Leaders a cure for post-crisis hangovers

Leaders a cure for post-crisis hangovers

Cultivate a worldview and mindset appropriate for the times and set the tone for your people

I am not suggesting in the headline above that business and organisational leaders are turning to drink, but there are common effects that leaders and the organisations they lead are facing these days.

I have spent much of the last month or so catching up with senior leadership peers here in Bangkok. I have done this for personal and professional reasons and because leaders best learn from each other. I have heard inspiring stories of new opportunities, innovative business pivots and personal discoveries.

I will not go into individual details as they are industry-specific, but I have observed common lingering symptoms created in the last two years. I am not suggesting these are the only or most critical issues that leaders at all levels face, but they stand out enough to me that I would like to share them. I believe addressing them can help organisations make a significant jump forward.

It is obvious that despite an encouraging return against the backdrop of global challenges, teams are still struggling with less-than-optimal collaboration, alignment and focus. These all have a cost for organisations.

I recently read a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit that found that not putting this right was causing a project failure rate of 44%. Twenty-five percent of respondents reported a failure to hit goals, and 31% reported a negative impact on employee morale. In these challenging times, I do not think any organisation wants to carry this burden.

As with many of the challenges we face today, the solution starts with leaders because they are the only ones who fix the problem. They need a worldview and mindset appropriate for the times we live in and must also:

  • Communicate and collaborate more effectively at the top to get the important things done.
  • Ensure their most capable people know what each other is doing.
  • Move faster in the market by getting certain functions to collaborate and create initiatives and work together.
  • Get un-busy and align with each other. Spend less time in meetings and more getting things done.

I can personally vouch for the above. My organisation and I have struggled with all of the above challenges. It has been frustrating for me as a leader and for my people. I certainly cannot claim to have solved all of our challenges, but I can share a little of what I have seen work, and what other senior leaders have shared with me. As leaders, and especially as leaders of leaders, we can start by:

Examining our impact on those we lead and beyond. Look up and look around, and see beyond ourselves, our team and our function. Look beyond the business because none of us works in a vacuum.

Looking at our thinking and worldview and understanding where we might be part of the problem or roadblocks. This self-awareness is essential right now when productivity depends on relationships (in a more virtual world).

Checking that we are on the same (and right) page. This is linked to the above. It has not been easy to spend time with peers and ensure our understanding and objectives do not drift apart. Leaders need to get out and ask to ensure they have an aligned view of each other and the business. Without this, we cannot define and link our team and functional objectives or identify the best opportunities to positively impact others. This is the starting point for improved collaboration and moving the business forward.

Staying connected with peers. Alignment takes constant effort; it is not a one-time deal. Leaders must practise increasing their awareness so we can find new and better ways of working together, mutual objectives, and understanding progress and changes, and the opportunities that result.

These things are equally important at the team, function and organisational levels. But if you are a senior leader there is more that needs your attention:

  • Get senior leadership sponsorship. This is essential because if senior leaders are not prepared to support the change, you may as well not bother. Nothing will change or last without this support.
  • Start with mindsets. Help your leaders develop the right mindset together, or alignment and sustainable change cannot grow.
  • Involve unofficial leaders. There are key figures, talent, and influencers in your organisation that can help you improve the situation. Get them onboard to spread the word and change their thinking. They can help you reinforce a more outward approach at every opportunity.
  • Try, and try again. Try, try, fail, adjust, try again. It will not be perfect. It is about learning and growing together.

It takes time but changing your leaders’ collaboration mindset is incredibly powerful in times like these. It helps you discover innovative solutions to new challenges and overcome the challenges of potentially competing interests, siloed objectives, clashing ways of working and a lack of big-picture awareness and the resulting execution gaps.

At the very least, you will create a better connected and aligned leadership team and shared awareness of the external and internal business context. All are essential to moving organisations forward today.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. Email her at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

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