leadership behavioursDid you know that the more senior the leaders are the more reliance they place on past experience to inform their behavioural responses. These responses become increasingly unconscious and almost automatic with this increased seniority. These past experiences have enabled the development of many highly appropriate leadership behaviours. As we shift into another year influenced and even terrorised by COVID, the trouble with this approach is that leaders have not experienced leading their people and business through a Global pandemic. Consequently many or even most, don’t have appropriate learned behaviours to fall back on with confidence and conviction. We hear many leaders using the language of “returning to….getting back to……” because they want to return to the comfort of what has worked historically.

Amplification of Leadership Behaviours
Leadership behaviours (and organisational cultures) have been amplified since entering this new operating environment where we’re learning to live with COVID. We’ve witnessed the pendulum swing where some businesses are finding gaps and cracks being exposed while others who are prepared to challenge their current status quo, unlearning learned leadership behaviours, and seeing these more constructive leadership behaviours bringing even stronger and more determined performance.

The pattern emerging is that those organisations who’ve struggled to maintain their cultures have relied on what we are calling “accidental cultures”. They’ve struggled because their cultural maintenance has relied on accidental “leadership moments” in the lifts, at the water cooler, in the hallways or as they moved between meetings and bumped into each other. While it’s important to acknowledge the value of these leadership moments as they can be great cultural supplements, adding authenticity and consistency to opportunistic moments leaders find themselves in. It’s important to acknowledge they can’t be relied on when building culture as they’re mostly absent from remote working. So leaders who’ve relied on these moments have been left bewildered as to what they can do to maintain culture. This realisation is important for those who are serious about creating success in 2022.

This lazy, accidental approach to culture has resulted in challenges when forced to work remotely. Magic happens when leaders are prepared to dig deep and reflect with curiosity on what’s happened, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked. Everyone learns so much and leaders are able to strengthen cultures moving forward as we struggle to define our new normal/ hybrid working environment and culture. In fact we have experienced that for many leaders, they have relented and claimed culture is destroyed and can only be resurrected when we return to face to face! They are unable to unlearn their learned behaviours and instead prefer to hold onto what they “know” has worked historically!

Unlearning Behaviours
This is exactly why Holly Ransom, a globally renowned content curator who delivered a Peace Charter to the Dalai Lama – and was also Sir Richard Branson’s nominee for Wired Magazine’s Smart List of Future Game Changers to watch – claimed that as we head into 2022 there is a need for a new way of leading and that many existing and emerging leaders are yet to catch up:

“It’s no longer about power over, but power for… we’re just waiting for some of our leaders to catch up! Leadership development today can no longer centre on ‘learning about behaviour. Things are changing too fast. Future fit leadership development needs to flip to ‘learned behaviour.”

Leaders benefit when they are encouraged to acknowledge their learned behaviours and identify the triggers for these behaviours. The real success happens when they find ways to replace these learned behaviours with the new behaviours required for our new operating environment. This requires active support from colleagues. When they have support they are able to bring the discipline each day to consider what’s driving their behaviours and the impact such choice in response is having. This support and discipline inspires them to shift their behavioural choices to those that will create the desired impact being sought for the business culture, business performance, and personal impact.

Design of development initiatives is different – we live in different times
Given what leaders are experiencing we acknowledge the necessary changes in development initiatives to support leaders to bring consciousness to their behaviours and determine what they want to change and then bring the discipline and accountability to make the changes within the incredibly challenging environment in which they are operating.

Here are the changes we’ve seen in the way development initiatives achieve results:

  • shorter sessions with a very discrete focus aligned directly to business outcomes and needs so leaders quickly see the relevance of participating and willingly make the time to do so – they see participation as essential to their success as a leader
  • challenging ourselves to thin slice the content when designing an initiative aligned to business outcomes while ensuring it remains intellectually and emotionally inspiring enough to empower change for those participating
  • finding ways to bring interaction and human connection to virtual sessions within the initiative so people stop thinking about what they’re missing from face to face as they adapt and learn to love the sessions being delivered and readily acknowledge benefits
  • essential to design questions that stimulate deep thinking before the session and then allow the time during the session for deep exploration in breakout rooms with colleagues. This is what empowers them to create their context and determine realistic actions they want to take to create the kind of change that makes a difference to their individual and therefore business transformation
  • using the latest in nudge technology we are there alongside these leaders each day supporting them and coaching them online to bring the discipline required to make the changes they have envisioned.

We’ve successfully used our new design methodology to inspire sustainable change for operationally busy leaders, for top leaders needing to emphasize strategic direction and thinking far more, and for emerging leaders! Reach out to us to find out more.