Has lockdown improved your leadership thinking?

I am a BNI Director Consultant for Champions Chapter in Sedgefield, County Durham, UK, and I regularly reflect on what we do and how we might improve things. At last week’s chapter meeting, I shared some learning from the first ten weeks of virtual meetings during the current lockdown, now the immediate impact of COVID-19 has lessened.

I also noted we were moving through the change curve – based on the Kubler-Ross model – at differing paces. I did that because I had been thinking and reflecting on our practice and saw scope for change and improvement.

On Thinking

Doing what I did last week is a common practice for me. However, before the lockdown, I saw too many people in many organisations engaged in what the writer, Dylan Morrison, calls ‘hamster-wheel’ activity. His blog post makes for fascinating reading!

Unfortunately, I rarely see leaders and managers looking up for a view of their direction and keeping busy, busy, busy!  But where does that hamster-wheel activity lead? How productive is it? Does it add value? If so, in what way and by how much?

My belief is simple - we need to take more time to think! Our current health crisis provides an ideal opportunity, and yet I wonder how many leaders and managers are truly taking advantage of it or will continue with it, post-COVID?

On The Future

For example, have you reflected on how your business might run post-COVID? Have you thought through your target operating model? Have you envisaged any significant change? Have you planned for that change? Have you considered implementation and execution? Have you shared your thinking and had constructive feedback that stimulated better analysis and solutions?

My plea here, however, is not just about seizing an opportune moment presented by a global pandemic. It is about developing a sound leadership and management practice that will serve you well for a lifetime.

For me, the thrust of this thinking time has a practical purpose which, in itself, is unfortunately not common practice.

Three simple practices to grow your leadership thinking

I believe you need to make time to think, and stick with it! Here self-discipline is critical, and my three preferred options are:

  1. Do proper supervision, not business meetings that just focus on targets. Address your staff member’s everyday concerns, issues, and ideas. Look at their plans for growth and personal development and act on them. Offer what you can to help them improve. Focus on their contribution to the business, not just on the targets! Build that relationship, grow that trust, and see the benefits. It will astound you.
  2. Find yourself a coach, mentor, or non-line management supervisor. Sometimes this might be a paid role if it is affordable, sometimes voluntarily or in kind. It has been a feature of my working life since my first paid role working for Kent County Council when I joined a non-line management supervisory cooperative. It is still my current practice, some forty years or so later.
  3. Create a space in your diary to think, and hold to it. Just an hour a week is invaluable. When a Head of Service in Sunderland in the mid-nineties, I led and managed five local authority services. I had a thinking slot in my diary mid-afternoon every Friday. During that time, I reviewed the week past, the week or longer ahead, and then considered service improvements we could make, and it worked amazingly well for me.

So if you are looking for time to pause, reflect, review, imagine, innovate, and create fresh ideas, thoughts, and approaches, my challenge to you is to try one or more of my ideas, or even other ideas you know of or have seen others do. If you do, the boost in your understanding, awareness, confidence, and self-belief will be invaluable. Better still your team and your organisation will ultimately benefit too.

What do you think? Are we thinking enough or doing too much ‘doing’? How are you or how would you deal with this issue?

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