Coming Down the Mountain: Coming Out Of This Crisis Stronger

Breakthrough technology, uncertainty and the unprecedented and ever-increasing speed of change demand an organisation that is a fit for the challenges of the 21st century. We are describing not just a better, but a very different kind of way to operate. An organisation built to change; one where disruption, agility and speed of learning dominate the leadership conversation.

Which brings us to the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis has three stages. Stage one: acceptance. Stage two: survival. Stage three: growth. And the winners will be? Those who come out of this crisis stronger.

Amid the veritable avalanche of "me too" advice on how to get through this crisis it is easy to overlook two central questions:

  1. "How will your business come out of this stronger?"
  2. "As a leader, how will you personally come out of this stronger?"

"Part One: Coming Down the Mountain" looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

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Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis

"Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" is a complementary book series, specifically aimed at enhancing how leaders respond to times of crisis.

The books cover concepts such as how to come out of this crisis stronger, culture, leadership agility and learning, what makes great teams. Also included are essential skills to enable us to start having conversations about moving forward while taking appropriate actions.

Read on for more information about the book series:

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Coming Down the Mountain

Part One, Coming Down the Mountain, looks at how to come out of this crisis stronger:

  • The Three Stages of Crisis
  • Letting Go of Our Past
  • Following a Script From a Different Century
  • The New Normal
  • Coming Down the Mountain
  • Why Culture Matters
  • Next Steps
  • Appendix one: 3 X 3: Crisis, Culture and Change
  • Mindset Assessment: Will You come Out of This Crisis Stronger?

The Culture Conversation

Recognising, as we move forward, how important organisation culture is, Part Two outlines the Culture Conversation:

  • The Culture Carriers
  • Look, Listen, Learn
  • The Building Blocks
  • Culture Is A System
  • Is the Organisation Managing Its Culture?
  • What Makes the Business Special?
  • One Culture or Many?
  • Measurement
  • Strategy Versus Culture
  • A Team of Teams
  • Without Leadership You Ain't Got Much
  • The Orxestra Change Model
  • Culture Assessment

Leadership, Learning and Agility: The Way Of The Dolphin

Part Three explores the need for leadership agility and what that implies: Leadership Agility and Learning - The Way of the Dolphin:

  • Agility is a Way to Think
  • Bass and the Shark
  • Agility and Speed of Learning
  • The Way of the Dolphin
  • Conclusion
  • Assessment: How Good a Coach Are You?

Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams

Drawing on the reality that tomorrow's organisation will be a team of teams, Part Four examines what it means to be an outstanding team - Great Organisations Are Built Around Great Teams:

  • Who We Were is Who We Are
  • It's All About Culture
  • Organisational Lessons from Nature
  • The Organisation of Tomorrow
  • Building a Great Team
  • Team Assessment

When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper - It's Time To Sharpen Your Saw

Part Five moves beyond leadership as a philosophy and drills down into essential skills - When the Trees Get Bigger and the Forest Gets Deeper, It's Time to Sharpen Your Saw:

  • Are You The Leader They Need?
  • Assessing Your Organisation's Leadership Balance
  • If Ever There Was a Time to Listen - It’s Now
  • The Listening Tree
  • To Lead Is To Care
  • 50 Ways To Say You Care - In a Covid World
  • If You Are Not Living Your Own Story, You Are Living Someone Else's
  • Resilience Assessment

Download your complementary copy of "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis" from TRANSEARCH Downloads.

Tomorrow's Leaders Are Comfortable With Ambiguity

There are points in time when the more we know, the more we realise how little we know. We are in such a time. The future role of robotics/cobotics, the nature and design of tomorrow's corporation, the potential impact of medical breakthroughs and how tomorrow's technology, generally, is going to shape the endeavour – arguably, the most innovative creation our species has ever achieved – that we call "the organisation" remain, at best, "uncertain". If you think you "know", take an aspirin, lie down and hopefully the feeling will pass.

"Anticipation" is to identify that which can be expected. We don't really know what tomorrow holds other than … to expect the unexpected. Furthermore, the scope and nature of change that lies ahead isn't like passing through bad weather. It's akin to being engulfed by a hurricane that is merely a harbinger of the even bigger storm front that lies ahead.

