Climbing coronaviruses cases, constant restrictions and extreme weather-driven catastrophes have tested our resourcefulness over the past two years. Many continue to feel tired and unable to truly recharge themselves. Locked in crisis, few are flourishing.
Yet history has taught us crisis is nearly always followed by renewal and prosperity. Many organisations are already on a path of progress, demonstrating that much of our response as leaders over the past two years was strong – we showed up, caring, adaptive and resourceful – we can take heart from that.
Because we are still in it, we likely underestimate the insight and wisdom we have built during this crisis. Credits that will pay dividends in the decades to come. Our shared experience offers a new platform to leverage and learn from successes and missteps, offering confidence as we turn to face the opportunities of a new, changed world with intensity.
COVID-19, climate change and the resulting tumult we’re experiencing are by no means over, but have you noticed we’re no longer in emergency meetings every day just to keep the wheels turning? We pulled out all stops, found new ways and built sustainable models for our organisations to progress forward. Despite the latest volume of COVID-19 cases, the business disruptions and compromises we continue to make, it is time to take a brave step forward. Like summer lawn after a thunderstorm, it’s time to green up our organisations and grow towards a revived purpose, setting out on a worthy quest.
I had an interesting interaction with a CEO last December, who had inspired a coalition of people to ride in 300+km cycling events in each state of Australia, in support of cancer-research charity Tour de Cure. The events attracted around 1,000 participants at last count, and the organisation raised $950,000 towards cancer research, as part of its new, employee-formulated drive “To create a brighter future”. This all happened whilst the company was responding to extreme weather events, state lockdowns and escalating COVID-19 conditions.
It shows that we don’t need to stay wedged between the rocks and the hard places. We’re part of a community of people constantly striving to live good lives – to do more than survive. Organisations and the talent within with the drive and ability to make a difference. Everyone needs an overriding mission to make sense of pedaling day to day. We can all withstand hardship if there are peaks as well as pits. In this environment, we need to create and plan for the peaks, because it’s obvious that we’ll have to negotiate more pits.
Reframing your leadership: ‘Unlocking’ for growth
When your mind is focused on the negative, operating in red-alert mode, each breaking, dour piece of news feels like another blow: how the price of instant COVID-19 tests will fuel a divide between the wealthy and those with not a cent to spare; how the pandemic has kicked off a mass resignation of people who ostensibly never want to return to work as it was. In reality, these are but one part of the narrative.
The key is to acknowledge and unlock the agency you have to influence better outcomes. With a growth mindset, a person is set up to surf the inevitable waves that will come. For example, the cost of rapid antigen tests is something leaders can do something about, devising ways to ensure employees and their families are as safe as possible and not unfairly burdened by the cost of testing that can benefit an entire organisation.
According to Professor Scott Galloway, a cornerstone of sustained growth and prosperity is the ‘Unlock’ – the practice of unleashing a leap forward with a new approach. Thinking differently, if you dare. So much of the reframe we need for 2022 is about the courage to unlock new ways for ourselves and our organisations. Removing the shackles of the predictable inertia that uncertainty creates.
Take the so-called Great Resignation – positioned as a looming disaster – it has already been debunked as a catastrophe for commerce.
Writing in The Atlantic journal, Derek Thompson, author of the Work in Progress newsletter, reported that despite record-breaking numbers of resignations in the US throughout last year, many industries had experienced growth. “The increase in quits is mostly about low-wage workers switching to better jobs in industries that are raising wages to grab new employees as fast as possible,” he explains. The US accommodation and food services sector, for example, experienced one of the greatest attrition rates in 2021, yet added two million employees.
Without question, people are seeking change as a means to reset and a viable option is to change where or how they work. The pandemic has been the social trigger for this. We need to recognise that these thoughts and subsequent actions arise from either overarching satisfaction or dissatisfaction that is left unresolved. 2022 will be the year in which you need to be in sync with the pulse of your people. There will be less tolerance to leave things unresolved; the power sits with our people in a labour-tight, disrupted workforce – and your people want to matter.
