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 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’ll keep it deliberately short, because I know you’re busy. Let’s dive in.
I’d like to begin this week’s episode with a quote. For some organizations, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves. Once the crisis has passed and things return to normal, the question is, what will normal look like? While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years.
What’s interesting about that quote isn’t that it’s surprising, but what is surprising is that it doesn’t come from the last week or even the last month. That quote is taken from 2009. In the midst of the financial crisis. And the quote comes from the then-managing partner of McKinsey.
All wars end. And this is no different. What we’re going to find is when this is all over, we’re going to be in a new situation with a new world order. The question that we have as leaders is where are we in the cycle currently?
Because change, for all its unpredictability, is cyclical. The reason that we chose the word leadership in chaos as a title for the podcast is derived from the model of change, which is the four rooms of change from Swedish psychologist Klaus Jensen. And within that. One of the rooms is the Chaos Room.
The idea is that we need to move from room to room effectively and efficiently and bring our people with us safely. The Chaos Room is exactly where we are now because all the characteristics of each room have its own characteristics of the Chaos Room that are present in the current climate. For example, nobody has any answers in the Chaos Room. Lots of opinions, lots of noise, not an awful lot of clarity.
It’s hallmarked by confusion. It also is characteristic that the old world order has been disrupted and disrupted forever. And the certainties and comforts of the old world order, many of them are not returning. And the final characteristic of chaos and the chaos room is that there is a new world order yet to be built, but nobody knows what it is, yet.
From a leadership perspective, it is deeply uncomfortable, and it could be patented by the CrossFit slogan. Get comfortable with uncomfortable. Throughout the series so far, I’ve emphasized what we need to do as leaders in order to lead our people successfully and skillfully. Being calm, being connected with people, being clear about our communication, being our best selves so that we’re able to empty our own cups.
The one thing that I haven’t majored on at all is the idea of opportunity. And I’ve always been attracted by the Chinese kanji that go to make up the word opportunity. There are two characters in the Chinese language that make up the word. One of the characters is danger, and the second is opportunity.
Because in all crises and chaos, there is opportunity. As Napoleon Hill famously said, “Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit, even if it’s not apparent to us now”. We’re at a unique time in history, a unique time in history that marries forced reflection time, where we’re being forced to lock down and stay indoors with a future uncertainty.
And when you marry those two things together, the love child is pure innovation. And I don’t mean innovation in the platitudinal sense that typically prevails in normal time. Because in normal time, innovation is a bit like teenage sex. Everybody talks about it. Nobody knows how to do it. Everybody thinks everybody else is doing it, so therefore, everybody claims that they’re doing it too. I don’t mean that type of innovation. I mean innovation in the pure and reasonable sense.
One of the things that we observe in the current climate is the range of experiences that our clients and our leader population are going through. And it ranges all the way from businesses that are closing down and having to close their doors and leaders having to deal with that all the way through to the opposite, where in certain sectors, certain companies are actually thriving and are hiring and onboarding people.
The one thing about the chaos room, whether you’re in the negative or the positive realm of that continuum, is it is the leadership’s responsibility. to find the opportunity in the chaos. It is your opportunity and your responsibility as a leader to find the gold in the dirt. Because if not you, then who? And if nobody, then what? We never emerge from it.
It’s no coincidence. that history is littered with great inventions and creations and patents that have emerged from a crisis or a deep depression, all the way from the Black Death back in 1665, which forced the closure of Cambridge University and made Isaac Newton have to go home, locked down, and in his garden, he discovered The law of gravity
All the way through to the invention of basketball during an 1881 depression in the U. S. and even the September 11th disaster produced the iPod within two months. So there is gold in the dirt, and it’s our responsibility to find it and move forward. What do we do as leaders in order to move forward?
Well, the first thing we need to do is we need to mentally reconcile to ourselves first that the old world order has changed and is not coming back. Until we get to that zero point in the chaos room, we can’t move forward and move out of the chaos room and, with authenticity, lead our people in the same direction.
Here are some questions that might be useful for you to consider or think about in your own situation currently. For example,
What can you retain still from the old world order that is still relevant and still valuable and will be in the future? There will be that.
Where are you currently well positioned?
And what are those strengths and how can you capitalize on those strengths and amplify them in any new world order?
What are the type of efficiencies that have been forced upon you out of the inertia that actually you’d like to retain, like remote working and not having everybody commuting to the office two or three hours a day?
And finally, who are your people that are really shining, and where are they shining?
The final thing that I’ll say is that during the last financial crisis, our Green Line Conversations proposition grew out of that because we observed that there were best behaviours for leaders that emerged with polished reputations. And there were worse behaviours that caused leaders to fail the test in the last great financial crisis that we had. And we modelled the behaviours of the best leaders into a system and a proposition called Green Line Conversations. which subsequently accounts for about 40 per cent of our revenue globally. We would never have done that without the last crisis.
The final question I have, or the final answer I have, is, after the chaos room, what’s the next room? You’ll be pleased to hear it’s called the inspiration room.
Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, stay connected. If you’d like to get in touch to find out more about our virtual services, You can find me on LinkedIn and connect, or alternatively, you can email me at [email protected].