Today we dispatched the October 2020 edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the best leadership links from around the web, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s fascinating leadership links to read right now: Be an anti-hero, embrace the ‘virtual commute,’ battle bias, and more. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. If you find these links enriching, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here.
Many leadership traits are widely celebrated but there is one crucial competency, celebrated in this MIT Sloan Management Review article, that is more elusive and obscure: “sensemaking.” The authors define sensemaking as “the ability to create and update maps of a complex environment in order to act more effectively in it,” and it involves, “pulling together disparate view to create a plausible view of the complexity around us.” Research shows the sensemaking ability is a key predictor of leadership success and a “necessary tool to navigate turbulent waters,” but is a capability that is too often ignored completely when “hiring, evaluating, developing, and promoting leaders.” Luckily, like most leadership skills, sensemaking can be practiced, honed, and incorporated and MIT Sloan offers detailed instructions for elevating sensemaking throughout your organization here.
As society confronts a global pandemic, an historic economic downturn, and a global movement to end systemic racism, how can business leaders sustain an organization and give people the energy and resources to thrive? Observing that dated approaches are insufficient to meet this moment in time, the editors of this Fast Company piece convened a council of corporate and non-profit leaders to help “draft the new rules of business,” and develop a “prescription for the next 25 years and beyond.” Their insights and suggestions for engaging employees, and doing what’s right, are compiled and condensed into six actionable recommendations. The first new rule? Embrace “democracy” at work. An overly hierarchical model is not only a barrier to building an inclusive culture, it can actually be “an anchor and a tax on how we work.” To explore the full list of “rules,” read the full post here.
**For more on meeting this turbulent moment, read our post on leadership lessons from the frontlines of COVID-19 and explore our guide for leading change no matter your job title.
The idea of workers longing for their daily commute now that they’re working from home may sound ridiculous when you consider the quintessential commuter experience of traffic jams or screeching subway cars packed to the brim. But, according to this Eblin Group post, enough people report missing the “interstitial time between one place and the next,” — a time free of other responsibilities, which can be conducive to reflection and brainstorming — that Microsoft will soon be launching a “virtual commute” feature to their Teams collaboration platform to meet this growing demand. A “virtual commute,” designed to emulate the fleeting state between now and later, can help you block off time for goal-setting, ideating, and just sitting with your thoughts. Even if you don’t use Teams, the writer suggests some ways to design your own in-home virtual commute in the full post here.
“What’s the difference between loneliness and solitude?” asks a business school professor quoted in this Bloomberg opinion piece. The answer: “One is a state of deprivation, and the other is a state of fulfillment.” As remote work has become a ubiquity ingrained in white collar work for the past eight months, many employees are feeling the lacking state of loneliness rather than the rejuvenating state of solitude. Workers are lonesome. While there are many documented benefits to working from home, people are pining for the invigorating camaraderie of an office environment. Fortunately, an antidote to this malaise can be found in seeking connection. Those who are happiest working independently “spend the most time building connections: to people, a routine, a sense of purpose, and a workspace.” While an office “offers those four things as a bundle,” that doesn’t mean we can’t create those types of connection without the convenience of a brick-and-mortar workplace. It just takes a little more effort now than before. Read the full post here.
For more on this, check out our three guiding principles for leading remote teams.
“Leadership is not heroic,” write the authors of this Harvard Business Review post on the power of vulnerability rather than bravado. Leading is “not about the actual person in charge; rather it is unlocking the forces that bring people together as a team.” Prior to the pandemic, there was a pervasive myth that leaders must project toughness and swagger, but the convergence of crises in 2020 has “highlighted the superiority of those who have the courage to reveal their vulnerabilities.” What people need now are leaders who are “smart, honest, and caring,” and who focus on “helping the organization move forward,” not on “creating a false sense of invincibility.” The first thing you can do to cultivate a more vulnerable leadership style is the most simple: “Start by telling the truth.” Read all their tips for combating bravado here.
For more on this, read our post about why CEOs must find their courage.
“With social unrest enveloping the country,” and rallying cries for workplaces to become actively anti-racist, “managers need to do their part to stop and prevent bias,” explains this SHRM article on identifying hidden biases that act as barriers to creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations. Many leaders lack the skills to recognize bias on the job partly because they “may need to confront their own unconscious bias,” and understand how it it’s creating obstacles to “an equitable workplace culture.” What’s the first step towards battling bias? “A good place to start is accurately defining bias so employers can better recognize and confront it.” But that’s not enough. Managers must then be proactive in “pre-emptively diagnosing areas of concern,” and “removing workplace bias at the root.” The article offers seven “culture strengthening strategies” for creating a bias-free work environment, and you can read them all in the full post here.
“Banter and debate can be really fun—like brain candy,” says this Wired article on online arguments, “but brain candy turns acrid when it becomes the only thing you’re eating all day.” If you’re finding that online arguments are dampening your productivity and interfering with your time management, consuming “hours or even days of your life,” it’s time to for a self-administered intervention. If you’re addicted to the rush that a feeling of “winning” can bring, consider that “polarizing topics are best discussed in real-time,” as arguments made from within the internet cloak of invisibility seldom persuade the other party. You’re more likely to win someone over in person. And, it’s important to remember, that sometimes the “most powerful thing you can do is to simply choose not to engage,” because, “the person with the greatest strength is not the one who always responds but the one who chooses when and how they respond.” Reclaim your time and energy by engaging with the full slate of recommendations here.
For more on time management, explore our top productivity strategies for executives.
Recent Posts & Insights from ConantLeadership
In a recent virtual town hall on leadership lessons from the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Mark Pochapin of NYU Langone Health—in conversation with Doug Conant, Founder and CEO of ConantLeadership—shared illuminating insights that can help us all show up more fully for the people in our lives, no matter our vocation. Dr. Pochapin was on the frontlines of the pandemic, in a leadership role at a busy hospital in New York City at the peak of the crisis, and he has powerful wisdom to impart from that experience. If you’re working to rally a team and keep people energized, consider these four actionable leadership lessons for persevering through crises.
In this excerpted passage from The Blueprint in Training Magazine, Doug shares a story from graduate school where a revered professor challenged him to do better after he showed up to class not having completed the required homework. In that moment, Doug understood the power of challenging yourself and others to continuously improve and to embody a growth mindset. And he held that lesson with him throughout his leadership journey. Learn how to spread an improvement mindset outwards from within in the full article here.
In this recent interview in LEADERS Magazine, ConantLeadership Founder, Doug Conant, shares the key to leading in times of uncertainty. Doug writes, “The changes that have been swiftly implemented in response to the pandemic are going to enable workers to live more well-rounded lives,” adding that, “this is an exciting opportunity to reimagine what the workweek can and should look like to best meet the needs of the people we are leading.” Ultimately, “the companies of the 21st century must be more vigilant in paying attention to all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders.” Read Doug’s full advice for honoring people here.
In last month’s newsletter: Life lessons from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a better approach to D&I, demystifying resilience, and more. Dig into the full link roundup here.
More from ConantLeadership:
“An essential book on leadership.” – DAN PINK, author of WHEN and DRIVE
Doug Conant’s new book, The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights, is available now.