Don’t eat refined sugars. Take exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, three times a week. Eat more green vegetables. We’ve all heard this advice repeatedly over the years. Even those of us who love exercise and fitness can find all this well-meaning help difficult to absorb and apply, despite our best intentions. There is always so much to do. (Is there, though? Really? … perhaps for another post!) Heeding advice, even great advice and then adjusting behaviours, can be really challenging at the best of times. And these are not those times.
Recently, LinkedIn, Twitter and our email inboxes have been stacked high with brilliant advice to leaders about how they should be leading right now. I’ve seen suggestions about how to reduce calendar overload; approaches to helping team members with wellbeing challenges; maintaining organisational culture during lockdown and many, many more besides. And this collection of sage wisdom continues to grow like Topsy. Indeed, I’ve even contributed to the growing opus myself. The advice is both helpful and yet will ultimately make little or no difference to the way your leaders are leading at this moment. Few leaders will evolve as you hope just because they were influenced to, via a White Paper. No teams will suddenly perform brilliantly, as a result of a Tweet.
I would suggest that if you are a senior leader in HR, L&D or a senior HR BP, you can leverage your new-found organisational status in the business. You’ve been a central player in how your organisation has survived the dislocation brought about by lockdown. Your strategic contribution has (finally!) been recognised. You are riding on a high and you can exercise this increased influence to help leaders in your business.
But please: Stop with the advice.
Busy leaders won’t find the time to engage with it in the way you want them to – even the best will struggle to apply it sustainably. And you really don’t want to be adding another layer of work to their already overwhelmed state.
Show. Don’t tell.
Now is the time for a different approach. If you want to bring about an evolution in the way your leaders are leading: Show. Don’t Tell. Role model carving out time for planning, preparation and reflection. Demonstrate focusing on strategic areas rather than getting sucked into the operational detail. Show how to focus on delivering key outcomes and impacts, rather than your total hours logged onto Zoom.
Reach out and offer a hand, because you can and because you have prioritised the right actions to be taking yourself. Now is exactly the moment to be the person willing and able to find time to work with your leaders on their leadership, so that they can wrest back some control of how they are leading inside your organisation. Step into coaching mode and help these leaders find ways to: Stop. Pause. Reflect. Plan. And only then, in a more thoughtful way, deliver the business impacts that are so vital to achieve.
Avoiding the obvious trap!
I am struck by the irony of writing a piece of advice (it can all gets a bit circular can’t it?) so here are a couple of ways to make your experience more real and individual to you. My hope is to spur you to take thoughtful action.
Firstly at the end of July we will be running a webinar on how HR professionals can help leaders thrive in the current context, so keep your eyes open for that – connect with me on LinkedIn and you’ll see the event details next week. Secondly, have a go at answering the questions below for yourself and your situation, so you can be the most help you can to your own leaders. Let me know how it goes!
Coach. Don’t tell.
An exercise for you: Think of a specific leader in your organisation that in your judgement would benefit from some of your help creating quality time to reflect on their leadership and ways of working.
1. If we agree that ‘telling leaders’ is not the most effective approach for helping them evolve right now, what other options do you have available?
2. Knowing what you know of this individual, which one or combination of these possible approaches, do you think might work best?
3. Applying some self-awareness here, which of the possible options that are available do you think you are best placed to offer?
4. What support might you need to access if you are not best placed to facilitate the best option(s)?
5. If you are best placed to help, how can you approach this individual in a way that would enable/encourage them to accept your offer of assistance?
6. What broader awareness would you need to be mindful of, before offering your help?
7. When can you reach out to this leader to start the conversation?
8. What follow-up would you need to consider?
9. What do you need to think about in relation to your own context, workload etc, in order to deliver the best help you can?
10. What question haven’t I asked you, that you can ask yourself, to be able to help this individual most effectively?