Hi, I’m Ian McClean. I’m the founder of Flow Group and Greenline Conversations. And this podcast has grown out of the chaos that’s been thrust upon us. During the podcast, I’m going to try and share it with you the best of 25 years of helping corporate organizations deal and cope with change. So, as you’re out there, busy making sense of it all, trying to cope, and maybe, in some cases, trying to rebuild your organizations, I’m hoping that some of this can be of some assistance. We keep it deliberately short because I know you’re busy, so let’s dive in.
Ten weeks in, how are you getting on? At the end of the last episode, which was episode one on remote leadership, I asked you to consider two things. How clear do you believe your people are? And secondly, how committed are they?
This episode is the second part of remote leadership, and we’re going to focus particularly on the clarity side and leave the commitment side mostly until the next episode, which is part three. We’ve been running webinars for our clients through the last ten weeks of the chaos.
And, within that, we have been trying to poll to understand what people are experiencing and how well they’re doing. Two of the polling questions are interesting because they highlight something which I’d like to share.
One of the questions is: I am providing my people with what they need as a leader. True, false or somewhat true.
The answer to that is 85% of people believe that they are providing people with what they need.
The following question is: I am getting what I need from my leaders.
Interestingly, only 55% of people say that they are receiving what they need.
So, think of the contrast: 85% of people think that they’re providing the leadership that is necessary, while it’s only 55% of people say that they’re getting the leadership that’s necessary. See the problem?
We call this the intention/impact gap. Because we judge ourselves by our own good intentions and believe ourselves to be well qualified and delivering what we need to deliver.
But actually, we’re not the judges. There are only three critical disciplines in life for which you need no qualifications. The first is as a parent, the second is as a lover, and the third is as a leader. And we all overestimate our ability in each of those three departments because, ultimately, we don’t get to judge. It’s only those on the other side who get to judge, and that’s how we’re going to be measured.
So how do we get the impact as opposed to just backing up the good intentions that we have in our role as leaders during the chaos, back to our formula from last week, the formula is that effectiveness, which is E leadership is equal to CL x time CO and the CL stands for clarity multiplied by commitment. NB means that you need both. There’s no point in just having clarity because we’ve all been in those meetings where it’s very, very clear what needs to be done. It’s very transparent. Everybody nods their heads in agreement. They walk out, and nothing happens.
Very high clarity and very low commitment results in lip service inertia.
We’ve equally been in meetings where people are just so fired up they run out of the room and just get busy. Very high levels of commitment, very low levels of clarity. This is just simply ignorance on fire. Let’s begin by examining clarity first.
Why is clarity important, and why is it so critical? One of only two ingredients that’s going to maximize your leadership effectiveness? Well, going back to the neuroscience that we mentioned earlier on, in earlier episodes, what it serves to do is it serves to engage the thinking brain and to soothe the feeling brain or the survival brain, which is exactly what you need.
As a reminder, what the thinking brain does, the neocortex, it does four things.
It’s your problem solving mind. It helps to deal with complexity. It’s agile and creative, and it’s future-focused. So, if you think about it, you want yourself self to be in that state, but you also want others to be in that state. If you are to be your best selves and work your way through this, and emerge out victorious on the other side.
So, in order for you as a leader to contribute to creating clarity, there are basically three realms that you need to address.
The first is you need to be clear on what your expectations are and what the game is. You need to be decisive with it. You need to be unambiguous. And it needs to be very, very simple and very, very crisp because this, in times of chaos, is what people need.
People are looking for answers. They need reassurance, and they need it in language that they can digest and understand. So, being clear about what your expectations are is the number one area of clarity.
The second is you need to answer the question why, when you’re clear about expectations, people need to understand the purpose behind that.
Because without articulating that people, particularly in times of chaos and uncertainty will impute their own meaning. We talked about this in earlier episodes, this idea about without having a context for the data, people will create their own context, which is what the human brain naturally does. And in times of uncertainty and anxiety, it tends to bias itself towards the negative.
So, back to the episode, around shaping the story, creating the context and explaining why it is important for people. Because, again, it suits the survival brain. And the third thing that you need to do in the category of clarity is ways of working. This is a whole new order of things. Working in a remote space is like patient zero. It’s situation zero.
So, the new way of working is something that is evolving, but we need to be able to create it. We need to be clear about what it is we need to be clear about what’s okay and what isn’t okay. They’re the three areas of clarity. And if you want to break it down even further, these are simple suggestions as to what you need to do and what you need to focus on.
People need to have goals, which helps with our clarity, and the goals should be in very short windows and short horizons because, again, the limbic system, when it’s active, only works in short bites and short spurts. So playing to that is going to be to your advantage.
People need to be very, very clear about roles and responsibilities, whereas when you’re sited, and you’re in the room with people, there can be some allowance for grey areas because, you know, you’re going to close it off at another point. When people are working remotely there’s no opportunity for gray, gray jus allows people to impute their own meaning, which is typically going to be negative, which is going to work against you.
Thirdly, you need to be very clear as to what’s okay and what’s not okay. Particularly in the remote sense where we’re reinventing ourselves.
Fourthly, you need to create or help people create a schedule, both for the team and for themselves individually. Why? Because the best antidote to chaos is order. So by creating a schedule of events, programs, meetings, tasks. It enables people to have some level of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.
Finally, because you are very, very detail-oriented. You’re working hour to hour and day to day and helping to create this clarity. It is useful for you as a leader at some point, sporadically, to elevate into your helicopter, take the 30,000-foot view and consolidate your view as to what you see as happening currently. Consolidate and summarize what the situation currently is.
Maybe once a fortnight, maybe once a month. I know we’re only ten weeks into this situation, but at the end of every month, what I do with the team is I do a summary and a review of the month that’s just been and a view as to what the priorities are and the focus are going to be for the next four weeks.
And finally, the one rider I would offer to all of this is that you need to constantly review every decision in every category around clarity because things are changing at such a pace. We had a situation with a client in the media space, who the CEO informed me rewrote their entire strategy on Friday and by Wednesday of the following week the new strategy was already in the shredder.
I think you can understand in the current situation, you’re probably going through something very similar yourselves. So that’s the best around clarity. Next week, we’re going to finish off the remote leadership by focusing on how to build commitment.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane, stay connected.