Rounding the Corner: Helping Leaders Adapt for an Unpredictable Ride

Mindsets for a New Year and a New Normal

Organizations everywhere are grappling with how to transform themselves in light of the new business realities. For many, it’s been about fighting to survive and for others, it’s about keeping up with new growth opportunities. The business environment continues to rapidly shift, and leaders must continually adapt.

Over this past year, we have been in the trenches with senior leaders doing just that – helping them successfully adapt to these new conditions. Here’s what we have learned from working with a global bank, a technology company, and a global training company.

The most critical need is for leaders to adopt more agile leadership approaches, be relationally attuned to their teams, and empower employees to act and collaborate quickly.

This kind of transformation must first be incubated within the minds and hearts of leaders, giving them an opportunity to learn and unlearn, transforming themselves from the inside out.

You can’t simply send your leader an email telling them to be more agile or to empower their team and expect transformation to happen. Watching training decks or YouTube tutorials are also not enough. Changing one’s mindset in a new and sustainable way requires more.

At New Vantage, we have created a powerful online leadership learning experience called Leadership Catalyst.  It is a program designed to cultivate high-performance mindsets, create a shared leadership culture, and build trusted relationships. Our partner clients have loved the results and are asking us to expand and scale for greater impact.

The program is designed to help leaders transform how they work in order to solve emerging challenges in an unpredictable, remote work context, including:

  • How do I keep the pulse on my team and manage their productivity?
  • How do I build and support a team in this environment?
  • How do I lead and promote effective collaboration?
  • How do I help my team adapt and innovate?

Just how does this kind of leadership transformation happen? Three vital ingredients:

First, leadership mindsets.

Working with senior leaders and sponsors, we identify key leadership and culture mindset shifts critical to accomplishing business objectives. We have created learning experiences to help leaders make these shifts which we referred to as ‘crossing the bridge.’

Second, the learning environment.

We bring leaders together online in small groups to have trusted, meaningful connections. Here they are free to unpack challenges, share victories, and invite input. The Aha moments of learning are often paired with Oh-no moments that have to be unlearned. A safe environment is necessary for participants to be vulnerable and disclose areas for growth.

Third, put learning into action.

The ROI is realized when leaders and teams get very specific with their commitments to take action immediately – and over time. “What will you do differently this week?” is the most important question asked before a session concludes. Context and accountability matter. Leadership teams identify new and significant ways to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency as a result of their experience.

Let’s dive deeper:

1. Key Mindset Shifts: Helping Leaders Reimagine their Leadership

We built transformational learning experiences around leadership mindsets that are proven to be important for successfully navigating volatile organizational and business contexts. The learning design includes content from some of the best global thought leaders and is packaged into learning modules using adult-learning principles.

Each mindset shift is the central theme of an interactive, facilitated 90-minute online module. Our design and methodology moves leaders from the mindset on the left toward the mindset on the right as shown below.

Without these mindsets shifts, leaders will not be able to close the gap.

2. The Learning Environment: Creating a Safe Place to ‘Cross the Bridge’

While the content is important, the learning environment is even more important. Transactional learning is easy online, but we have created space for transformational learning experiences that allow leaders to address their skepticism, fear, and insecurity, and explore new ways of leading that result in real behavior change. Several design principles were essential for Leadership Catalyst.

Smaller is Better:

We create groups, intact teams or mixed, of no more than nine (9 tiles in most online meeting platforms) to keep participants feeling like they are in a real community. The program includes a package of 90-minute facilitated modules over a series of weeks that lay down learning like building blocks in chunks that are manageable for Zoom-fatigued leaders.

Humanize the Experience:

We focus on making these groups a place where leaders can be themselves and feel like they are part of a meaningful social experience. A module always begins with a check-in question like, “what is something that has inspired or encouraged you recently?” It encourages story-telling that generates optimism and empathy – the kind of experiences that allow participants to move from 2-dimensional icons on a screen to 3-dimensional people in real relationships. Unexpected highlights have been the moments where a child launches onto the lap of a parent/VP Digital Services on Zoom as a way to remind us that we really do bring our whole selves to work.

Acknowledge the Challenges:

There’s no value in learning what you already know. It’s vital to have environments where leaders can have their conventional know-how challenged and be able to say “I’m stuck, how can I succeed?”

For leaders to transform, to adopt more agile leadership approaches, to be relationally attuned to their teams, and to empower their employees, they must first come together in community. Crossing the bridge is best done as a connected cohort where real vulnerability can exist.

3. Putting Learning into Action: Moving the Needle Through Leadership Experiments

Real change only happens when leaders apply new insights and learnings to their actions and behaviors. A mindset shift takes time, but the application of learning gets leaders to turn the corner and allows the mindset shift to take hold.

For example, near the conclusion of a Leadership Catalyst program, a team of chief internal auditors within a global bank recognized that applying a partnership-based mindset rather than a hierarchical, siloed leadership mindset had real and practical significance.

They agreed together that there was an opportunity to increase their value as “trusted advisors” by sharing more of their insights on the business with their internal partners to help them proactively mitigate new business risks. They identified three concrete actions that would allow them to implement this among a team of almost 300 over the course of 2021 as a result of their Leadership Catalyst experience. This will result in greater effectiveness and contribute to their enterprise efficiency objectives.

Another group of senior digital services leaders agreed they would apply the learnings from our program to collaborate with other business areas within the bank. One important way they want to initiate more effective collaboration? Begin with Leadership Catalyst to get all leaders on the same page with their mindsets and approaches.

Leaders identified that their mindsets shifted by up to 25%. But even more importantly, the impacts of the program are leading to concrete ways of achieving greater effectiveness and efficiency for the business.

Here is what they said:

  • “Stronger trust is helping leaders collaborate with other leaders because it promotes a ‘we’re in this together’ mindset”
  • “I am identifying new strategies to manage and coach teams that are working from home”
  • “Discussions are highlighting new opportunities to increase team performance and adaptability”
  • “The digital online experience has been better than participants expected and is allowing leaders to get transformational ‘face time’ moments with their team”

Mindsets in Your Organization

What mindsets are driving your organization? What needs to change in order for you to adapt to meet the emerging challenges in your industry? What tools will your leaders use to initiate change? What kind of support is available to nurture leadership transformation?

How you answer these questions could dictate how successful your organization will be in the long term.

Ready for a Test Drive?

In 2021, as we continue to work in remote workplace environments, we can help you and your organization drive for higher performance and business success. We’d love to share with you how you can ‘test drive’ Leadership Catalyst in your organization.

About Marv Franz

Marv Franz is the Principal of New Vantage Consultants. He works with leaders, senior management teams, and boards to help bring transformation to their organizations. Marv has applied fifteen years of consulting experience in North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. He has worked with over sixty organizations including small firms and Fortune 500 companies.