We are about to see how critical it is to do more than ‘hold productivity’ (or outputs), but also to ‘hold people’ and the team structures in which they operate. Over the next year, this need will deepen and intensify. The opportunity at our feet right now, in response to novel conditions, is to lay the foundations for a diversity of response. We need to keep exploring questions like:
How do we configure hybrid workspaces?
What are we actively valuing in our organisation?
How is leadership holding up?
How are we energising a workplace that is dispersed and remote?
Here are six keys to open thinking and build a diversity of response. You might wish to see them as a set of conversation prompts, or, with a few concrete actions attached, as mini experiments.
1. Play ‘above the line’
Positive, confident and exploratory all describe ‘above the line’ functioning. To spot new ways of doing things, or ways forward, you need to be optimistic and confident that they are out there, and to be curious about finding them.
Defensive, fearful and contracted describes ‘below the line’ functioning. The more time we spend here, the less likely we are to see the ways through, or to assemble the courage and motivation to face the future.
Both positions are fully human and expected, but we should aim to acknowledge where we are, and what we need to do to shift to an above the line position.
2. Invest in social capital
Social capital refers to the bonds of loyalty and trust that form between people, and it has very powerful effects on functioning. Social Capital orientates us towards supporting each other, builds resilience, and convenes our collective imaginations to pioneer new ways of doing business. It takes groups of individuals and transforms them into highly driven teams.
Connecting, speaking up, listening, and empathising all shore up the reserves of social capital. In newish formats of hybrid work, and during times that feel chaotic, this precious reserve of capital may gradually deplete. Yet it is a critical ingredient for thriving.
Nourish relationships consistently, creating structured times and spaces to do so. One very simple technique to start with, is to pose a general question that everyone must answer in the occasional meeting, and make it outside of work concerns.
3. Don’t do nothing
Uncertainty can produce paralysis. But it can also present opportunity. And we can only take advantage of new opportunity if we act.
Action spurs learning and expands our ability to explore, discover and chart new paths.
With a deeper dive into foresight, we can continue to decide, act, and take calculated risks.
4. Ask better questions
There is a big payoff to asking better questions – we get to tackle the unknown and find better solutions. Innovators move the world forward through questions. They ask – What if? Why?
The best questions release insight, get others thinking, frame the challenge, drive growth and innovation. Beautiful questions can also demonstrate empathy.
Build questioning skills and support cultures of inquiry at work.
How do we get to more beautiful and purposeful questions? Here are a few pointers.
5. Walk your talk
In everything you do, you set the expectation for what others should do.
Taking time off, making time out sacred, respecting ‘deep work’ time, being ‘always on’, weekend working – if you are in a leadership position (which most people are, formal or not), you are setting examples to be followed.
Be mindful of the example you set.
On the note of overwork, the research is clear: Long hours backfire for people and companies, says HBR.
6. Identify what energises people and teams
Where can people make their biggest impact?
What is most likely to block or derail their effort?
How can people work better together, based on their natural energy for contributing?
We have come a long way in terms of people impact data. We can measure contribution to role, team, and business outcomes. Impact data is crucial for productivity. It also boosts employee satisfaction if you act on it.
Your ideal state is knowing where and how people want to make an impact. This awareness can help focus development, build diversity into teams, and create the conditions for minority voices to be heard and their contributions activated.
Appetite for risk, bigger picture thinking, the craft of perfection, the pragmatism of where to focus first, getting people to work together, these are all different kinds of people impact measured by an instrument called The GC Index.
What is your diversity of response to change?
We have new tools and insights at our disposal to build and grow people and teams.
Let’s use them.