While we are still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the next crises are already lurking in the background, around the corner. Inevitably, there will be another crisis. We just don’t know when it will hit and what type of crisis it will be: economic, health, state debt, political, environmental, all of these combined? Living in an age where one crisis chases the other, the only way out is through. We can’t escape! Instead, we need to build resilience both individually and as businesses. But how?
Capitalize on low hanging fruit to identify a ballpark value added activity to beta test. Override the digital divide with additional clickthroughs from DevOps. Nanotechnology immersion along the information highway will close the loop on focusing solely on the bottom line.
The toughest moments in life and business often hold valuable insights that can help us answer this question. When a crisis comes to an end, we typically ask ourselves what we can learn from it to be better prepared for future events. It often comes down to learning, i.e. strengthening existing skills and acquiring new capabilities, to be more resilient when the next crisis hits. Learning must deliver the skills employees and leaders need, whilst also inspiring consistent application of those new skills in order that behaviors and performance ultimately improve.
This can only be achieved when we develop the skills that truly matter: capabilities that help us master transformational change in our environment. The good news is that there is a set of skills that are paramount to leading your business to a brighter future, skills that help you master strategy and change. Some of the most relevant capabilities in this context are the ability to:
- Use strategic acumen
- Lead by intention
- Be selfless
Ability to inspire
The ability to inspire enables you to influence others. Influencing is not about manipulating people into doing what you want them to, putting yourself into a favorable position at the cost of others. In contrast to manipulation, the term ‘influencing’ inherently conveys a positive connotation. It describes one’s ability to inspire people to embrace change, to act and support a cause they believe in. Read that again: a cause they believe in.
It’s not enough that you believe in something. Instead, you help others discover what’s in it for them, making them want to be part of something, both with their hearts and minds. It is about engaging with people in a way that they feel your honest desire in helping them succeed, seeking common ground, and creating positive outcomes. It is about problem-solving creatively and working through differences instead of surrendering to obstacles or barriers preventing people from finding their space in a new organizational identity. Win-win, eye-level conversations.
Ability to collaborate
The ability to collaborate with peers, direct reports, leaders and other stakeholders makes or breaks a person’s success in today’s fast-paced business world. Constant adjustments are vital to the survival of a business. Therefore, creating an environment of learning, mutual respect, and support, determines whether or not people grow to their full potential. Collaborative leaders intentionally delegate tasks to people, creating development opportunities, rather than getting rid of work, dumping it on someone’s desk, because that someone was the first person they ran into, had resources available, or simply didn’t know how to dodge it.
The ability to collaborate also includes establishing a feedback culture. Feedback is helping someone grow, based on an observation. Feedback can be reinforcing or developmental (let’s avoid black-and-white terms like good or bad, positive or negative as these don’t do proper feedback justice). Reinforcing feedback acknowledges that you are aware of certain behaviors, in line with an organization’s principles and purpose for example. By providing this type of feedback an individual realizes that their behavior is indeed valued and they know they’re on the right path, thus reinforcing these patterns. Developmental feedback provides people with learning opportunities, based on behaviors or work results that are not in line with previously agreed expectations. This kind of feed-back also contains feed-forward, i.e. support on how to perform according to standards in the future. Both forms of feedback are essential for individual growth. An organization that values feedback inevitably accelerates in learning, growing, and collaborating.
Ability to communicate
The ability to communicate includes one’s ability to communicate strategy and other elements of an organization’s identity https://www.brueckmann.ca/organizational-identity/navigating-terminology-jungle/ clearly and concisely. It is the ability to convey related messages in such ways that the audience understands what you want to tell them, using both appropriate terminology, communication structure, and channels.
The ability to communicate also entails speaking with compassion and humility, unveiling your true nature. As a decent human being, a leader would always inform their language with compassion and humility, especially when conveying uncomfortable messages, which are often unavoidable in times of transformation. It helps people accept inconvenient truths and changes because they realize their leaders stand with them, instead of talking down to them.
