Challenging the agenda.. a leadership prerogative

by Victoria Freer-Hewish

8 December 2021

With organisations and teams going through accelerated change this past year and a half, people are looking for insights and guidance to support and reassure with their decision-making around strategy.

There’s an understandable element of nervousness – “Are we getting this right?” – and a desire to share thinking and challenges with networks – “Is this on your agenda moving forward?”. I hear these concerns in my client catch-ups.

Leading Edge have conducted new research into five key drivers of high-performance success in organisations (you can download your copy here) to explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with senior leaders and share insights from our network.High Performance Report

In this new world, we’re all working differently and thinking differently. We have a much higher awareness of the different aspects of people’s lives: the journeys people have been on, the impact of Covid and how that has influenced people in the workplace.

‘Working differently’ can easily get badged as ‘hybrid working’ – but it’s so much more than a single description. There is no one set rule for how it works in every team and every organisation, and the report highlights the many challenges faced and looks at the need to be intentional around the many opportunities presented.

One statistic in our research around hybrid working took me by surprise: 1 in 10 said hybrid working still isn’t on their agenda. My immediate thought was “how can it not be!”. But I think this raises the question that although hybrid working will certainly be on leaders’ agendas, does this extend to board-level agendas?

Contributors to our report describe making the shift to people-centric ‘connected hybrid working’ in their organisations, sharing practical insights on what has and hasn’t worked for them and how, as described by Kirsty Lawrence, HR Director at TUI, they “ensure dialogue about the new working culture isn’t just about location or working hours flexibility, but also about other workplace changes, for example use of technology to improve the workplace experience”.

It’s clear that leaders face a challenge to balance the need to make up the cash lost with a desire to lead in a way that empowers their teams through a flatter structure and more autonomy. Leaders might revert to a hierarchical style of leadership (one that’s more about KPIs and has less of a people focus), thinking that’s what they need right now to meet their revenue goals. But it’s so important not to let that people agenda fall away.

Focusing on people through empathetic leadership is the way to help guide teams back to the positive journeys they were on, especially within a hybrid working set-up where people can more easily hide their emotions behind a screen and there are far fewer watercooler moments that provide the opportunity to check in on wellbeing.

We need to lead with love now more than ever – not transition back to an old way of leading through fear – and create the environments for people to flourish. The journey hasn’t finished and I see this High Performance Insights report as a starting place for discussion, enabling leaders to use the statistics and case studies to challenge themselves on decisions while gaining reassurance to be more innovative with transformative ideas. A good wake-up call for some, perhaps, and an opportunity to share insights and manage upwards to help get those agendas changed.

Victoria Freer-Hewish

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