After a year of disruption and uncertainty, it’s understandable that people want some semblance of control in their lives. Yet, dynamic environments are the new norm – and they require both clarity of priorities and flexibility in their execution. The irony: If you want more control, you will have to let go.
Get clear on strategy and resources
Recent projects have me crafting visions, goals, SWOT analyses and cultures with my clients in planning their post-pandemic reality. Integral to this work is:
- clarity, alignment and commitment to priorities;
- realistic understanding of resources (and time frames); and
- real-time, collaborative agility.
It’s a balancing act to hold one’s strategic agenda while being acutely attuned to the fluid environment in which we operate. We must be attentive to what is most important and not get sucked into flying by the seat of our pants, reacting to every whim or request, or changing course at the slightest sign of an obstacle.
Genuine course corrections will be necessary and are a sign of adaptivity — which is also a trait of resiliency. However, giving up just when things are getting tricky can signal a lack of clarity or commitment, resulting in wasted resources and declining morale.
How do you know when you are giving up too soon, or wisely shifting gears as circumstances require? And how do you keep people in pursuit of the same goal?
Understand, and agree upon, priorities
These must be clear, vetted, value-added, and communicated repeatedly. They need to be anchored in what you do every day. What is the most valuable use of your time, money and energy? If goals were rocks, you would want to focus on the boulders, and not the pebbles. Build into your program a method by which you will track milestones and metrics. It keeps the team accountable and it offers transparency to the process. When progress is made, celebrate the wins!
Know what it takes to accomplish the goals
This requires an abundance of dialogue with your team to create buy-in and a realistic assessment of capacity. Be clear about the commitments you are collectively making and why they matter to each person who plays a role in their manifestation.
There is a recurring theme in my conversations with others: lack of bandwidth — the energy or mental capacity to deal with a situation. Boundaries are blurred and difficult to maintain.
As organizational psychologist Adam Grant noted, people are languishing. He describes it as a sense of stagnation and emptiness. The New York Times reports that “people are struggling with the emotional long haul of the pandemic,” having trouble concentrating, and “muddling through (their) days.”
Failure to acknowledge this headspace will undoubtedly have you overestimating your resource capacity and setting yourself up for failure.
How do we get it all done?
Years ago, I started a conversation with a friend, “When I get my (stuff) together…,” to which she interrupted, “Karen, you are never going to get your (stuff) together.”
At first I was affronted, feeling like I had just been delivered a blow. What she meant, however, is that it is a fallacy to think that at some magical point in time we will have figured life out to the degree that we are in total control. We tell ourselves that “When I have enough time, energy, focus, organization, clarity, (insert desired trait here), then I will be able to enjoy, be successful, be productive, relax, make progress, tackle that issue, (insert desired outcome here).” It is a postponement of life — going through the motions or checklist mindset that diminishes the rewards of our efforts.
Real-time collaborative agility
While recently working with my colleague Terry Hosaka, a business development executive with Akana, he likened “setting direction in a dynamic environment” to “building an airplane while we are flying.” Fortunately for me, Mr. Hosaka is an excellent co-pilot!
It is an exercise in improvisation, nonattachment, respect, collaboration and creativity. It might show up as pivoting with a new insight, how you co-facilitate a meeting, or how you tackle tasks together. It requires being nimble in the moment for the sake of achieving the defined priority.
A caveat: this is not about being haphazard or unprepared, which could result in poor work habits. Instead, it is about learning how to let go of perfection and control, allowing things to be fluid and uncertain while bringing a willingness to co-create with colleagues. It can be energizing, agile and efficient. It can free you up to execute, rather than fret over minor decisions and details. It requires you to rely on and listen to each other — which brings an added benefit of building participation, trust and commitment among team members.
Take the K Challenge
Get grounded in your strengths and motivations. To unearth what inspires you, ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?” What sparks action?
Get the right things done. When we procrastinate, we rob ourselves of time and trust. If we were to put the energy we put into resistance into our priorities, we would have better results and increased confidence. Create space in your schedule to focus on the boulders.
If you are striving for perfection, you are shrinking your bandwidth. When might “good” be good enough? You can still deliver high quality, but without the unworkable burden of perfection.
Make deadlines your ally. They can help your brain reduce competing priorities, boost adrenaline, and bring hyper focus.
Put your strategy in motion. While we cannot miraculously create more hours in a day, we can exert some intentionality into the 24 hours we do have. We can be clear on our priorities and the expectations embedded in them, make realistic choices based on accurately assessed resources, and bring a willingness to creatively engage in the process to generate forward momentum in the direction desired.
Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations.