opportunities in the midst of change.

Here are three valuable lessons I took from my conversation with Ruth along with some useful tips that can help you lead more effectively through change.

Lesson #1: Instill Confidence in Your Team Courageous leaders use their passion for the journey and their optimism about reaching the destination to create confidence in others. But change creates uncertainty that often paralyzes people. And once paralysis takes hold, it can become virtually impossible to move a team forward because they cling to what they know instead of having the confidence to reach out for what lies ahead.

You can prevent that by instilling confidence in your team, grounded in a clear vision for a path forward. Here are a few tips for how to build confidence in others:

  • Encourage and praise team members whenever they bring their A game.
  • Celebrate the small wins.
  • Support them when they take a chance.
  • Help the team see progress toward the goal and believe they can get there.

“One of the most important things in my role is to instill confidence in others,” Ruth told me. “When people are confident about the future, there’s less doubt and less paranoia. Change shouldn’t scare you; it should excite you. Sure there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, so you must help everyone see the opportunities that await. And when things fall in place, people draw confidence from that.”

Ruth helps create confidence in others outside of her business, too. While working in Southeast Asia, she learned that many women run businesses from home but lack the confidence to consider themselves merchants. They also can’t get funding or even open a bank account on their own. So they have little hope of growing their businesses.

That’s why she started Female Foundry, an organization that helps fledgling entrepreneurs grow their businesses. I greatly admire this initiative and all Ruth has done to help women entrepreneurs. Female Foundry provides resources and mentoring to promising companies. But, just as importantly, it gives their founders confidence that they can achieve their dreams.

Lesson #2: Collaborate For The Win When leading a team through change, you must have people who are willing to work together to grab hold of emerging opportunities. In Ruth’s case, the iProspect global leadership team aligns on a common vision and business practices so they can be opportunistic and take action at the right time.

That’s hard to do if employees drift into silos and stop communicating or working as one. If your team struggles with collaboration, you’re probably also missing out on new opportunities right in front of you.

You can change that by helping your team collaborate for the win:

  • Show them the benefits of working together and the value of collective thinking.
  • Teach them how to lean into each other’s strengths.
  • Encourage them to offer support when someone else can really use it. These things build trust and reliability in your team.

Like all successful leaders, Ruth values the team and nurtures collaboration whenever possible. When she launched Female Foundry, she didn’t do it alone or even just with the support of iProspect. She sought the involvement of her parent company, venture capitalists, and iProspect’s clients to form a team that’s far more influential together than any of them could be alone.

She brings the same focus on collaboration to her day-to-day work, and believes you must be a learning leader, especially in times of change. “Don’t be too structured in your thinking when you’re looking for new solutions,” said Ruth. “Be open to what the universe can bring and what you can learn from others. I learn something new from my people every day.”

Lesson #3: Champion Others Leadership is not about you and your success. It’s about taking others on a journey to somewhere important. When you champion others, you end up creating champions.

But you can’t do that with a self-focused approach to leadership. You have to develop a giving spirit and a passion for helping others that’s rooted in your own personal belief system.

If you lack this, you need to do some self-reflection and self-discovery. If you’ve already got some passion around giving to others, act on it over and over and over.

“If the world has been good to you,” Ruth pointed out, “you have to pay it back. You have to have a giving spirit. Doing kind things must be at the top of your to-do list.” Giving to others and championing them makes the leadership journey far sweeter.

Ruth, as you might have noticed, is a high-energy, get-it-done leader. She sees challenges and attacks them with confidence, compassion, and action-oriented solutions. Now you know why I am proud to be her colleague and friend. When we lead like Ruth, uncertainty doesn’t stand a chance.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2017 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

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In The Turn

How to Make the Toughest Calls of Leadership [BONUS]

The buck stops here. How true. President Truman knew it. And all great leaders embrace it. We can (and should) empower others to make decisions whenever possible. But leadership will always involve making the toughest decisions.

Having the authority to make decisions is one of the most rewarding parts of leadership, but actually making the tough calls is seldom easy.

Think about a time when the odds were stacked against you and the risk of failure was high. You didn’t have all the information you needed, yet you had to make a decision. Your team was waiting, and your organization was depending on you to provide direction. What do you do?

When we face the most complex and critical decisions as a leader, we need to recognize the fears and emotions that often hold us hostage and then lean into three powerful “must-haves” for great decision-making.

Recognize the Enemy

A wide range of emotions can cloud our judgment and hold us back when we find ourselves in those crossroads moments that we’d often rather avoid but must face as leaders.

Difficult decisions can make us feel:

  • Overwhelmed – A tidal wave can hit when the potential consequences of a decision we face are significant, we are unprepared, or we feel like we are in over our heads.
  • Anxious – Becoming overly stressed often leads to poor decision-making. The more anxiety we feel, the less likely we’ll have a clear enough head to make the best choice possible. Neuroscience shows anxiety suppresses the activity of pre-frontal cortex neurons, which play a pivotal role in cognitive functions such as calculating risk/reward, problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Indecisive – We sometimes feel paralyzed by too little or too much information. We might be unclear about which criteria we should use to help us decide. Or we might see multiple solutions that all look good.
  • Cautious – We’re hesitant to share information about a decision with others because we’re not sure things are going to turn out the way we want. We’d rather stay quiet, hedge our bets, and leave people to wonder what we decided and why.
  • Pressured – We feel pressured to decide in a certain way by others who have a stake in our decision.
  • Challenged — Similarly, no matter what we decide we know we’ll experience push-back from those who will disagree with our choice. Perhaps they will even challenge us publicly and inappropriately.

