Is your organization agile? That’s to say, does your organization have the “stability and dynamism” necessary to adapt quickly in the face of change while also exhibiting the endurance necessary for long-term sustainability? We asked that question last week (see For ‘Agile’ Organizations, Change Management IS Performance Management) along with the exploration of the traits organization’s need to successful operate as “agile.” The other side of that coin is that the reason many organizations aren’t agile comes down to one thing—slow leadership.
So, what kind of executive does it take to lead in the “new” health and human services environment? What are the characteristics of an executive that can manage the “complexity” that has made change the new standard operating procedure? According to a great piece from McKinsey & Company (see Leading Agile Transformation: The New Capabilities Leaders Need To Build 21st-Century Organizations), there are five new additions to the skillset for the “agile” executive.
Pause to move faster—Facilitating change in your organization isn’t only about making change and making it quickly. The key is to separate “action” from “purposeful action.” The first runs the risk of wasting time and resources on the wrong goals. The second is linked to your organizational strategy and vision (see Do You Have A Vision? and Making Your Vision A Reality).
Embrace your ignorance—Leaders are like everyone else: they don’t know what they don’t know. But in a complex and complicated industry, leaders can’t afford to continuing not knowing. This means that seeking and understanding feedback and ideas from others in the organization is key to supporting a leader’s working knowledge, as well as finding and using great ideas to support organizational agility (see Using Feedback To Build Your Leadership IQ and The New Cultural Competency: Ability To ‘Turn On A Dime’).
Radically reframe the questions—If your current strategic vision isn’t working, it’s possible that you have asked yourself the wrong questions (based on the wrong assumptions) about the market, your service models, your consumers, or your operations. This means developing self-introspection, a consistent focus on improving skills, and the ability to communicate effectively with staff at all levels of the organization (see Are You ‘Coachable’? and Communicate Like A Leader).
Set direction, not destination—High-performing leaders know that speed matters, including speed to thought, planning, decisionmaking, and acting. But you can’t “rush” to a destination in a market where that destination is likely to change. Focus your agility on setting a direction for the organization, while keeping an eye on how that direction may have to change (either a little or a whole lot) as the target moves (see Is Your Organization Nimble? Take Our Quiz and Managing at the Speed of Change: What Does It Take to Be Nimble?).
Test your solutions, and yourself—A quick scan of the health and human services field is sure to find a lot of scenarios forcing executives to reconcile with new market challenges, but many of those executives attempt to “change” without ever changing the way they lead. Without letting go of their purpose and values, executives need to let go of outdated behaviors that no longer serve them or their organizations (see To ‘Win,’ Leadership Must Change and Managing Change as a Leader’s Challenge).
For more on changing your leadership style, check out these resources from The OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- What Do Today’s Leaders Think About Managing Change?
- Creating and Leading A Team in Times of Change
- Don’t Just Sit There: Change!
- 6 Management Best Practices For Sustainability In A Changing Market
- The Leadership Success Checklist For Uncertain Times
And, to build your organization’s culture, including staff and executive team competencies, mark your calendar for September 9 to 13, 2019, the dates of The 2019 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat. We’ll be announcing our new program in the next few weeks. For an idea of what is in store, check out the agenda from The 2018 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat.