“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
Even before our current social, health, and economic crises, we assessed that many leaders, teams, and organizations were not evolving their leadership, strategy, and engagement skills for the new workplace needs.
You’ve heard the term “a rising tide lifts all boats” – this is what was happening. Unfortunately, many of these leaders, teams, and the “boats” they ran had significant gaps taking on water. Now without the “rising tide”, those gaps are more visible and significant to your ability to thrive in the future.
Here’s the good news. There is a tremendous opportunity right now to re-board yourself and your team. Like onboarding is used to orient employees to an organization’s way of doing things, re-boarding is necessary when the game and the rules of that game have changed, forcing a new way of doing things to succeed.
When you wake up tomorrow, the game of life and leadership is going to be played. You have no choice but to participate, as the game will be played with or without you. Examine the following two scenarios. Which would you rather choose?
- Play the game that will be determined for you whether you like it or not. Lead the way you did before. Use the same strategy and style. Choose the same teammates and allow the same culture that made you successful in the past. Will your past way of leading work in this new world?
- Have the courage to re-envision a new game for this new world, one that takes advantage of your strengths and is defined by what you want and how you want to play. What type of people do you want on your team? What skills do you need to succeed? What is meaningful to you, your team, and your customer? What does success in this new game look like? What do the rules look like for success?
A new game requires new rules and new skills. Through honest assessments, you can clarify the strengths you possess, the gaps and roadblocks holding you back, and the new skills needed to perform. Get clarity around the following questions:
- What leadership and coaching skills are necessary for success?
- What technical and emotional skills are necessary?
- What communication and meeting skills are necessary?
- What roadblocks do we keep laying down and stepping over versus busting through for good?
- Does each person routinely provide on-time, predictable results?
- Are we individually and collectively accountable?
You now have a clear aspirational vision of the game and the skills necessary to play. You have an understanding of the team’s strengths as well as the roadblocks that exist. Now define the rules to play successfully.
The rules are the actions, commitments, and behaviors it will take from the leader(s) and teammates to succeed. We like to involve the entire team in an exercise to co-create and commit to the new rules. It becomes a negotiated agreement and accountability document for everyone involved.
Discuss, agree, and record answers to the following questions:
What are the expectations of a leader in our company in the following areas?
- Crucial conversations
- Personal and leadership development of ourselves and others
- Add other questions as necessary for your organization
Record the answers on a large, branded piece of paper to be hung where all can see. Start with a statement such as, “The members of X team have agreed to the following expectations of a leader in X company.” Make it inspiring and from the heart. Have each member of the team sign this document. Go over it often as a team. These are the rules of your new game, and you should hold each other positively accountable to it.
Employee engagement studies show only 30% of U.S. employees actively engage in their work. The cost is in the billions of dollars and creates many unhappy workers. It is crucial to commit to engagement, and it really isn’t that hard. Embrace these proven steps to improve:
- Safety – Make people you lead feel safe, secure, and supported at all times. Ensure you recognize how their work affects you personally as well as the organization’s success.
- Performance Planning – Each person will have gaps or improvements identified in the above. Co-design performance improvement plans for each teammate to successfully re-board to the new game and new rules.
- Improved Meeting Pulse – Change will be frequent. You and your team need to embrace flexibility. Design a weekly, if not daily, meeting where everyone reflects on the realities of the marketplace and their goals.
- Engage – Author Marcus Buckingham defined a simple way to regularly engage with your direct reports. Commit to asking each of your reports these three questions each week.
- Tell me about the most important thing you experienced last week?
- Tell me about the most important thing you are working on this week?
- How can I help coach or mentor?
- Own Your Own Wake – Your positive or negative actions will affect people long after you have left. Be mindful and intentional. Lead your life and work by example.
Remember, you are constantly in choice. Use these suggestions to lead your aspirational vision for this new world we live in. Don’t worry about getting it all right or perfect. Show your leadership by beginning and engaging your team in the creation of your new game.
Greg Karl is a coach and consultant helping executives, leaders, and teams with leadership transition and development. If you are interested in exploring how you and your organization can take the next step in your leadership journey, Greg is offering free one-hour coaching sessions to help you explore next steps. Contact him at: