Build Back Better: How Leaders Can Build A Better, More Equal Future In An Agile Way

This article originally appeared as a Council Post on Forbes here.

It’s an understatement to say that these are unprecedented and unpredictable times. Global uncertainty, measured by the World Uncertainty Index, is still around 50% above the historical average of 1996-2010. With the forces of Covid-19, ongoing instability and “uncertainty spillovers” from key systemic economies affecting the global economy, the World Bank’s economists are predicting that the world economy will not surpass pre-pandemic output before 2022.

Given the long road toward recovery, leaders are now tasked with building back better businesses while also maintaining bottom lines and staying on track. How will leaders juggle all the existing balls in the air while taking on new ones and juggling them in a different way? 

My clients, from government agencies and businesses alike, face similar challenges — constant pressure and change. Leaders often have to cope with feelings of overwhelm, inadequacy and not knowing what the future holds while also feeling pressured to come up with a “silver bullet” solution. In my experience as an executive coach, the right intervention might not always be available at first look. 

That said, leaders can act rapidly to reduce these unproductive feelings that affect staff morale negatively and inhibit innovation and experimentation — both essential ingredients for organizations to succeed. Here’s how:

1. Have the mindset of an Agilist.

One of the inner voices needed to grow leadership agility, The Agilist is pragmatic, unromantic and courageous. The Agilist is not one to hold on to traditions that do not make sense anymore. The mindset of “this is how we’ve always done it” is a major pitfall I observe because it reduces the propensity to initiate vital change. Thinking like The Agilist is the necessary shift for modern leaders.

The time to embrace The Agilist in you is now. Ask yourself these questions for a courageous reality check:

• What’s working, and what’s not?

• What’s the evidence saying?

• How do you create “quick wins” to inform you if your decision or approach is sound?

• What can you do differently that you have not yet tried?

• How are you fulfilling what’s important to people in a better, more equal future?

2. Cocreate the journey of change.

An organizational change can take anywhere from months to years and consumes massive amounts of resources. Change management frameworks and approaches abound, but in a McKinsey & Company article, the authors of Beyond Performance 2.0 drove home the importance of considering the employee experience. They found leaders who addressed the mindset shifts necessary for the change were four times more likely to rate their change programs as “successful.” 

In my experience, the how might be elusive to many leaders who are undoubtedly experiencing some form of change right now. To translate it into actionable terms, leaders can consider a cocreation mindset while following any change framework of their choice.

To cocreate means giving every single member in the organization a voice. Most, if not all, concerns must be heard and surfaced. While there isn’t necessarily a right answer, there must be a large enough common ground and common understanding, as well as alignment of interests. It means leaders need to be involved in productive dialogues to address concerns, reframe mindsets and lay out clearly what work and responsibilities will look like (and will not look like).

Here are some questions you can use to check if you are inviting others to cocreate the change:

• What’s the common understanding?

• Are our interests aligned?

• Are we seeing the big picture in the same way?

• What do I need to do about the differences, if any?

3. Learn to flex your leadership style.

The new era of business is not just about profitability; it’s about sustainable value creation. The movement to create a better, more equal world is undeniable, and the only way leaders can continue to ensure their success in the years to come is to learn to lead in a more relevant way. Leaders will face many paradoxes, and while a style might have worked perfectly in the past in pursuit of older goals, leaders now need to examine their effectiveness and learn new styles so that they can create a better, more equal future with a multigenerational workforce. 

In examining your current leadership style, ask yourself:

• How is my leadership style promoting a diversity of voices?

• How am I ensuring gender, social and environmental issues that my people care about are being heard and supported?

• How do I let my people shape my strategy?

The road to recovery is long, and leaders play a big part. That begins with you.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Take advantage of Chuen Chuen’s extensive experience coaching leaders worldwide and her deep expertise in designing agile leadership corporate training solutions for your teams. No matter which stage of leadership you are at, we can partner you and meet your business needs. Explore our executive coaching programs,corporate training courses or hire Chuen Chuen as your speaker so that your organisation will become agile and adaptive.

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