The Biggest Risk to Recovery & Rebound? Leadership Teams

Good News or Bad News. Which do you want first?

Let's start with the good news.  COVID-19 is no longer a health crisis in Australia. Our political leaders and health experts have not just flattened the curve of daily infections; they're on the cusp of squashing even the smallest of outbreaks. Risks remain but we're in a good place.

Now the bad news. Politicians and health experts won't fix the second crisis: the economic damage from domestic and international shutdowns which already has banks like Westpac setting aside $22 billion to cover rising bad debts and defaults, and the University sector projecting losses of over 20,000 jobs. Many more will follow.

Who Will Step Up?

Over the past 6-8 weeks I've had the opportunity to coach and support senior leaders from within a number of large Australian enterprises.

It is obvious that even the most experienced and capable leaders are facing the toughest times and decisions of their careers as they navigate the recovery from the economic shutdowns.

Why So Tough?

Four forces are arriving at once, driven by the unprecedented disruptions to the domestic and world economy.

Do you Recognise These in Your Business? 

They are a mix of technical problems and adaptive challenges but the big issues are, of course, adaptive.

  • How do we restructure the business to adjust to drops in revenue in 20/21 and beyond?
  • How do we engage our workforce while making cuts that were unthinkable just a few weeks ago?
  • How do we work flexibly to avoid the either/or debates about office or remote?
  • Where do we place our limited investment in people and technology?
  • What will 21/22 look like and how do we position for the possibly upswing?

Amongst these questions lies a future-defining challenge.

To recover and rebound requires senior leaders to make tough and effective decisions, and it requires leadership teams to execute those changes in an emotion-charged environment, where the usual leadership team development and support aren't possible.

Here's the Problem

It is a huge ask of leaders to deliver performance and to sustain psychological wellbeing for others and for the leaders themselves.

That's not a skill set of the vast majority of leaders. They've never faced this type of high pressure - high demand environment. And they certainly haven't been trained and coached in how to lead under such conditions.


The Risks are Self Evident - and Highly Likely

Disunity, stress and reverting to old (hierarchical & siloed) ways of working can so easily derail recovery.

At a time when working as one team is the only way to navigate the complex and unpredictable challenges, the risks of disconnected agendas, competition over turf, avoiding the really tough conversations and losing the all-important clear minds and composure are obvious.

For the past few weeks, forward thinking CEO's and HR Directors have been asking me a question that is vital to recovery and rebound:

How do we equip, support and de-risk our leaders and leadership teams when budgets are so tight and conventional training, development and facilitation aren't possible in the new working environment?

There is an answer, and it is compelling and exciting.

It's actually not hugely difficult but it does require a shift in the mindset of leaders, and a transformation in the way we think about leadership team development.

Mindset Shift - From Leader to Coach

That shift in mindset becomes more obvious when you realise that leaders (operating in the most uncertain business environment for over half a century) have to bring their people together as one team to share the big picture, share the reality, share the air, share the load and share the wins and losses.

They are no longer just managers or leaders. They have a culture to coach but do they know how to be the strategy coach, the performance coach or the development coach?

Turn Leaders into Coaches

With less budget, less time and less external support, it has become urgent and essential for enterprises to turn their leaders into coaches to enable recovery and rebound.

Leaders with the mindset, skills and tools to be the coaches of strategy, culture, performance and development.

Coaches who share one mission: to create and sustain a one team culture.

In my next blog I'll share how we have innovated our Think One Team Playbook and some performance psychology techniques to create, test and implement a Turn Leaders into Coaches program which is reinventing the style, cost and effectiveness of leadership and leadership team development in some of Australia's top Universities, Government Agencies and Businesses.

Graham Winter