"Comfort with ambiguity" is being comfortable with being uncomfortable. It's the art of not knowing but, when necessary, making the right decision anyway. It's far less about being right than it is doing the right things. It's about interpreting the organisation's values as a springboard for action and providing the freedom to move beyond what has been – not as a restrictive set of rules.

There is a well-established relationship between entrepreneurship and comfort with ambiguity. It's called risk. Recognising a great idea, relentless focus, a results-driven mentality and real-time awareness are the mark of the entrepreneur. As is avoiding, what Jeff Bezos calls, "day 2 stasis." Day 1 leaders keep the customer at the centre of everything they do, are quick to embrace meaningful trends, are paranoid about the bottom line and fail fast and move on. Most leaders see rejection as a setback. Entrepreneurs view it as just one more step on the road to success. Above all, successful entrepreneurs know how and when to say no. Corporate executives manage risk … entrepreneurs live it every day.

There is also an important team dimension to comfort with ambiguity. As a long-suffering child of the perceived need for rigid hierarchy, it has long been assumed that the team worked for the team leader. "Fast", "flat", "flexible", "focused" and "fertile" changes all that. Moving forward, the leader will work for the team. This implies a far subtler relationship; a bond where formal authority gives way to trust, mutual respect and the quest for authenticity. Instruction and "telling" were relatively straightforward. Followership rooted in influence moves the leader into far murkier waters. Not that there is much of a choice when technical know-how and customer insight are shared across the team. If you can't coach, you can't lead!

And the difference that makes a difference: Recognise that only those who can see what others cannot see … can do what others say cannot be done. Differentiate between those who deliver based on what is asked of them and those who show true initiative. Support the former … invest in the latter.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".

Tomorrow's Leaders Must Be Resilient

Tomorrow will be different. If it can be digitalised it will be digitalised. No matter what "protectionist" politicians may preach, globalisation isn't going to slow down any time soon. Tomorrow's competition will emanate from a city you have never heard of or business sector you rarely think of. And where organisational capability is widely held, "speed" becomes the basis of competitive advantage. Be bold or become irrelevant. Be tough-minded or tackle a new line of work. Be fast or be last.

In a steady state world, "bouncing back" is an apt way to describe resilience. Unfortunately, we don't live in a steady, consistent, unchanging world. Today's environment is marked by disorder, uncertainty and, where technology is involved, a pattern of change where each step is greater than the step that went before. What was frustrating is about to become even more so.

In any conversation around change, language isn't important … it's everything. With the scope and nature of change likely to become even more turbulent, resilience seen as a way to reinforce/retain the status quo isn't very helpful. Indeed, it's misleading. A more relevant approach presents resilience as adapting to the new state, reflecting on the experience and developing new ways to behave. It's a dynamic rather than a static process. It's about leading and learning … not absorbing and then acting as before.

Resilience means not only weathering the storm … but being strengthened by it. In assuming that resilience defines an individual's personal resources - as is invariably the case - we miss an important piece of the puzzle. Context matters and the right network, a support system and being around positive people make a difference. Tomorrow's successful leaders will surround themselves with people who are resilient.

Accepting the plasticity of the brain, we can learn to become more resilient. There is a link, for example, between resilience and the research on positive psychology. Conversely, for leaders who are overly anxious, risk-averse, trapped by yesterday's success, have difficulty facing adversity or are simply overwhelmed by life, resilience is spelt "resistance."

And the difference that makes a difference: Surround yourself with resilient people, provide an opportunity to assess personal resilience, make resilience a central plank in ongoing coaching and help high performers connect with and shape their own story. There is nothing more tragic than those not living their own story … because they are living someone else's.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".

Culture Question - Are Middle Managers Fully In The Game?

No organisation of more than 150 or so people has one single and unified culture (often referred to as "The Dunbar Rule"). The challenge becomes one of tight-loose leadership: allow local differences to flourish (for example the term "team" means something entirely different in Seoul than it does in Syracuse) while, at the same time, develop an overarching Meta culture that ensures common values, consistency, connection, collaboration, caring for the customer and an unrelenting commitment to the whole.

