Leading Adaptive Work

How do you lead adaptive work? Here are six ideas to help you get on the right direction. See the focused posts this week on adaptive leadership via Chesil Infinity's social media platforms.

Get on the balcony - features in Get Off the Dance floor in more detail - but essentially, as a Leader you can horizon scan and plan out for those opportunities and threats much more efficiently from a view point away from the day to day detail and cultures or the organisation.

Maintain discipline - no, we are not talking shouting at your team like a cohort of recruits from years ago, you need to help people be accountable for trade offs. Leaders today don't provide all of the solutions, new Leaders look for answers with teams, and this includes making the difficult decisions and being accountable for them. In adaptive challenges, sometimes values need to change, how often do we see change in organisation, which lasts for a few months then slowly the culture and behaviours seep back in. Adaptive leadership maintains huge elements of the past and organisational DNA, we only need to make small tweaks and see what difference they make, but we do need to ensure that old behaviours are reverted to when things get tough or the pace drops off.

Identify the adaptive challenge - organisations need to learn quickly to adapt to new challenges - again, not rewriting the DNA of the organisation (we share 90% DNA with chimps still - for context!) but acknowledging that what has gone before has got us this far - do we hunker down and do what we know works (because by the way, none of us have ever been here before, ever - this next second is a new experience for every single one of us!) Or do we use this challenge as an opportunity to create new solutions? (Ps, the latter is the adaptive leader solution).

Give work back to the people - you cannot do this alone. You want to foster a culture which does not mean those in authority know all the answers. You as a Leader simply know which questions to ask to work out where to go next and what to try. You want to empower your teams and organisation as much as possible to take the tasks and work on the solutions.

Protect the voices from below - make sure every stakeholder has a voice, through identifying your adaptive challenge, you have worked out who your stakeholders are, then which factions they sit in (more on factions on Friday - sign up for updates!) and so you know what strategy you need to seek their perspective - not just their view, but actually what is the challenge like for them? So often people and opinions are dismissed through either dissenting or being classed as a 'trouble maker'. As leaders, you need the insight from every unique hill top in your team.

Regulate distress - people can only take so much change in so much time, and this doesn't mean don't do it, but do think through your strategy. So your adaptive challenge is set, you've worked with your people to understand a solution - remembering you can't do it alone - now you throw out sixteen solutions and ask the same group of people to work through them. Not only do you have less clue of what is being impactful to what - even from your balcony - you will be causing people to panic. There will always be fear or change, or being changed, but the manner in which this is handled (regulation) is key.

This is the start of recognising yourself as an adaptive leader - how many of you have held a mirror up and asked if you do all of the above? Do you truly listen?

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