• Liz Wren

What leaders can learn from our systemic discussions with their workforce

Facilitating strongly attended meet-ups at Lead-Digital over the last two months has been a fascinating look at emerging leadership themes as we navigate the continually-evolving business landscape.

Our topic was Sustaining Healthy Teams in the Workforce. We asked participants for their views on lockdown, how it was influencing their attitudes towards work both now and for the future.

We looked at what they were grieving for, and celebrating, as they rode the wave of uncertainty working from home, and the critical actions they believed would be important when looking towards high performance in the future.

As systems workers, we start from “I”.

We asked participants to constellate around their work-life experiences of lockdown. There was a wide range of experiences, although very few were actively hating it. Many are embracing the practical benefits of spending more time with family, and no commuting.

As they looked forward, our respondents had very differing views on what they missed, but there were some strong leanings towards permanent changes, most notably around more remote work, more flexibility and breaking down of traditional ways of communicating and planning.

We then moved from “I” to “We”. What do we want to bring with us from how things used to be? What can we ditch? How can we envisage a better workplace from this experience?

Using breakout rooms and Jamboard, we asked our groups to explore what needs to happen to intentionally maintain/sustain the health of the team through this period in 5 thematic areas:

  • Leadership

  • Communications & ceremonies

  • Work organisation & planning

  • Social connections

  • People development

The hive mind produced many valuable themes. Small and impactful things such as saying ‘good morning’ and ‘bye’ at the end of virtual work-day to signal you arriving/leaving work, through to re-contracting roles to reflect new ways of self-organising.

A key topic is of course Leadership:

Leadership key themes emerged as:

  • Human, vulnerable, fallible; There are no known knowns - leaders who can demonstrate their humanity, adopting a learner’s mindset rather than a knower’s, will be the role models that emerge as authentic and believable.

  • Listening to understand; Perhaps should be considered a universal requisite, the point here is the intention to find the new, to engage and motivate through values clearly demonstrated through collaborative behaviour.

  • Presence; This might be expected for any leader - the difference is how it's demonstrated in this new space. Leaders being intentional and explicit about they show up and respond to change is key.

  • Coaching; Allowing space and invitation for others to grow, take responsibility and be given permission to lead, create and contribute.

  • Transparency; Openness to demonstrate the process of leadership - with its success, failures, hard decisions, small and explorative steps.

In conclusion, we see a new hierarchy of needs emerging for leaders in this new world which is unlikely to fully return to the pre-Covid ways:

  • Base level: Knowing how to use technology effectively to allow effective communication

  • Next level: Becoming skilful in remote facilitation/meeting techniques – to get real engagement and collaboration

And once these needs are satisfied – to get truly high performance, there’s a need to focus on:

  • Building and sustaining healthy teams in a virtually connected world

  • Creating higher purpose, beyond an organisation’s traditional role

  • Developing and supporting leaders to imagine and build new futures, and leading their organisations to success in the new world order

About Henko

We deliver systemic programmes to organisations who are seeking an emergent leadership model for these uncertain times.

- exceptional remote facilitation

- building healthy teams

- emergent leadership

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