Fear rests at the heart of all these decision-making roadblocks. These fears don’t just make decisions harder than necessary, they cause us to question our instincts, project self-doubt and feel out of control. We’re then more prone to make poor decisions, and we risk losing the respect we’ve earned from others – something no leader wants.

So how do we avoid that?

Lean into the Fundamentals

Great leaders are willing to embrace uncertainty as a part of the journey, but they don’t walk down that road unprepared. They lead with authority and confidence because they know and practice the essential fundamentals that help them overcome their fears and make sound decisions.

Here are three must-haves of decision-making that have helped me deal with my most complex and challenging leadership choices:

  1. Process – Establish a tried-and-true decision-making process to help you make and manage any type of decision, but particularly more complex ones. This doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible. It means you’ll have guideposts and guardrails to move you forward and that you’ll make exceptions by design.
  2. Clarity – Learn to manage emotions that cloud your thoughts during decision-making so you can think clearly and rationally. The process will help with this, but you also need to do the hard work of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. This is an area where other trusted leaders can hold you accountable and help you see when your emotions are stifling your common sense.
  3. Consistency – Create patterns in your decision-making that minimize surprises and build trust. Having a standard process and managing your emotions will help you determine in advance how you will handle certain types of decisions so you can create greater consistency in your leadership.

What if you don’t have a process, or you’re looking to improve the one you have? Well, glad you asked.

I’ve created a free download that includes a detailed decision-making process, as well many of the benefits you will enjoy when you have this type of framework in place. Take a look. And here’s to better decision-making in your future.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2017 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

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In The Turn

How to Be a More Agile Leader and Have Greater Success in Uncertain Times

We live in an increasingly disrupted world. Thanks to powerful forces such as technology, analytics, globalization and social media, nothing stays the same for very long.

Business leaders must constantly evolve their thinking to stay relevant and competitive, and we must become more comfortable leading through constant change. That’s why agile leadership is not only a valuable skill, but also a critical one. Leading with agility will allow your organization to not only survive during uncertainty, but also to thrive.

Learning leaders Agility requires a willingness to learn on the fly. And with the speed of change accelerating, the lessons you learned in business school may no longer apply. You must be a lifelong learner if you’re going to figure out what works now.

What’s expected of you will change dramatically during your career, too, especially as you take on new responsibilities. When I founded my company, we were a small, scrappy startup. Now we’re part of a global enterprise, and my job description has changed pretty significantly.

Deciding to join the bigger firm and taking on a broader role forced me to develop an entirely new skill set. I had to work across cultural and language barriers, build relationships throughout a much larger organization, and reconfigure the way I viewed the big picture. I wasn’t dealing with one small company or region anymore — I had to think across international markets.

That experience taught me the power of agile leadership. Executives who can adapt to new situations will have greater success driving change in real time, diagnosing problems as they emerge, and mobilizing their teams to design effective solutions.

The operative concept here is “in real time.” In the past, we followed a linear path to organizational change. Leaders would identify opportunities, conduct research, build consensus, and then devise plans to implement change. That methodical, time-consuming approach is virtually nonexistent today.

You need an agile mindset supported by a strong working knowledge across the enterprise to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment, which means cultivating expertise in finance, strategic planning, people development and systems. You also have to balance smart risk-taking with a demand for quick results. Perhaps most important, you must act as a visionary, building and leading a team that can fulfill your company’s long-term goals.

Agility in action Being a strong, responsive leader is always important, but periods of upheaval or uncertainty really require you to step up. I’ve learned the most about agility when I’ve had to lead through difficult times. Here are five tactics I recommend to improve your agile leadership capabilities.

1. Fix what’s not working.

Take an honest look at your organization to identify what needs to change. Keep an open mind, and be willing to switch up inefficient processes or outdated systems that aren’t working anymore. Tweak your new business efforts, or revise your marketing plan. Once you know what needs to be fixed, be decisive and act swiftly.

2. Recognize your triggers.

Executive coach Nikki Nemerouf cautions leaders against letting their personal triggers derail their decision-making abilities. This is especially important in agile leadership as uncertainty often diminishes our ability to think clearly.

Take time now to reflect on your hot-button issues and the types of situations that typically rattle you, and then determine a smarter way to respond. The next time something upsetting happens, you’ll handle it better.

Apply the same mentality to your company as well. Evaluate problematic patterns and potential threats that could impact your business, and work out a plan for addressing them before they become serious concerns.

3. Bring in a fresh perspective.

Revisit problems you have been stuck on or have dismissed. Consult colleagues or mentors who can offer fresh takes on the roadblock, and brainstorm creative solutions to recurring issues. And don’t be afraid to challenge convention — that’s how the most innovative ideas are born.

4. Enable collaboration.

Workplaces are becoming less hierarchical, and an agile leader knows how to get the best from her people by enabling greater collaboration. Encourage team members to bring forward new ways of working together. Create different teams to find new solutions, or put more powerful networking tools such as Slack, Trello or Yammer in their hands that create organizations with no boundaries.

Invite people with different perspectives and backgrounds to the conversation. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Agile leaders seek out diverse opinions and are willing to live in the tension between them while they find the best way forward.

5. Embrace uncertainty.

Your team will follow your lead, so you can’t melt down when times get tough. Approach chaotic situations with confidence and determination, and know you can adapt as you learn more about the problem.

Lead your people through complexity by being forthright, decisive and focused, even when that means making the hard calls. Agility is critical as your team looks to you for vision and guidance, especially while changes unfold.

Many of the challenges leaders face today are those for which no clear answers exist. Agile executives are willing to lead through uncertainty, learning as they go and mobilizing their teams to find new solutions that propel the organization toward success.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2017 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

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