At the end of last year, I talked to 50 leaders in industries ranging from the media and TV, sport, not-for-profit, financial institutions, education, technology, and the public sector about what they learnt from the pandemic, and how they will take these lessons into the future.
The future of work:
The findings of Lasting lessons: Life and leadership post pandemic fell into five clear themes: wellbeing, spontaneous interaction, hybrid working, clear communication and reimagining the future.
While there was no doubt that the uncertainty of the pandemic generated a sense of destabilisation and anxiety in teams, leaders who talked about change as a continuous improvement, rather than another restructure or shift in the business, brought a sense of calm motivation to their teams.
Knowing that change and possibility can happen, and that new ideas and exploring new directions are not off the table, teams drove for better solutions, not happy to put up with the status quo if the status quo did not work.
I then asked the leaders what they felt they could do with their teams to help them navigate this new future, and a three-step plan fell into place for most.
- Take a gentle, curious approach to your team’s sense of purpose so they agree own values, rather than imposing from above.
- Create a shared sense of purpose with questions like “When this team is working best, it’s like what?” and “Then, what happens?”
- Encourage the team to engage and create a shared metaphor to picture what the team is like when it is at its best. Shared imagery helps create a visual shortcut and a shared language to talk meaningfully about purpose.
There is no doubt that the working world has changed forever, and the pandemic has played its part in accelerating the removal of many of those entrenched ways of working, bringing a fresh perspective into many organisations.
The question remains how many leaders will continue this shapeshifting to eradicate the things that aren’t working and managing the change that will continue to be around us in 2023 and beyond.
Rachel Gilmore is a clean language coach and business consultant