The world is changing and we must respond.
It is a terrible mistake if we let the disruption paralyse our society. Instead the healthiest response for our economy – and our mentality – is to steer through this unprecedented global state by seeing opportunities and utilising the many possibilities virtually, including virtual leadership development
There is no doubt that the enormous scale and overwhelming speed of the current crisis is resulting in a high degree of uncertainty, a feeling of lost control, and strong emotional disturbance. Our brains are naturally wired to imagine worst-case scenarios and exaggerate potential threats when faced with uncertainty and unpredictable change. We have to acknowledge and accept these thoughts and emotions, but to reduce the burden of stress and anxiety that accompanies any challenge we must change our mindset. We must shift our focus from seeing the problem as an unmanageable burden or destructive force, to seeing the problem as a natural force that allows us to take advantage of new opportunities and embrace innovation. Once that initial reaction of discomfort, fear, or even grief has passed, we must focus on distancing ourselves from the problem, see the opportunities, and take action.
Leaders around the world are going through the most challenging time in their careers. They cannot follow plans drawn up in advance or fall back on past experiences, which is normally the response to routine emergencies. During a crisis like this, ruled by unfamiliarity and uncertainty, the most effective response is largely improvised and collectively achieved. In response to crisis leaders must be able to unify teams and distribute decision-making. A small group of executives cannot process the wealth of information and make decisions quickly enough to effectively respond to the challenges they face. Instead they need to set clear priorities for the response, distribute authorities, and empower their employees to discover and implement solutions that serve those priorities. They need to promote rapid problem solving and execution, and establish a (distributed) high-trust culture focused on outcomes and value creation.
So how do we take action and embrace collaboration while experiencing total distribution of our workforce? Organisations of all sizes are currently crippling around the world because of the need to virtualise their operating rhythm and workplace practices. However there are incredible opportunities to create value through technology, and there are things that technology better enables than traditional analogue approaches – especially around inclusiveness, speed, and the ability to perfectly capture everything in real time. By utilising virtual solutions there are no physical barriers or restrictions, and knowledge and development can spread even quicker. We have the freedom to work across countries, time zones, and work environments – embracing inclusiveness and shared ownership by fusing multiple perspectives and giving everyone a say in creating the future of work and future of living.
Through virtual leadership development solutions, professional development (such as university degrees and qualifications) can be made accessible for everyone by circumventing geographical restrictions. Conferences and expositions can be delivered online and reach a higher volume of attendees, while saving money on venues and accommodation. People can move out of highly populated cities and work remotely from places with more space and less distractions, enabling clarity of thought and creativity. Also, the extensive amount of time and money lost to work commuting and travel can be replaced by more valuable activities, such as spending time with family and friends or in our local communities. In many ways, the current crisis provides an opportunity to reconsider and reorganise our lives to fully align with personal values and simultaneously have a positive impact our societies and our planet. The global travel bans and closure of manufacturers have already had a significant impact on carbon emissions, with drastically improved air quality and reduced CO2 emissions over regions in China and Europe. Even though emission levels tend to bounce back after global disruptions, these powerful demonstrations of the benefits of a clean environment could lead to lasting changes in consumption, attitudes, and industrial policies.
With leaders unifying teams and distributing authority, and employees taking action and utilising the opportunities that arise, we can collectively manage through this extraordinary time. Likewise, by reconsidering and reflecting upon the usability of our operating systems and workplace practices – or even whether our ways of working align with personal values – we can adopt new and positive developments and create a better, more mindful world for everyone. From change comes an opportunity to discover, to let new capabilities surface, and to grow as individuals, teams, and organisations.
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. And if we don’t grow, we aren’t really living” Gail Sheehy
This article was written by Kari Johannsen, Manager