The group that binds everything together is the "middle managers". Moreover, they are the only group that can! And the straw that stirs the middle management drink is inspirational leadership, especially from the leaders who are expected to inspire the middle kingdom - leaders one level up! Leaders who inspire do four things extraordinarily well:

  1. Through imagery, symbolism, metaphor and story they make tomorrow come alive in the room today.
  2. In addition to agreed goals and scope of responsibility, they ensure that everyone on the team fully understand their role on the team.
  3. They see coaching not as a nice capability to have but as central to what it means to be a leader.
  4. They bring out the best in people and treat team members with dignity and respect. Always!

If the middle managers in your business are sitting on the sidelines … if the middle kingdom isn't fully in the game you don't have a strategy you have a problem.

Insights from "The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture".

The Benefits of Virtual Employment

"Virtual employment" has been embraced enthusiastically by some. Others have found it to be an unwanted intrusion into their lives. One study in Canada, the "11th Annual Salary Guide," found that two in five employees (43%) believe their companies have failed to provide measures that support their well-being throughout the pandemic. The lack of social interaction (45%), isolation/loneliness (27%) and increased workload (25%) being the main reasons. What can be said for sure is that things will never return to the way they were.

The virtual workplace has four major benefits:

  1. Cost savings. The obvious saving being significantly reduced office costs. Meanwhile, wage and benefit costs - especially if a large number of administrative staff can be recruited from low wage areas of the country or even offshore - can be trimmed. If you are based in a high-cost city such as San Francisco, London or Sydney this is no small thing. There is evidence that remote employees work an additional 1.4 days per month than in-office employees. (Inc. Magazine, October 2019.) The same source suggests that remote workers save over $4,000 per year on travel costs (compared to in-office employees).
  2. Lifestyle. There are an increasing number of city dwellers who - for lifestyle, the cost of housing and family reasons - would love to replace concrete with grass, a high-rise balcony with a garden and a seat on the subway with a quiet cup of coffee at home. Family health is especially impactful. Even after a workable COVID-19 vaccine is available, what will continue to be an emotional burden well into the future is the sense of vulnerability, the feelings of helplessness and the fear that accompanies a pandemic.
  3. Monitoring performance. Remote work is relatively easy to monitor. Tracking ongoing productivity and key outcomes is invaluable. Expect the technology in this respect to advance in leaps and bounds.
  4. Organisation agility. When fixed costs are replaced by variable costs, additions - or reductions - in the workforce become easier to manage. Moreover, having developed the tools to support a virtual workforce - webinars, products, video meetings, distance learning - greater value can be derived from the established training and development budget.

The benefits of remote working as decribed are far from the end of the story. Beyond this crisis lies, what well may be, an even bigger social upheaval. Many of the positions currently being moved away from the traditional office represent exactly the type of work that technology will disrupt/replace tomorrow. While employees work to become proficient in Zoom and other video-based communication tools, an army of technologists are working on Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and alternative ways for "the machine" to make further inroads into routine work.

Extract from "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" Orxestra Inc., © 2021

Story is Culture and Culture is Story

Tomorrow's successful leader will be someone who can slalom through the white water of unanticipated disruption and culture change. To that end, little is more important as a navigation aid than the organisation's story. That story has five essential building blocks:

1) Where are we headed?
2) What do we believe in?
3) What makes us special?
4) What is our brand promise?
5) How do we make a difference in people's lives?

Story is culture and culture is story. Yesterday, strategy informed culture. Moving forward, culture enables strategy. If you are not measuring culture ... you are not managing it.

Insights from "Speed of Learning: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage".

Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All
bedfordgroup.com

The COVID-19 crisis has changed, indelibly, our assumptions about leadership, the nature of work, what it means to be an employee, the hiring process and business travel/training. It has also shaken the very pillars of the so-called 'modern organisation'. When large numbers of employees are asked to work remotely we are redefining both the organisation's culture and what it means to be an organisation.

With today's challenge in mind, John Burdett outlines a simple workforce matrix to segment the work population and highlights five central questions that, as you come down the COVID-19 mountain, are worthy of reflection.

Read "Virtual Employment: Don't Assume One Size Fits All" leadership insights

Five TOP leadership competencies

"The shortage of talent"

It's a pretty good bet that, as you read this, somewhere in your competitor's camp there is an ongoing conversation about the qualities that describe tomorrow's leadership. Be it talent acquisition, succession, identifying high potential talent and/or shaping the investment in leadership, one thing is assured … tomorrow will not be a continuation of today.

