Is the silence deafening?
In our increasingly virtual world, more people are writing about the disconnection our digital approach brings. It seems ironic that the very thing meant to bridge those gaps, for some, adds to them.
Unfortunately, as CrisMarie Campbell suggests, when we lose the ability to connect appropriately, we suffer as a result. That is why I pose the question.
It is a play on words underscoring how some feel about digital communication, the fragility of the human condition, and our fundamental need as humans to make meaning, and two core challenges to doing that.
The leadership challenge
That challenge is responding to multi-layered, complex organisational problems while keeping an increasingly distanced and dispersed workforce focused, energised and happy.
I know this first hand from three charity CEOs that I coach. Managing relationships, dealing with defensive behaviours, and balancing ethical considerations, values, and pragmatism are but a few of their concerns. Remotely doing so adds to their burden.
How I help them
I take on the role of their accountability buddy to help them stay on track toward achieving their identified business goals. I love Lelia Gowland’s take on how to get or be a good accountability buddy.
- Identify an imperfect action plan – essentially be prepared to take action to start the journey and sustain it. No plan ever survives intact its first encounter with people, so imperfect works! Figure out some first, realistic steps and take them.
- Challenge each other to stretch and pivot when needed – commit to something that scares you a little or feels like a stretch, and then do it. If the silence is too deafening, embrace it and use it – to think, reflect, plan and review.
- Use check-ins as deadlines – when can you realistically accomplish these goals?
Other great traits I draw on as an accountability buddy
I help them:
- Develop a better focus on targets and productivity.
- Keep on track with their best ideas.
- Challenge their thinking by considering a range of options and intentions.
- Keep up their momentum.
- Make progress on the things that matter to them most.
- Push through any blockages in their thinking and actions.
- Keep it real – we all work within constraints and often lose sight of our achievements and those things we should celebrate.
So when the silence is truly deafening, be sure to have a coach to hand, and if you don’t have one, get one soon!
The transformation challenge
At the same time, remotely sustaining an empowering environment for their team requires leading differently.
Becoming a ‘transformational leader’ chimes well with our changing times and needs. A transformational leader can take their organisation into uncharted waters; change how and what to do; who can reach out and touch people, inspire trust, and who tries to make their part of the world a better place. They are values-driven, and they are not satisfied unless they ‘make a difference’.
All three of my charity CEO clients are transformational leaders. They employ personal contact, encouragement, motivation, and, where necessary, direction. They share a greater focus on people, vision, and are values-driven.
Typical characteristics of a transformational leader
They also display these typical characteristics:
- ‘Divine discontent’ – they know that things must change
- Low tolerance of waste and a strong focus on continuous improvement
- Intuition is drawn on and trusted
- Uncertainty is an adventure, not a challenge
- Vision focuses on the longer-term and the ‘bigger picture’
- They give and expect of others high levels of action
- Passionate, clear, and urgent communicator
- Complement their abilities through able and talented colleagues
- Able to use status when necessary, but do not feel the need to pull rank
- Always curious and always learning
- Clarity of personal values
- Energises team with their enthusiasm and drive
Throughout my career in public service, I led from an aligned values position though mismatch occasionally occurred, and upheaval happened.
Attempting to lead from a values-driven base is, therefore, demanding. In the past, many have viewed me as a ‘rebel’, too entrepreneurial, too people-focused, and my service an anachronism! The going can be tough!
However, like embracing the silence, grasping the opportunity to lead transformationally is one of the most rewarding leadership journeys possible.