Welcome to the new workplace, leaders. Some call it the ‘new normal’.  We all know – it’s already here.  If you’re planning for everything to go back to pre-Covid status, you’re perhaps in management denial? “Hybrid” is among the most common new word in organizational and culture development. The complexity and decisions that must be made for 2021 and beyond will not be straightforward.

Many successful leaders I work with have been able to accelerate their careers by being exact, decisive, fast, direct, and tactical.  When problems arose, the leader could apply logic and previous data to immediately and confidently solve the problem. Clean cut. Check it off the list. Done.

Today, we see problems existing and new organizational questions arising that we’ve never had to confront: Are we coming back to an in-office work setting? What exactly does ‘hybrid’ look like? Should we downsize?  Reorganize?  Flatten? How do we best engage talent?    Will our staff be able to change, adjust, create change with us?

These new challenges and business shifts require bold, courageous and strategic leadership skills.   Remember VUCA?  Yep, this is the time where we need to lead in that Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous state.   A state where decisions aren’t clear cut, you can’t predict human behavior, and there’s economic, health, and political outside forces complicating your potential next step.

Leaders, you’re in a long roller coaster ride.  You’ll be re-designing, adjusting and re-adjusting.  This feels very uncomfortable for the technical, schedule and time-bound manager that is used to making problems go away with everything scheduled and settled.  This moment in organizational leadership is too important to deploy the same tactics.  You won’t survive the new world of work without stepping up your courage and ability to manage the uncertain.

Here’s a few tips to embrace the discomfort:

  1. “Embrace the Suck”.  I was reminded of this military concept recently at a webinar I attended. According to Marine jargon, “To embrace the suck means to have discipline.  Having that mental toughness to see the hard work through to the end”.  You have to acknowledge that change will be hard.  You’ve trained for this point in time.  Be brave.  Don’t get weary.  Think, strategize and believe in yourself.
  2. It seems everything needs an overhaul, redesign or a tweak.  Probably right.  But you have limited time, resources, and staff. Everyone is already busy with the regular day-to-day.  Address all the issues, and listen to what the challenges are, but plan strenuously.  What is the right order to make changes?  Make the priorities clear and assign staff accordingly to lead on each project team. Build teams around the priorities and create pathways for the projects to intersect and collaborate as needed.
  3. Rethink your process. The methods and action you are most familiar utilizing (and maybe quite good at) are not necessarily needed right now.  Decision making will be slower. More people may need to add input.  You may need more data, technology, analytics to make the decisions today.  And sometimes, you’re still not sure.  Embrace the ambiguity and make the best decisions you can at the time.
  4. A little more communication.  No matter how good of a communicator you think you are, it’s just not enough.  Employees not only need frequent communication during change (because they have no idea what’s in your head), but they need communication that is sincere, is specific as possible, explains the “why”, celebrates success and hard work, and provides a vision for the future. Listen as much as you talk.

Embrace the suck and embrace the marathon ahead. Progress is never easy, and you are not alone.

Want to talk about your organizational development challenges, HR challenges or culture transformation needs?  Contact me at karen@great-workplaces.com.