Hitting the Reset Button: Why Backing Up and Punting is an Impactful “New Normal” Leadership Move

Hitting the Reset Button: Why Backing Up and Punting is an Impactful “New Normal” Leadership Move

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
– Anne Lamotte

I love Anne Lamotte! She makes me laugh every time 😊. A professional writer known for her witty – and raw – takes on what it means to be human in this messy, painful, and complicated world, yes. And she’s also a human being who, like many of us, is on her own journey of learning to be her Best Self.

When it comes to unplugging for a bit, boy can I relate! For a long time, running around like a chicken with busy-ness was my primary drug of choice: I loved it. It kept me from not having to feel or work through things I really needed to feel and work through.

Extreme Busy-ness Worked For Me – Until it Didn’t.

I distinctly remember one Saturday evening sitting down among friends in Paris fed up with my own unhealthy pattern of pushing myself way past my limits – to the degree that I had mistakenly filled up my diesel car with gasoline instead and arrived abashedly late to our gathering!  My plan to rush ahead and save time had backfired, to say the least…(lol)

While meditation, yoga and regular trips to the beach do a good job of slowing me down often enough now, so that I can role model “Go Slow to Go Fast” – a leadership tenet I often speak of – I can still find myself with a way-too-full-plate and a never-ending agenda. That’s when I need to unplug in a different way.

The end of the calendar year is perfect for resetting for many of us. Whether we celebrate one of the holidays, take off to warmer climates (as I love to do 😊), or just plain take stock of the previous year, re-setting away from our normal schedules is not only good for our physical and mental health, but it also helps us to understand what’s working well in the normal course of our lives – and what needs shifting.

And this is especially necessary with the “new normal” we have all found ourselves in.

Leaders Need to Respond to New Challenges

As I look around, it seems most everyone is on continual overwhelm with the constant changes that beset us each day.

In an interview, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and author of Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval, says that post pandemic, the world is all over the place:

“What was yesterday isn’t today and that’s going to require some intentionality around changing people’s mindset around that.”

Time for a Reset: How Can Leaders Navigate These Unprecedented Changes?

Some simple advice:

  • Expect change. All the time. Employees today aren’t interested in decades of seniority. Today’s workers job jump. Seeing several jobs in as many years on someone’s resume isn’t a “bad” thing anymore.
  • Reconsider what is an employee. Part of pressing “reset” involves looking at everything differently – including and especially people. An employee today doesn’t fit the definition of an employee from 50 – or even 20 – years ago. And thank goodness! More and more people want to be shown that they matter and belong – as they should and do.
  • Be mindful of how you think about (and value) employees to cultivate more trust. Remember to address the needs of all of your people – not just the more visible ones. For instance, during the pandemic, media often reported “everyone” was working remotely – but what about the nearly 52% of employees who never had that opportunity?
  • Remember who you really are. The constant changes, rush-rush and sense of being out of balance most of the time has led many of us to forget who we really are – human beings. The more we can make that front and center again, the more we can help others to do the same.
  • Have empathy. There is a deficit of it in our world today. This is a subject I’ve written about often, because it’s key to connecting in an authentic way with others – a critical tool to leading anything or anyone.

“The greatest blessing of being present in times of uncertainty is that you can take a step back and really evaluate who you are and where you are going.”
– Rennie Curran

Reset, Re-imagine: Leaders Need to Rethink Their Role

We leaders can’t expect to successfully operate in this new climate of continual change without resetting ourselves: we must deep-dive to ensure that we’re able (and willing) to adapt in every aspect of our business – when the need arises.

To be sure, the old way of thinking about anything – any old expectations, for example – must be transformed by creative thinking – the kind of thinking which can only come when we slow down and take a balcony view on things.

In an HBR article titled simply “Reinventing Your Leadership Team,” the authors noted that we as leaders need to be ever agile, “…to be willing to challenge every aspect of our company: its purpose, its business model, its operating model, its people, and ourselves. And conventional ideas about managing have to be inverted.” Talk about hitting the reset button, right?!

Instead of the old way of doing business of routinely responding to needs and concerns, we (leaders) need to work as a team, refocus and reshape the future – and map a path toward it.

Drawing on research gleaned from studying companies, they formulated a 4-point plan for building a leadership team that can meet these new changes:

  1. Analyze what leadership roles will model the company for the future.
  2. Get the right people in place.
  3. Center the leadership team on steering the company towards its transformation.
  4. To build trust and a culture that fuels its goal, take ownership of the team’s behavior.

With Continual Change, Avoid Perpetual Urgency

“Take a step back. Life gets distorted when you examine things from too close up.”
– Richelle E Goodrich

To cope with the “new normal” of constant change, some businesses have taken to operating in a state of perpetual urgency.

To be sure, many issues require urgency. Yet operating in an atmosphere where a heightened state of urgency is the norm may indicate a leadership or management breakdown.

Having employees in a continual crisis mode has an impact. In a Fast Company article by Camille Preston, researcher Liz Kislik noted a company culture of urgency can lead to overreactions in employees – not to mention poor decision making and a continual state of stress which only creates vicious circles and an unhealthy work atmosphere.

So, how can we lead without urgency in times like this?

It starts with building genuine relationships with employees, visioning a future for the company and mapping a plan to get there.

Another leadership tenet I often refer to is “Relationship Precedes Results.” This is supported by both Patrick Lencioni’s Five Elements of an Effective Team and many, many experiences of being called in to rescue teams who tried – and failed miserably – to prioritize results over the relationships among people. (Wonder how much time – and budget – they may have saved by simply focusing on their true assets in the first place?!)

After focusing on relationships, Preston suggests:

  • Incorporate different types of motivation – other than fear or urgency, which cannot lead to anything optimal anyway
  • Take the time to build and maintain relationships. Again. And always.
  • Encourage and allow employees to take ownership of their work.
  • Frame a culture that focuses on the development of leaders. We can never go wrong here!

Remember…

“Great Leadership sometimes requires taking a step backward in order to take a leap forward.”
— Todd Stocker

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