…been a while…

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I haven’t written anything in ages. This is a line I’ve written a few times over the course of this blog, for the most part, I’m just lazy and life gets in the way but also I’ve lacked something interesting to say. In the UK, we’ve moved on from the daily Downing Street updates, the “next slide please” requests from Professor Vallance and the ramblings of good oul’ Boris and the infection graphs to updates about the demographics who have had “the jab”. I’ve done a few of those online vaccine queue calculator tests… the results have not been particularly helpful…

Based on your profile, you are not in any priority group, and there are between 17,522,206 and 28,211,103 people in front of you in the queue for a first dose of COVID vaccine across the UK.

But this isn’t a blog about COVID.

Thankfully.

I’ve actually been doing a lot of professional coaching recently. What’s interesting is that whilst the headlines have changed, the things that people are dealing with are largely the same. Which is kind of reassuring and comforting because we have all thought that we are operating in very different circumstances but in fact the basics still apply. 7 years ago everyone was talking about VUCA and even EVUCA and no one actually really took that to the nth degree. What was born of US military seemed to remain in that sphere and for some reason never quite completely transcended into the “real world”. Having spent a considerable amount of time trying to bring this into the business world as a real concept there was a bitter sweet moment when someone I was coaching revisited this as their “new normal”. I’ve spoken about VUCA in the past, but for context…  VUCA is short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Oh and the “E”… that’s the Extremely bit. Where we are now.

Coaching is strange. There are those who follow a religious pattern of meetings and those that dip in and out. The coach needs to be respectful of all approaches and also call time on those who are not ready/committed to the process. EVUCA creates confusion for all and with confusion comes disorientation of the worst sort.

In the normal course of events, dare I say, pre-covid, I would say the average manager/leader dealt with 1-2 big decisions at any one time. Now as a coach, you facilitate the processing of these decisions, you don’t give solutions, you help the coachee work through options. Most seek a validation of their actions, good leaders know what they are going to do (remember we are in “normal times”) and they just need to talk it out to get to a point where they feel they can commit. I just get the conversation going, I have little or no input to the actual outcome… other than to probe and encourage thinking.

Wind the clock forward, EVUCA world as it is, boy has the conversation changed, not only is the leader wading through a myriad of options, they are leading people who are extending tentacles into a similar world, oftentimes without the experience of their leader. So how do you make good decisions and lead in this environment. Well here’s the thing, if we wind back to the origins of VUCA, Special Operations Operatives were trained to make decisions in highly stressed situations. Furthermore, teams were encouraged to share thoughts and options with the leader facilitating the conversation regarding options in order to action the most viable solution. History tells us that this works and it works quickly.

One word keeps coming up time and time again in these situations… adaptability. I can’t imagine that people who were recruiting 18 months ago would have predicted the need for this trait in such abundance and so chances are teams are not constructed for the current challenges. Certainly the focus was not on developing enhanced adaptabilityy abilities in training seminars… it was a nice to have…

All of the above demands that leaders now look to themselves and their ranks to bring teams together that will weather the storm. Of course, this will pass, but in the meantime decisions will need to be made with less clarity, in a shorter time period and with wider ranging implications. What will be a huge issue for organisations will be the ability of their wider employee base to understand why decisions have been made and their understanding of the validity of the process. In-house communication of these processes has become critical. We are really talking about proactive management. From the experts…

All the challenges present at the global level, as well as the possible threats generated by certain organisational changes, the increasing number of tasks that can no longer be fulfilled only on the basis of knowledge and experience, demand the emergence of a new type of management – proactive management (Gitelman, Gavrilova, Gitelman, & Kozhevnikov, 2017).

This was a concept back then, but really not tested. Now it very much is.

What’s more, leaders who can really elevate themselves from the day to day, who seek to question the wider landscape, possibly using tools such as Scenario Planning etc…

Why? Because we know that managers who look outside of their comfort zones and who expand their imaginations will see a wider range of possible futures and will be much better positioned to take advantage of the unexpected opportunities that might arise. Today, more than ever this sort of thinking is crucial. Imagine if Nokia had embraced the smart phone scenario… or if Joost managed to deliver P2P television… every heard of them..? Even the people behind Skype couldn’t make that happen.

I’ve been saying for the last 6 months… this is the time where we will earn our stripes… so tool up, be the person who takes the wide angle view and work on being the leader that leads decison makers.

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