I have a question for you: do you sometimes feel exhausted by the amount of change, pressure and busyness in your life? Does the thought of leading and supporting others through this feel overwhelming?
If so, I get it! I got caught in a rut earlier this year as I struggled to lead Inkling through a huge shift in our strategy, product and brand. I was stuck and felt incredible pressure to have all the answers and felt heavy with frustration that I was letting the team down who were also struggling with the change.
If you’re with me, let me assure you, we’re absolutely not alone in our struggle with change and uncertainty. It’s something that we consistently hear in our work with people all over the world. In fact, there’s more pressure on us than ever before, as we are asked to do more with less, constantly change in response to our shifting external environment and lead boldly into the unknown.
This cycle of constant change, increased connectivity and advancements in technology can put an enormous toll on leaders and teams. It’s exhausting and has even given rise to health conditions like anxiety, stress and burnout.
In order to lead through times of change and uncertainty, leaders today must learn to take an integrative and holistic approach to work and leadership, merging head with heart.
In a seven-year study looking at the future of leadership, Dr. Brené Brown and her team interviewed various senior leaders from organisations across the globe in an effort to learn about daring leadership in today’s workplace.
Each leader was asked the below question;
What, if anything, about the way people are leading today needs to change in order for leaders to be successful in a complex, rapidly changing environment where we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation?
There was one answer that came up across almost all of the interviews her team did: we need braver leaders and more courageous cultures.
Brave leadership is not about being fearless, it’s a practice. It’s about the willingness to show up, put yourself out there and lean into courage, and we need it to foster courageous cultures. As a leader, we need to ensure we are creating workplaces where people feel safe, seen, heard and respected. This is when the ‘magic’ happens.
Unlocking this ‘magic’ helps drive improved individual and team performance, fosters more innovative and inclusive organisations and helps leaders through times of change, uncertainty and the ‘always on’ period of transformation that we are currently experiencing in today’s workplace.
If you want to unlock the magic in your team in times of change and uncertainty, here are my top 4 tips.
1- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, talk about vulnerability and create a safe space to share difficult feelings and emotions.
Instead of ignoring difficult emotions and conversations, have the courage to be vulnerable by facing and speaking about them compassionately, then move past them to ignite change.
To support this at Inkling, we’ve started running a monthly meeting called Courageous Cultures where I encourage my team to candidly share their views and opinions so that together we can help make Inkling a place we are all deeply proud to work.
2- Lead with a strong sense of purpose
Research done in a 2017 Gallup World Poll found that 85% of the world’s one billion full-time workers were not “engaged”in their jobs, passing their days at the office without purpose and not contributing energy or passion into their work. We need to feel deeply connected to meaning and purpose beyond the day-to-day grind of our daily activities. We want to know that what we do makes a difference.
Leaders who have a strong sense purpose are more focussed and change ready. This starts with having a strong sense of your core values and regularly checking in with yourself and your team to ensure you are living these in your work. Start by asking yourself, “what are my top two values?”.
Being deeply connected to your values and choosing to live these daily can be incredibly rewarding and contribute to a bigger sense of purpose in your life as well. Research from Dr Brené Brown (who is visiting Australia this week!) suggests that the most courageous leaders operate from one or two core values; giving their day-to-day greater meaning and purpose.
3- Adopt a strengths-based approach
Research shows that strengths-based leadership empowers leaders and the people who follow them, as well as fosters healthy and positive workplace cultures.
When the work we do is aligned with our strengths and intent, it cultivates motivation, performance and enjoyment.
As a leader, understanding your strengths as well as those of your team will help bring out the best in in everyone, enabling a workplace that supports people to reach their full potential.
4- Manage both your own energy and that of your teams
Working in an environment that is undergoing rapid change can be exhausting and lead to high levels of stress, at times requiring you and your team to go beyond the normal day to day workload.
It’s not sustainable to expect your team to maintain a high level of engagement nonstop without burning out. There is enough research that suggests if we don’t take care of our bodies, our brain stops functioning and the vicious cycle of exhaustion, being time poor and more stressed begins.
Try addressing resistance through candid conversations with your team, and ensure you are allowing your employees, and yourself, ample time to recover from periods of extreme busyness. The human brain is not wired to multitask and it takes a lot of mental energy to continuously switch gears. Here are few tips to help you manage your energy;
- Identify the most important things that need to be done each day. The research shows that when we learn to be selective about how we spend our time, energy and attention on getting the right things done, we start operating at our highest point of contribution.
- Take brief but regular breaks
- Check your email only at set times each day, say 9am and 4pm
At Inkling, if we need to knuckle down and focus, we send an email to the team letting them know that we’re going offline for the day/X number of hours, and to call if it’s urgent. That way people are less likely to distract you with non-urgent calls and are aware that you’re not going to be available to answer calls or texts.
I challenge you to try and start implementing these tips at work and in life. Here at Inkling, we have found them to really help increase our ability to focus and be more productive through times of change and uncertainty. Let me know if you also find them helpful!
CEO and Co-Founder
PS If you want to learn more practical tools and techniques to help you lead through change and uncertainty, check out our Level Up program below.
Keen to hear more from Soph? Introducing Inkling’s CEO Newsletter.
If you’re an HR or Organisational leader looking to stay at the forefront of the latest industry views and thinking (or anyone interested in hearing more from Soph!) sign up today for Inkling’s CEO Newsletter.
Every 8 weeks Inkling’s CEO Sophie Hampel will share the latest thinking, trends, opinions and her personally recommended readings to keep you in the know when it comes to all things leadership, inclusion, belonging and psychological wellbeing. Fresh ideas landing in your inbox from Thursday, August 8th 2019. Sign up below.