by Orla Scott
Orla is an Executive Coach and the director of Inner Compass from Dublin Ireland, a learning and development company specializing in organizational development and deep transformational change for teams, leaders and individuals.
Before COVID-19 hit I had a fervent aspiration and hope for all leaders and organizations, which was that the traditional way of running businesses that have been lauded, highly valued and rewarded, would somehow change.
I am hoping that a detoxification from an old way of being will be one of the positive aspects of our new reality. Over the last number of years I’ve noticed a deeper level of loneliness and burn out in working with some leaders. They’ve spoken about an internal conflict of trying to balance the pressures of managing huge complexities, traveling and trying to spend time with their families. They tell me they have no time for reflection, no time for resourcing themselves and no time to take a breath. I’ve heard phrases like ‘It’s killing me inside’ and ‘I don’t want to be living like this in 10 years time’. Sound familiar?
We are heading into an unfamiliar world, a global threshold of change. We may struggle to make meaning and create a narrative about what has happened and what has yet to come. I have no doubt that the pressure to ‘get back to normal’ and to forget that we ever experienced COVID-19, will be immense. How do we create meaning around our collective experience and how are leaders expected to show up, as we enter a new way of business. How do we help our teams to accept the level of fear linked to uncertainty and ambiguity? How do we enable and facilitate a dialogue around things being different?
There is a massive opportunity for leaders to really embody the definition of what it means to lead – based on word’s roots, that of ‘a journey’ – an opportunity to move away from traditional frameworks of hard metrics, being tough, having to be in control and putting on a cape of invincibility. This is exhausting and ultimately ineffective. You can’t connect by being tough and pretending, you can however lead by showing empathy, building trust and practicing a new way of leading with humanity. The opportunity to demonstrate to our teams that they really belong in the crucible of finding solutions to complex issues, they are valued for their input, their ideas, and that their creativity and imagination really matters.
Similarly, understanding what’s important to you and how to prioritize getting balance into your life is crucial. I’ve yet to meet a leader who at the end of their career says they wish they’d spent more time traveling like a maniac, or more time in the office. Avoiding the temptation to forge ahead as normal and to dismiss what we have all experienced, requires a shift in consciousness and understanding what’s important. In daily life it is gratitude for the simple things, the small luxuries of time to ourselves. The simple practice of building some reflective space into our daily routine, makes such a difference. This phase has allowed us to stop, to take a pause point, to slow down. The opportunity to value different things – those individuals who care for us, those individuals who feed us, our elders and their collective wisdom. Our children, and the hope and future possibility they represent.
What are your new choices going to be? What have you learnt about how you lead and how you manage your reactions to complex choices? I invite us all to envisage a future where there is more kindness, more understanding, more empathy in the workplace. Purpose, people and profit are not mutually exclusive. Understanding the human need around belonging, mattering and valuing, means we can work with our teams to ensure they experience the answer to basic needs by our behavior and interaction with them.
So, how are you thinking about bravely facing into this transition period and how will you show up and lead in this new era for humanity?