Have the conversations to pressure-test thinking and avoid knee-jerk reactions or chasing short-term change. Instead, reframe decisions around what brings inspiration and impact over a 10-year horizon, allowing your people to assess changes and events with sharp perspective.
People will come to appreciate there is no quick fix to minimise the impacts of the pandemic, we need to ride the storm and design the way we live with it so we can thrive under these new conditions. When we do this, we will be able to genuinely unlock, renew and flourish.
Unlock the future
Right now individuals will gain by deploying four main strategies that will help unlock a holistic, human effect:
01. Unlock big and bold thinking
Your instinct after the past two years may be to keep the horizon short; however, channeling your purpose and missions toward a 10-year horizon will energise you and your teams. Short-term thinking will leave you feeling like a temporary custodian, when in fact you’ve already done many of the hard yards toward building a legacy you can be proud of. Have the courage to go after bigger, bolder plans and aspirations again – at work and at home. Think differently, bring ingenuity. Rally your team to set the next plan on a longer horizon, set a multi-year view to build to your next big adventure, start a health challenge that creates a movement for others. Go big, unlock different ways and expect to navigate through the complexities of the pandemic on the path.
0.2 Unlock your renewal story
Many people and organisations have experienced losses over the past two years, its time to turn your focus to where you have progressed and overcome obstacles. This will recharge your energy, build confidence and optimism. We can cope with incredible challenges if we know we’re gaining in areas that are important to us. Create a new narrative. Use it to create momentum that others will follow and want to be part of. Sharing it, so it becomes infectious.
0.3 Unlock replenished energy reserves
Athletes manage energy like a finite resource. They know how to recuperate and recharge their reserves, they plan for redundancy. Let 2022 be the year that you really master what makes you thrive and perform at your optimum. Whether it’s time spent with family, participating in team sports, boosting your skills with ongoing education, or enjoying conversations with people who add to your world view, plan time for those pursuits, activities and occasions this year. Be careful of the trade-offs you make when the pressure comes. Have triggers to course correct when you make allowances that impact your energy.
0.4 Unlock contingencies and options
Start 2022 with the expectation that half your plans will work and then you won’t be disappointed at every pivot you have to make. With our back against the wall, our creativity and ingenuity spikes. Master the art of contingency planning whilst you pursue bold goals. These are important at work and on a personal level. As you plan the progress and experiences you want to achieve this year, also play out second and third order consequences, ensuring that you are not left without options when faced with setbacks.
Times of exponential change present us with a vast range of possibilities, but making good decisions and taking smart, calculated risks is harder when you’re fatigued and constantly reacting to perceived threats without options.
0.5 Unlock the start-up mindset
As a Founder, I recognise that the attitude we need to channel for a flourishing future is akin to the founder mindset. At the start of the pandemic, I was grateful to find that I could call on the grit and grind of my early start up experience during the early months of the crisis. I also knew how and when to shift out of that. For this reason, I love the concept of unlocking – it provides a mechanism for leaders to continually evolve and shift to the next phase with the ingenuity of a beginner’s mind.
We’ve all founded a strong new basis for flourishing. Our responsibility, as humans, is to do well personally and to contribute to our social and fiscal environment. It’s time to freshen up, think differently and put our unique qualities to work.
We need to unlock to live and contribute to a life worth living.
What’s your unlock?
Vanessa, January 2022.
Visit The Great Reframe – leave leave crisis behind and decide what you will unlock.
A New Approach to Diversity
Gender diversity has a legitimate place in governance and, quite rightly so, it gets a lot of airtime. However, the value of diversity goes beyond addressing under-represented social groups. It makes different types of thinking available to solve complex business problems, optimise boardroom performance, and drive transformational business change.
The Future Learning Organisation
Traditional corporate learning doesn’t leave much to the imagination. The usual classroom-led courses and 70-20-10 mindset are familiar reminders of what corporate learning means to most employees. During these learning experiences, we hope that employees take away as much knowledge as possible and utilize it to not only make them better performers, but also better human beings.
Hacking Habits to a Better Life
Setting new habits is a powerful tool for transforming leaders’ behaviours. And where leaders go, corporate culture will follow. We discuss how to set habits with purpose…