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Can We Continue to Flex & Adapt

By Louisa Scanlan, Owner & Director of Collaborative Business Solutions Ltd.

At PTHR we believe in developing an ecosystem of strong supportive partner relationships, toward the collective pursuit of achieving better business for a better world.

In this spirit, we are thrilled to extend our featured writing contributions to our beloved partners circle. We hope to share inspiration, elevate interesting ideas, and open up the conversation by engaging new thoughts and insights.

Thanks so much to Louisa Scanlan, the owner and director of Collaborate Business Solutions Ltd., for opening this new venture with a wonderful piece on leadership!

 

 

We have all seen some considerable change over the last few months whether that be in business or purely in how we have lived our lives.  Months of lockdown have challenged us to try different things; my parents are even using the supermarket click and collect!

 

We all had to implement rapid changes because the situation warranted such a response, we simply had no choice.  But genuinely how flexible are we, both as individuals and as business leaders?  Would we make such bold, and in some cases, brave decisions in “normal life”?

 

Flexible, pivot and agile are all words which we have heard time and time again over recent months and some organisations have managed to achieve the downright remarkable when it comes to implementing change, ignoring policies and process and just doing the right thing.  It is clear that some of these actions and the thought process behind needs to be sustained.

 

But is your organisation ready to sustain these changes and the process that enabled them to happen? For many organisations, this level of flexibility feels unnatural, against the culture and downright wrong. I believe that it takes a particular style of leadership to enable this empowerment across an organisation for the long term.

 

At a time of perceived crisis, we can make decisions, in most cases the right decisions, because we are doing our very best.  We are not out to make things harder or more difficult for people.  We are there to make life easier, be more practical and just get things done.  It is something that just naturally kicks in for a lot of people, a release from the norm, a breath of fresh air.

 

One of my oldest and dearest friends uses the phrase “seek forgiveness not permission”.  For most decisions there is probably little to forgive to be honest.  And to whom do we need permission?  It is normally determined by an organisational hierarchy but the hierarchy in many businesses has fundamentally shifted over the last few months. Individuals throughout the organisation are being given authority to make decisions, take the actions they feel are the most appropriate.

 

These age-old structures have been limiting the ability for those in the front line to effectively make and stand by the decisions that they are more than capable of making.  Limiting the ability in some instances for people to actively engage with their employer as they feel stifled and ignored.  How powerful then have the last few months been to set free large swathes of an organisation to go and do the right thing.

 

But how sustainable are these changes?  I do not believe in the new normal, it is a phrase that I am slowly beginning to dislike to be honest.  It is now becoming too cliché along with pivot and unprecedented times.  I want to propose that what we are looking at is a greater appreciation of change, the power of being agile to that change and the reality that flexibility does not have to be hard, difficult or damaging to an organisation.

 

To engage with and maintain this level of flexibility and agility will fundamentally come down to leadership.    This isn’t groundbreaking or fundamentally a massive “a-ha” moment, it purely a reality; we as leaders have it within our power to make these changes stick and then continue to build our businesses with this frame of reference.

 

Trusted and trusting – leaders who can engender trust in themselves by trusting others to do the right thing always.

 

Engaging and empathetic – leaders who engage at all levels, demonstrating passion and showing empathy towards others.

 

Vulnerable and authentic – a leader who can show when they are struggling and demonstrating that it is ok to ask for help.

 

Self-aware and aware of others – leaders who know their personality traits and how they might differ from others.  They can adapt their style to suit the situation.

 

Reflective and responsive – leaders who reflect before acting, responding constructively and effectively.  Taking time between stimulus and response.

 

All the above, I believe fundamentally support a leader in being flexible and agile – leaders who can not only adapt their style but embrace change quickly in their organisations.  Innovative in thoughts and actions.

 

We need leaders who are not driven by a rule book but are comfortable in sharing responsibility with others.  It is what they have been doing for the last four months so why not carry on?   Many businesses will revert to the tried and tested methods and are in danger of losing the learning that has occurred.

 

Leaders, it is time to step up in terms of flexibility and agility, it is time to step back from decision making and micromanaging.  There is no place for that style of leadership if you are going to continue to make the strides that you have just made.

 

We need to equip our leaders with the skills, confidence, and resilience to take this new thinking forward.  Engaging in the new is hard, engaging in the new in the time of pandemic was thrust upon us, but it has spurred a whole new generation of thinking.  Let us help leaders to keep their minds open, thriving for the new and ready for the future, whatever that will bring.

Collaborate Business Solutions Partnership