Last week I was at a conference for people development folk, like me. Inevitably much of the chat was about how we support leaders and teams with navigating uncertainty. This resonated with me: whilst my role is to support others with this, I am also experiencing it myself. The feelings are likely to be the same in our leadership roles. A key pillar of leadership is holding the frame and providing clarity to our teams, whilst all the time dealing with our own uncertainties, hopes, fears and struggles. This led me to the title of this blog:
How can I embrace the new when I am struggling with the everyday?
I am excited about possible futures for work. Flexible, personalised, purposeful, healthy, and connected working that creates a sense of belonging. Meaningful work that makes a difference to those around me.
But I am also experiencing a tension with the work of today, and the habits, expectations and practices I am used to. Like others I am busy, busy, busy and getting the headspace and practical space to be something different isn’t easy. Colleagues in our teams are likely to be feeling the same.
In our leadership role we shouldn’t underestimate the impact we can have on our team, both for the good and not so good. So, should we be open, admit we are struggling and unable to focus on developing for the future? But might that run the risk of creating anxiety in our teams? Or pretend it’s all fine, so they at least feel reassured, whilst pushing for a future that none of us are ready for?
Courageous leaders and psychologically safe teams are open and share their vulnerabilities. So surely it’s good to be honest when we are struggling? However, don’t our teams need us to be strong and give them security that it will all be ok…?
I’m not sure I have the answers to these conflicting questions, although I suspect there’s a balance to be had somewhere in there.
Showing our humanity and vulnerability is essential, but not to the extent that it creates emotional contagion within the team, and everyone feels as anxious as you do! Brene Brown talks about “vulnerability without boundaries” being unhelpful, and finding those boundaries seems key. Be honest but reassure. Focus on their struggles rather than our own. Talk often; not just about the problems but explore solutions.
However, our own challenges with managing everyday are real and it’s essential we find somewhere else for us to explore them – whether that’s our own line manager or a peer, for example. That other person won’t magically fix things (in the same way you can’t fix everything for your team), but allow you space to reflect, share and problem solve.
The day-to-day will always be busy. Waiting for that elusive future golden moment when projects are completed, problems are resolved, and life is calm enough to contemplate trying something new seems a fool’s errand. But what can we do now to inch towards new ways of working in amongst the realities of today?
At our Leadership Circles in December, we will be pondering through sharing experiences and ideas. Come along and join the conversation.
Juliet Flynn, People, Culture and Inclusion Team
Here are a couple of articles that feel relevant to this topic, and I have highlighted some sentences to get you thinking:
4 ways to create certainty during change: “Our research over the past few months has shown that the number one thing that people want during change is a sense of certainty. There is a nuance that many people miss. It is the sense of certainty. Your people don’t expect you to take the change away, even if they wish you could, but they do want a sense of certainty during the change.”
Seven Ways to Cope with Uncertainty: “Stop looking for someone to rescue you. When we act as though we are powerless, we get trapped in narratives that leave us feeling angry, helpless, and trapped.”
When we are talking about vulnerable leadership it would be remiss not to include reference to Brene Brown. This podcast is worth a listen: The Heart of Daring Leadership