We commonly see references to "the shortage of talent." Paradoxically, there is no shortage of talent. The growing number of business schools around the world, combined with the billions of dollars spent globally on leadership development means that there is actually a surfeit of candidates. The problem? The vast majority of those candidates are a great fit for a business environment that served us well in the past.

TOP Talent

A more integrated, faster and, by a quantum step, more complex business environment demands not just a new way to think and act but a new definition of "leadership success." Exponential change fuelled by ongoing leaps in technology … exacerbated by unprecedented disruption on a global scale … is, indelibly, redefining what is meant by the term "TOP Talent."

As we move into unchartered territory - where only those organisations that are fast, flat, flexible, focused and fertile (to new ideas) will survive - TOP (Transforming, Outstanding, Performance tested) Talent refers to those fully equipped to excel in a, hitherto unknown, level of business and societal uncertainty.

TOP leadership competencies

Other than know-how in technology, which is a given, leadership competencies differ depending upon the role. This emphasises the need to develop "role-specific" leadership competencies. Generic competencies have value, e.g., the broad leadership development agenda, but they are less than useful, however, when making hiring and succession decisions. That understood, five TOP leadership competencies are emerging as having future primacy:

  • A Passion to Learn
  • Leadership Reach
  • Comfort with Ambiguity
  • Resilience
  • Culture Savvy

In a world dominated by ideas, a move from cooperation to collaboration is essential - and inevitable. The environment and a new generation dominating the workplace mean that tribal loyalty will, of necessity, give way to a stronger sense of community. A community mindset, meanwhile, ushers in the dominance of stakeholder capital. How does your team make a difference in people's lives?

Although many are served by a more defused definition, "employee engagement" is about building a culture where opportunity and capability are aligned. To that end, any falloff in the fit between the speed of change in the business environment and a sense of personal growth - a perceived lack of currency in the job market - will quickly disillusion those the organisation most wants to retain. Why do your best people stay?

Finally, the fallibility of strategy means that, rather than being the by-product of a singular, linear direction, the organisation's culture must enable a range of potential future options to unfold. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable becomes the new norm.

Insights by John Burdett. Orxestra Inc., © 2018.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".

The Challenge for Global Leaders and Learners

The challenge for global leaders and learners (those terms should almost be synonymous) is to learn how to adapt to changing business currents and how to selectively engage the experience and insights that have served us well in the past while embracing new knowledge and a new sense of open-mindedness for whatever comes next.

Part of this new playbook for professional and managerial growth is to make some well thought out investments in the next generation of leaders who may, sooner perhaps than you might have previously imagined, be successors to some of the most pivotal roles in your enterprise. Perhaps even yours!

You see, mentoring, encouraging and acting to promote promising younger stars in our modern-day, highly interconnected global organisations is not only part of the chemistry for future growth we need to achieve ambitious goals, but also the means through which we see business opportunities through a different lens and build the internal support for seizing them.

Insights from "Providing Opportunities for Next Generation Leaders".

3 Key Lessons Learned From Covid-19
transearchusa.com

TRANSEARCH USA surveyed nearly 100 companies in 10 diverse sectors to assess the response of American companies to the sea of changes triggered by the pandemic. Chris Swan and John Ryan present key findings to help you learn what your company can do to conquer the crisis and emerge stronger than before.

Key results:

  • 50% of employees will continue to work from home post-pandemic.
  • More than 45% of respondents want their leaders to improve Emotional Intelligence skills.
  • 30% of organisations will focus on attracting new talent after the pandemic.
  • The top three 'human capital priorities' will be improving organisational agility and flexibility, retaining current talent and succession plans.

Read "3 Key Lessons Learned From Covid-19" leadership insights

What Value Creation Should You Expect From an Executive Search Provider?

Taking talent acquisition to the next level

In a world marked by speed of change, doing what we have always done, better (value added) ... is not enough. The right search partner will deliver the ideas, capability and experience to help you take talent acquisition to the next level.

Without access to best practice, forging new ways to think becomes an uphill battle. Without new questions learning is limited. Where successful role models are missing, our extraordinary ability to copy what works cannot kick in. And when thought leadership is little more than "a consulting label" creating tomorrow today becomes a bridge too far. There is clearly a good deal to gain, therefore, from working with best-in-class, external resources.

