Starting the New Year with ‘agility fatigue’

‘Happy New Year! Thank goodness 2020 is behind us’ .. that was a pretty shortlived sentiment, as the realisation of Uk wide lockdown 3.0 became clear.  For most of us the tentative plans and building blocks we had started to explore for ‘early spring’ are once again being reviewed, revised and reconsidered in the face of the shifting sands of government restrictions.

Those with a permanently sunny glass half full disposition will no doubt be badging the rework as the everpresent need for ‘agility’.

agility (noun)

  1. ability to move quickly and easily.
  2. ability to think and understand quickly.

Agility is doubtless a core leadership competence for the modern leader.  But if I’m honest, I think it’s often a highfalutin badge for ‘indecisiveness’, ‘poor decision making’, ‘lack of direction’ and ‘flip-flopping’.  Marketing initiative bombed? Be ‘agile’ and back pedal.   Finding a decision to restructure hard to implement? Be ‘agile’ and consign it to history.  It’s no wonder many leaders and team members are starting 2021 with ‘agility fatigue’.

(To be clear, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t recognise when something isn’t working and change tack.  One of the core aspects of our Leadership Point of View is Encourage Fast Fail, Learn Quick.  The events of 2020/21 to date have driven agility into our everyday lives – from school children to senior leaders, we’ve all tried, learnt and failed at some new stuff!)

But I think what ‘anchors’ truely valuable agility – and helps prevent or dissipate the risk of change fatigue – is a clear line of sight to a purpose and strongly held beliefs.

A defined ‘reason for doing what we do’, and culturally directional ‘ways of showing up’ should tether our choices and actions within an acceptable ‘tolerance’ span.  Stress and fatigue exist when we are asked to operate continually outside of our tolerance.

Our role as leaders must be to ensure we frame the need for agility; and the choices we make in service of that agility; against a visible and compelling purpose and beliefs.  If we can focus on that, we’ll continue to ensure we and our teams continue to navigate the shifting sands well.