Leaders today navigate constant change. Each day there are new situations, new challenges and new information. Many leaders feel they simply can not develop their leadership capacity fast enough amidst ongoing change, ambiguity and complexity.
How about you? Do you find that you are constantly behind, trying to catch up but never able to really feel on top of all of the commitments and change facing you?
It’s useful to develop “leadership agility” to increase your ability to respond to your environment and change quickly. Unfortunately, many leaders, even if they intend to be agile and responsive, cannot actually change fast enough in response to the stimuli coming towards them. Whether it's news you receive about the market, changes within the company, challenges with your team or issues with a project, there is a lot of new information coming at you.
In our work at Uplevel DNA, we see that leadership agility is only built by taking a holistic approach that includes mind, body and nervous system. We use principles from neurobiology to help leaders change more quickly and effectively. We work with clients to create leaders that are “change ready” so they can create teams and organizations that are also change ready.
Here are four keys to increasing your leadership agility:
Key #1 - Improve the quality of feedback you receive
Are you receiving feedback on a regular basis that is clear, direct, actionable? Is the feedback you get from your manager, colleagues and team truly giving you insight into what you need to do differently as leader? Rather than vague feedback that says, “you could be more confident,” or “you need to change your communication style,” you need to get specific, high quality feedback that informs you about what exactly needs to change and how you can change it. With this feedback, you can become more responsive and agile.
Key #2 - Increase your level of leadership self-awareness
Do you have an accurate picture of how you navigate change? Do you perceive yourself as someone who is responsive to change yet your manager, colleagues and/or team provide you feedback that is to the contrary? It is helpful to have an accurate level of self-awareness about how you operate as a leader so you can understand the impact you have on others.
Key #3 - Identify specific aspects of change to develop within yourself and your team
Rather than saying “I need to get better at managing change,” it’s helpful to identify specific aspects of change (i.e. planning change, communicating change, coaching others through change, etc.) that you want to improve. Consider your goals and commitments as a leader then develop the specific aspect of change to accelerate the results you desire.
Key #4 - Reach out to key stakeholders to understand their requirements during change
In order to build your leadership agility, it’s important to actively seek feedback from key stakeholders. Many leaders inadvertently miss opportunities to discuss change and truly understand the goals and challenges of their key stakeholders. Once you have met with them, take time to translate it into what we call “contextual feedback,” so you can be precise about what needs to change in your project so you can accelerate your own leadership and results.
How These 4 Keys Play Out
Recently, I was in a Leadership Immersion with a senior leader and we were working on feedback that he had received about being aggressive with his recommendation for organizational changes. We unpacked the feedback, in context, to understand what it really meant. By doing this, we increased his level of self-awareness since most of us have “blind spots” that can hold us back. Unfortunately, his aggressive approach had serious impact on his team, clients and the overall organization.
As his Executive Coach, I had to give him the difficult feedback that this aggressiveness around proposed changes, from the board’s perspective, was not acceptable. It was disruptive to the culture and it was holding him back. We discovered that the level of aggressiveness he was demonstrating was on the level of what he needed when he was early in his career. At that time, it served him to advance in his career. However, at this point it was actually holding him back. What he actually needed was to be more assertive and collaborative, but not aggressive.
This kind of focused and intensive work is what make Uplevel DNA Leadership Immersions so exciting and so incredibly valuable. Taking what we learned, we identified specific areas for growth and clear actions to take which also included his goals for the upcoming quarter. We mapped out specific opportunities for him and he emerged from that day very clear about how he was going to make specific changes to increase his leadership agility so he could be more collaborative and assertive rather than aggressive.
If you’re like most leaders, you know there are areas to address so you can build your leadership agility and manage change more effectively. You also know that you don’t have months and months to do this as we move into the last quarter of the year. An Uplevel DNA Leadership Immersion is an intensive, in-person experience over one or two days that will support you to make necessary shifts more quickly so you can change fast enough.
Athena Williams, Founder and CEO of Uplevel DNA, has been facilitating leadership programs for individuals and organizations for over 18 years. Her powerful, impactful approach creates deep and sustainable transformation within a short time. She is currently working with leading companies to uplevel their leadership and accelerate business results. Athena is the author of the upcoming book, The Uplevel Code, to be released in late 2019.