The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to an interview conducted with Mark Kvamme, co-founder and Partner at Drive Capital on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, August 6th titled Business Disruptions: Are You Disrupting or Being Disrupted?
Many leaders have likely been hearing about the “rate of change” in a variety of ways. The World Economic Forum, for instance, published its 2018 report on global risks and trends to analyze where the world could be heading. This past year, the Harvard Business Review also published a piece about the importance of digital transformation. Both suggest that the rate of change is accelerating, and we need to be aware of the changes so we can take action. I’ve seen many companies adopt new technologies to automate tasks. For many, this is no longer a change of the future; it is happening now.
To be prepared for a transformation, I believe leaders must update their mindsets and behaviors. Below are my suggestions for getting started:
- Focus on what’s best for your organization.
As change accelerates, focus on getting the best outcome for your organization above being right. When facing challenges you have not previously mastered (and, in some cases, have never faced), evaluate, gather data and input from others, and plot a course of action you can experiment with. You likely won’t have the perfect plan, but this way, you can have a rough direction of where to move, which can, in turn, help you correct your course when necessary.
- Be prepared to make tough decisions.
Sometimes, leaders have to make tough calls to ensure the organization thrives. Implementing innovative tools can help keep your company competitive, but they will also impact your workforce. This is why it is critical that leaders balance the organization’s values with mission and profit.
Ask yourself the following questions if you’re feeling stuck when facing tough decisions:
- Is my decision aligned with my values?
- Am I willing and able to take the action required by this decision?
- Does this decision align with our cultural values?
- What system and process changes will be required to implement this decision?
I often see that leaders put forward proposals that meet one or more of these criteria, but when they look holistically at the implications of that proposal, they see flaws in the plan. An example was a restaurant I worked with that proposed limiting the amount of food employees consumed during a break. When examined further, this policy change made eating too much became grounds for termination. Managers were unwilling to terminate employees for eating too much during a shift because it conflicted with their values as a company.
- Think critically.
Complex thinking is also an important skill. As a leader, it’s critical that you understand any extended systems in your organization and how your decisions will ripple through the entire system. But I’ve observed that sometimes, this information is limited, which requires you to make quick decisions while thinking critically.
When this happens, determine the smallest decision you can make, given the information you have. What are the first, second and third level impacts this decision will have? By shifting the decision process to small decisions during times of uncertainty, a leader can break the inertia caused by uncertainty and gather important information from the small action. This approach reduces the risk of making incorrect large decisions.
- Stay curious.
From my perspective, leaders are now impacted by tangential forces; they need to be intellectually curious to ensure they are sufficiently informed to make strong decisions. Leaders must be open to the fact that they don’t always know everything. Ask yourself:
- What do I need to do to stay informed as a leader?
- What do I need to do to get more comfortable within myself being a continual learner?
Once you ask yourself these questions, remember to be open as you’re learning. Seek input from others and consume different forms of media to keep learning.
- Develop yourself and others.
As business ecosystems change, new tools and technologies emerge, and the competitive landscape can morph as well. This is why developing yourself and others is key. What are you doing to build your own skills and abilities, based on your current and emerging landscape? How are you developing your team? Building on the recommendation to stay curious, leaders should stay informed in order to continue their development, such as through reading publications outside your foundational content toward tangentially or loosely connected publications.
- Inspire others.
During times of uncertainty and change, I’ve found having the ability to inspire others is extremely valuable. In my experience, people often look to leaders they trust during times of change to ensure their safety and security. It is important for you to be keenly aware and sensitive to this need. Assess how well you relate to your team, and try to understand their goals and stressors. To build this strong rapport, communicate openly and honestly with your team and follow through on your commitments. I believe being trustworthy is now more important than ever.
- Learn from other perspectives.
When facing new situations and opportunities, it is critical to gather input from a diverse group of people. Encourage others to share candid input, which you can then utilize to craft solutions that accomplish the collective objectives of your organization and align with the company’s mission and values. Four important questions to ask yourself include:
- Have I included all critical perspectives to work through this issue?
- Have I created an environment where people feel encouraged to give open and honest input?
- Do people feel valued for their differing points of view?
- Do they see how their involvement created a more robust solution?
Leaders must ask for input, act on it, give feedback and recognize contributors in order for their team members and employees to feel confident in voicing their opinions.
While there is no magic solution to the challenges leaders face, I believe we are also at a point in time where leaders can make a huge impact on the world. From my perspective, your impact is possible when you are willing to develop yourself and learn how to navigate the personal discomfort of changing yourself and your organization to better navigate new opportunities.
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About the author
Ms. Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute (formerly Metcalf & Associates) is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.
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