7 critical areas of distinct value

At a minimum, in addition to sector expertise and international capability, the search provider must deliver distinct value in seven critical areas:

  1. Bring creativity and flair when it comes to attracting top talent.
  2. Help the client "measure" the culture they have today (roots) and the culture the organisation needs moving forward (wings).
  3. Leading-edge tools to build a robust, balanced scorecard for the position.
  4. Develop role-specific competencies for the role in question.
  5. Provide a meaningful process to determine team fit. As with culture, this implies measurement.
  6. Coach inexperienced line managers in how to conduct the interview.
  7. Bring support and appropriate tools to the integration process, and that means a good deal more than the perfunctory call to see if the newly hired candidate is doing okay.

The organisation's story underscores a successful hiring value proposition. Central to that story are the hiring organisation's values. Unfortunately, although the majority of organisations claim to have "organisation values," in many instances, they amount to little more than window dressing. To "win" top talent over even a great story may not be enough. A best-in-class search professional draws out why high performers stay and leverages that insight to inspire the candidate who is happy where they are.

The approach to measuring culture needs to reflect the context. By way of example, an organisation confronting transformational change faces a very different challenge to that of a successful business seeking to better manage the culture they have. It is also important - and especially so in talent acquisition - that the approach describes the cultural journey in business terms.

You can't manage what you don't measure. Talent acquisition devoid of a robust measure of the culture the organisation needs to compete tomorrow … amounts to little more than the hiring executive's "best guess." For a unique and compelling measure of organisation culture see - The A-Z Of Organization Culture. John O. Burdett (2017).

Developing role-specific competencies implies a library of relevant and up-to-date leadership competencies. It also means a proven leadership model that ensures that the competencies identified deliver "leadership balance." For a measure of leadership balance, see John O. Burdett, Attract, Select, Develop & Retain TALENT (2013). Balance denotes fit in four critical leadership areas:

  1. Direction,
  2. Discipline of Delivery,
  3. Development of people, and
  4. Day-to-day Dialogue.

This simple leadership template is the outcome of asking 15,000 leaders in 40 countries, "What do you NEED from a leader?" It is framed in The Orxestra® Methodology: the head (direction); the hand (delivery); the heart (development of people); and the spirit (day-to-day dialogue).

The best candidate vs. the right candidate

Talent acquisition cannot thrive in a vacuum. It's an integral part of the overall talent management system. If you hire great people and coaching is a hard-to-find skill, assume a higher attrition rate than might be expected. If "succession" is poorly thought through expect to go outside for talent more often than is good for the organisation's health. And if the leadership development agenda is found wanting, know that over-hiring for virtually every position will be a given.

The implications are profound. When the seven dimensions of distinct value (offered by the executive search provider) are either missing or short-changed and where the search is delivered as a tactical "replacement" - not as strategic and integral to the client's overall talent management system - the inevitable, default outcome is to hire the best and not the right candidate.

Uncovering the best candidate is, essentially, a beauty contest. It's the corporate version of the popular NBC talent show America's Got Talent. If they look and sound good, give them a ticket to Vegas. On the other hand, finding the right candidate is a matchless investment in building tomorrow's leadership bench strength … today.

Building a BRAND mindset

For many service providers business development is perceived as a kind of wrestling match … where the next sale, overcoming objections and asking for the order become the name of the game.

Delivering all of the elements of fit, landing the right candidate is predicated on a supplier/client relationship that goes beyond "winning the sale." It speaks of a trust-based partnership where long-term success is based on the search provider understanding the client's emerging business need as well as the client does. It defines a way to work where making the client's business better always takes precedence. It builds on a mindset where BRAND means Better Results And No Disappointment.

Successful business development ultimately draws on one simple question, "What do we have to do to ensure that the client views us not as a supplier but as truly part of their team?

Finding world-class talent requires a partnership with a trusted outside advisor. Visit TRANSEARCH International to discover our wide-ranging approach to leadership acquisition and development.

Insights by John Burdett. Orxestra Inc., © 2019.

Insights from "Talent Acquisition - The Battle For Tomorrow".