This article was originally written by Andrew for 'The Treasurer' magazine, and appeared in the June 2021 issue. A downloadable copy is available at the end of the post.
REVIEW YOUR FOCUS
I recently facilitated a conversation with a group of senior leaders who were feeling overwhelmed by new uncertainty, demands and possibilities. Together we mapped all their tasks, projects, processes, activities, relationships and goals onto a four-stage eco-cycle and then decided how to prioritise and direct energy. • Sowing: What’s promising? How do we respond to new opportunities created by changes in organisational priorities and structures? Has the market changed? Have we developed new understandings that feel worth exploring? • Tending: What has emerged? New networks, relationships, ways of working and work streams have all been created in the pressure of the past few months – some will be worth protecting and nurturing. • Harvesting: What’s bearing fruit? Think about how you could extract more value from core activities; perhaps you can also give them less energy without diminishing their existing value. • Ploughing: What will we creatively destroy? There are likely to be old ways of doing things that have outlived their value; letting go of them is important and may be hard.
REINVIGORATE YOUR TEAM
It’s worth thinking about how team members support one another. The most adaptable, energised, resilient and productive teams are those where people can contribute without fear of judgement. You can build more of this psychological safety by consciously thinking about: • Creating clarity: Spend time on your purpose, shared priorities and expected outcomes now; acknowledge how those have changed and make sure everyone’s understanding is the same (and don’t assume). • Inviting participation: Make more space for team members to share their ideas, opinions, doubts and concerns. Step back and listen. Show vulnerability and courage by asking for help and saying, “I don’t (yet) know.” Farm for dissent, and lean into respectful conflict. • Responding appropriately: Appreciate people’s contribution, particularly when they are taking risks, disagreeing or showing courage and creativity. Show that it’s OK to not be OK.
REPLENISH YOUR ENERGY
Uncertainty, change and growth require energy. For much of the past year, many people have been relying on their reserves, and your own energy may be running low, just as hope rises on the horizon. Effective leaders hold back energy for themselves; tending to our physical, mental and spiritual energy and health is a core leadership responsibility, especially if we expect to be able to do the work of reviewing and renewing.
As well as the work we all (should) do to keep ourselves physiologically fit – eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough rest – the following neurobiological ‘modes’ have also been shown to restore the mental energy we need for change: • Connecting with others meaningfully – in conversations that are not about work. • Engaging in regular self- reflection – journaling, mindfulness or just making time to take stock. • Switching off and engaging in low-brain-energy activities (like watching rubbish TV). • Creative activities and play – with others or alone, in or outside of work.
Renewal and growth ask us to conserve and direct our energy. Now more than ever, it’s worth making space to think about how you will engage with the opportunities and requests that may be starting to spring up around you.