‘It’s like we’re on a movie set!’ said my daughter as we hurtled along on the tube between Oxford Circus and Waterloo in London on the way to a medical appointment. There were two other passengers, she wasn’t wrong!
Leadership, not to mention just life itself, has seemed for some time to be a little like being on a movie set (not necessarily a good one), except no-one handed any of us the script.
Life of course is always a bit like that, but finding the new way during a pandemic, after incredible crises and uncertainty, civil injustices, political discord, and emotional disorders has required us to step up to previously unimaginable challenges.
Facilitating safe hybrid working environments, digitally enhanced ways of operating for staff and customers for optimal service and satisfaction have however, provided a catalyst for significant transformation.
It is well documented that the companies that are surviving, if not thriving, are those that are more focused on their people, even in those industries that have been decimated. Having witnessed first-hand the humility of leaders saying ‘I don’t know how to do this’ or even ‘I’m scared’ not only to me, but to their teams and more widely, has been the impetus to new ways of working and communicating. This in turn has encouraged a sharing of ideas and possibility.
Leaders that have used insightful and curious questioning, and a dollop of vulnerability and honesty, have enabled the limits imposed by lockdown and uncertainty to fuel the innovation required to build back with stronger teams, creativity and growth.
Being in the business of observing and coaching (and very occasionally suggesting), it is evident that leadership for the new workplace requires a way of inspiring, motivating and empowering from a position of not knowing. The new normal is not predictable and therefore being able to lead from this place will be the key differentiator and more likely a better path to wisdom and evolution.
Leadership curiosity and intrigue combined with the ability to explore possibilities and ask good questions could ultimately be more revolutionary than clarity, especially when some of the situations that we currently face are beyond our human experience and understanding. That fundamental and simple skill of asking questions and letting responses flow will come into its own.
Fitbit developed a low-cost and easy to use emergency ventilator, The Clearmask was produced for virus protection and full-face visibility, vital for those that lip read and a more inclusive solution where masks are not a perfect solution for everyone. The list of innovations, not least vaccine development and production, is long. The constant asking of questions helped these organisations progress.
Leadership questions born out of curiosity create alternatives, if you hone one new habit this quarter, make it your ability to ask, not answer.
• It will shape a better agenda
• Increase rather than limit innovation, ideas, and possibilities
• Create a culture of discovery and engage others to do the same
• Inspire learning and growth – personally and professionally
As Einstein himself said ‘the mind that opens to a new idea, never returns to its original size’ and that is always a good thing, personally and professionally.
When no-one hands us the script in life, we just have to write our own.
If you would like us to show you how, you only need to ask.
Later in his life, Sir John Whitmore who introduced coaching into business and published Coaching for Performance, became something of a mentor. We would walk for hours in Knole Park in the Garden of England, sometimes I struggled to keep up, despite him being in his eighties. He turned and said to me once, “the most profound question, Kate, is who are you? Not what are you?” It sparked a transformational journey for him that literally changed his life. I look back and realise it did for me too. In this Mental Health Awareness Week perhaps the most important question we might ask ourselves and our colleagues is ‘Who are you?’ Loves, passions, hobbies, dreams… who knows where it might take you?
Stay safe and look forward to seeing you in real life very soon. We have ‘Build Back Stronger’Leadership Workshops with some awesome guest speakers, do get in touch to find out more.