How to demonstrate true flexibility
Leaders - it is time to demonstrate true flexibility
How well do you understand what is going on for your team? Have you taken time to go above and beyond?
How many times have you heard a manager say "I'm totally flexible..." and then go on to behave inflexibly? Maya Angelou famously said "people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Particularly now when everyone has so many layers of additional stress it's important that everyone feels as though they are on the same side and working towards common goals. To quote another famous leader "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." If your team culture is out of wack then no matter what you're working on, you will encounter difficulties and fail to meet your objectives.
Here are 10 ways to demonstrate true flexibility
1. Know what's going on for your team
How well do you understand what is going on for your team? Have you taken time to go beyond "How are you?" Make sure you ask questions and don't make assumptions. This will involve sharing some of your own vulnerabilities and challenges. It won't make you a weaker leader, but a stronger one.
By this I mean active and deep listening. Poor and underdeveloped listeners, blend their own needs with the interests of the person who is speaking. All communication filters through a "me" bias. The listener does not hear "I am home schooling three kids" but "I have less time available for you." That person will then focus on protecting their own goals not the issues of the speaker. This means they also miss what is not being said. Because they jump to foregone conclusions they don't explore multiple options and cut the speaker off.
3. Extend your time frames
Move away from the "everything is urgent" mindset and "I need everything for tomorrow". One thing that COVID19 has highlighted that we are all involved in a lot of stuff that serves no purpose. Work out what that is for your team and let it go.
4. Support prioritisation
Encourage your team to prioritise and manage expectations to find solutions to projects or tasks that are currently the most important. You may need to reallocate responsibilities. This means activating your deep listening skills to really establish what is possible.
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5. Hold fewer meetings
Yes - really especially on Zoom. Everyone is Zoomed out.
6. Record meetings when you do
If you do hold meetings record them and if you have time highlight the sections which impact absent team members. This will save a lot of energy for all involved.
7. Don't expect an out of hours or immediate response
We all have different biorhythms and you can't expect everyone to be at peak productivity at the same time. This is especially true if they have caring responsibilities. Set realistic deadlines for responses and factor in the challenges your team face, (because you already know that... see Point 1.)
8. Establish your teams' communication preferences
Everyone has different communication preferences. Find out who prefers which channels and try and meet their expectations as best as you can. It maybe a mix of communication strategies email, audio message or even a video message. Remember that 56% of emails are misunderstood!
9. Encourage down time and self-care
Make sure you encourage everyone to take care of themselves. If they don't they will have longer term mental and physical health issues which will impact the team with under performance, sick leave and maybe even resignations. Research from CIPD UK indicates 25% of people with caring responsibilities are thinking of leaving. Arrange more informal get together's and other more relaxed activities especially as we get back to a hybrid workplace of some remote working.
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10. Show empathy
We are calling this the post-pandemic workplace, but the reality is that the disease is still very much around and many people, especially those with underlying conditions will be anxious. Even mild cases can do severe internal damage, so their concerns are valid. Try and figure out how you as a team are going to find solutions that work for everyone - including you and your business.
Whatever you do, do not insist on everyone coming in to the office and then having Zoom meetings. As a manager you have a legal duty of care responsibility to safeguard their well-being. Being able to demonstrate true flexibility is a real skill and one that many leaders need to hone quickly
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