Cultivating new era mindsets for new era challenges
Adam Gates, Becky Mackarel and Richard Plaistowe, Odgers Interim’s Financial Services Practice, welcomed their colleague, Andrew Rodgers, Principal, Odgers Berndtson Leadership Practice, who offered practical advice on hot topics around transforming individual and team leadership.
Odgers has established a strong reputation for our work in executive search and assessment, but we are less known for our leadership development capability. That picture is changing rapidly as we build our executive and team coaching business which helps leadership teams cultivate new mindsets to meet today’s big challenges.
Four major themes play a part in achieving next level growth: confidence, excellence, impact and mindset transformation. In terms of the first theme on the list, we can analyse a leadership team’s confidence in relation to the findings of our global Leadership Confidence Index, which covers54 different points of measurement, benchmarked against 1,100 executives.. Meanwhile, the ‘excellence’ piece hinges on our expertise in assessment and profiling, including our proprietary LeaderFit tool which can be used to understand the collective strengths and potential blind spots of leadership teams.
However, here I would like to focus on impact and transformation, which I would describe as my speciality. I describe impact as the ‘relational dynamics’, or the invisible things at play in a team that either enable or disable the fulfilment of strategy, which enables transformation centred on mindset shift and new thinking.
I spent 21 years with HSBC in various country, regional and group leadership positions, operating at a senior level in a large, complex organisation. One of the things I did there was launch an insurance business in Egypt before the Egyptian revolution. We achieved record results after the revolution, and we were able to do that because of a mindset shift that enabled us to embrace this very challenging, difficult opportunity. We went out and did some things differently and that is a proud highlight of my career.
This begs the question, what can you do to cultivate a new mindset? I am a firm believer in the concept of doing the ‘inner work’. By this I mean helping leaders understand how comfortable they are with the resources at their disposal and what responses emerge when they are squeezed under pressure. Is it inspiring leadership? Or do they revert to a fear, command, and control (?) approach? That's really about the inner work and, interestingly, doing that work as a leadership team means you can identify the different pressure points, look at the leadership behaviours the team are exhibiting and assessing and taking ownership for the impact these may have on achieving the business results.
Undoubtedly, one hot topic is hybrid working and this is tightly entwined with intergenerational issues. It has always been the case that different generations have different attitudes to work. However, this has been compounded by changes in thinking post-lockdowns. New behaviours, and challenges to existing behaviours, have come through and leadership teams are grappling with, how can they bring people back into work? What an amazing question that is! It certainly was not something we were asking a few years ago.
There is a whole array of approaches out there, but I have a 4R’s framework – Reflection, Reconciliation, Readiness, Renewal (mindsets) – that goes from root issue analysis to aligning people around new goals. As there are impediments that can block teams from working together harmoniously, I conduct an exercise I refer to as ‘the first Reconciliation’, designed to create a level of unity that is completely transformational. The Readiness stage is more about strategy: have they got the right systems, people, and processes in place? Then we come to the Renewal/mindset stage, which is incredibly important and often ignored or assumed.
One important issue my leadership team clients are grappling with is that people are fatigued. Gallup finds that more than half of managers (53%) report feeling burnt out at work. There is a level of psychological tiredness that has come about because in recent years we have been operating in uncharted waters, using different parts of our brain in a way that is much more energy intensive. We are in the midst of a wellbeing epidemic which impacts the decision making of a leader and the relational capabilities that a team can bring to the table. This undermines effectiveness because where there is underlying fatigue, people are unable to do their best work.
One of the most important things that you can do is find out how tired your people are. You can do that through conversation, surveying, or team talks. It's not difficult, but it’s essential to get a handle on this to be able to move forward.
A business I work with had turned the company around with a five-year strategic plan that delivered amazing results. Now they are into a new strategic plan, which is very exciting, but they found they just did not have the energy needed. They had to acknowledge and recognise the tiredness in the team and work out what to do about it. What to do individually? And how could they support each other to get to a place of optimum energy?
The answer lies in helping people understand their emotional domain, a key component of the mindset renewal process. What might they need to address and spend time on to become energised? This is critical at a time when businesses are struggling with effective connection. Due to fatigue and disconnect across generations because of the recent challenges that we have experienced, often key relationships within organisations are neither as well established nor as healthy as they need to be.
Day to day, there are a lot of transactional relationships: we talk about needing to complete tasks and meet deadlines – focusing on the goals that we are measured against. Yet we really need to take the time to talk: “How is this thing going for you? How are you doing personally? Tell me about what you have got planned for….”.
Although it is not natural for us to do that in a business environment, developing these ‘connection muscles’ is an effective mechanism to combat fatigue and bring teams together. Connected teams become more collaborative and trusting teams, and more trusting teams are more successful.
Get in touch with Andrew Rodgers for more information on how we can help with individual and team transformation.