Especially true for entrepreneurs and leaders, the ability to communicate is as much about listening as it is about conveying a message. I am talking about the ability to ask rather than to tell; to ask challenging questions, unarguably, to further discussions, to explore opportunities. Asking powerful questions helps people discover options and choose a way forward pursuing their career goals or achieving their targets. To ask these types of questions leaders need to listen deeply and learn to trust their intuition, based on what they hear, and what they do not hear being said. Asking rather than telling can unleash unprecedented levels of creativity and ownership in your business, ultimately driving you towards your desired vision and impact.
This is the ability to think and act strategically, based on a solid understanding of how a given business operates within its industry’s dynamics. It includes the ability to detach from daily operations and re-imagine your business; design what it should become, based on one’s comprehension of and contribution to the total (business) value chain, and how their actions deliver value to customers.
Like any other capability, strategic acumen isn’t heaven-sent but a skill we can acquire. It includes being perceptive, creative, future-oriented, proactive. It involves developing a sense of confidence in one’s judgment, resulting in taking decisions and calculated risks based on evidence and a sense of intuition. People with strong strategic acumen keep the bigger picture in mind when making seemingly smaller decisions, because they understand how they affect things on a larger scale. Before deciding, walk in a variety of different shoes, shed light onto an issue from various perspectives, to weigh up pros and cons.
Strategic acumen also displays itself in someone’s ability to stay critical and alert, even when there is no apparent need to reshape an organization. We remain curious, ask questions, and are aware of our potential biases. We compensate for these biases by collaborating with others, asking questions, trying to understand and develop our opinions further, providing an enhanced fact base for decision making.
Leading by intention
What would you say is the scarcest resource in any type of business? Time. Time has become a luxury good in our always-on economy. At any given moment, there are a bunch of different interest groups competing for your attention. It can be darn difficult to stay on top of things. Just a moment of unintentional behavior can get you stuck in a useless meeting, messing up your agenda for the day.
As much as you cannot spend a dollar twice, you cannot relive a minute. Therefore, we need to be intentional about how we use the sacred resource of time. Leading by intention includes constantly prioritizing tasks, understanding the difference between an important issue and an urgent issue – for oneself and our teams, helping them manage time more intentionally.
Being intentional is the antidote to being busy. In January 2017, then 86-year old investment guru Warren Buffet said in a conversation with Charlie Rose and Bill Gates that “There is no way I’m going to be able to buy more time”. Buffet is well known for being ruthless with his time. He coined the sentence: busy is the new stupid.
A character trait more than a skill really, selflessness is the final one of the six capabilities that we should inspire and multiply in our businesses. Most individuals can learn how to be selfless, in the sense of leadership, like celebrating successes of others, rather than having to stand in the spotlight ourselves. Selfless people don’t highlight their own contributions. Instead, they seek opportunities to celebrate achievements of their team, champion behaviors of others, and promote those colleagues as bright lights.
Building selflessness as a capability starts with understanding one’s own ego patterns. An ego that is too big will stand in the way of becoming a selfless leader. Instead of promoting others for exemplary behavior or outstanding performance, ego-driven people will search for appreciation. Their ambition and drive will impede their efforts of developing deep interpersonal connections and elevating others. Creating awareness about ego patterns and learning methods to keep the ego in check is a good start to develop into a more selfless individual.
The cost of no action…Remember, these six capabilities are especially required when designing and implementing a new business strategy and organizational identity. In case you are frowning right now, imagining or even worrying about the cost involved for the required development programs, let me help you take a different perspective on mission-critical capability building: imagine the cost of no action. Imagine your company had invested months and months into designing a future-oriented strategy, had populated work streams with projects, had communicated the why, what, and how of the new business strategy as much as possible – and then, you don’t enable the people to actually bring it to life. I am not talking about the cost of designing the strategy, even though that would have been a waste of time and money, sure. Imagine the cost of failure to implement strategy and what it would mean for the competitiveness of the business some time down the road. And the resulting consequences for you and the people inside your business.
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