Today’s organisational teams are dealing with rapid change. The pace is faster than anything the business world has seen before. The challenge for leading teams is to maintain consistent improvement as well as to support and motivate employees.
Being a leader in an agile environment means learning and displaying agile traits. This involves flexibility and the ability to think outside of the box to respond to unexpected challenges.
In this blog, I’ve highlighted some key strategies for leaders that must manage in today’s fast-paced environment.
Harvard Business Review coined the phrase ‘planned opportunism’. The phrase captures the fact that while you can’t predict the future, you can look out for ‘weak signals’ that allow your business to recognise changes and opportunities.
What are the factors and conditions that your business’ success depends on?
What parts of your business are the most likely to change in the next few years?
How can you prepare for those changes to reduce the impact, or take advantage of it for success?
Signals to look out for include employee morale and opinions, cultural and political events and their effects. Also, consider changes in other fields that may appear unrelated to your own.
Prioritise and Act
Business leaders have a to-do list that’s a mile long. Yet, many are in reaction mode, dealing with the most urgent situations every day. This means that they never make it past item one or two on their list. My go to tool for managing my time effectively is the old favourite popularised by Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. By blocking out time for the Important but non-urgent stuff, I make sure it gets the focus it deserves and, in the words of Stephen Covey, “put first things first”
It’s helpful to develop a culture where prioritisation drives what’s important. Engage your employees to come to you with their ideas and trust that you will act on the ideas – or at least seriously consider them. Rather than get stuck in a reactive loop of putting out fires, look for what is coming next, and be prepared to embrace change and even drive it from the front.
Employees spend an average of 28% of their time on bureaucratic chores such as paperwork or unnecessary meetings. In fact, the average time to approve a proposal is 20 days once an organisation grows to 100 employees or more.
Leaders that insist on hoop-jumping for its own sake struggle in fast-paced environments. Make a point of finding ways to remove these barriers to change.
Your team know what change is happening ‘in the trenches’. Hence, today’s leaders need to listen first. Communicating a strategy without understanding the perception of the workers on the ground will lead to short-lived success at best.
Go out of your way to learn more about your teams, their viewpoints, their relationships with other teams and what they believe your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses are. That way, you have a more holistic understanding of the organisation that you lead.
Be Okay Not Knowing all the Answers
The Forbes Technology Council recommend that if you’re leading teams in a fast-paced environment, you must develop confidence with uncertainty. This is a strong message that applies to many cases.
For instance, if current market trends show that you need to make changes, you don’t need to have a thorough roadmap to take the first steps. Product launches fail despite all data pointing to a win. Experiment and learn fast. You can’t always figure out why something didn’t work as planned.
Encouraging an Adaptive Culture that Celebrates Change
A huge part of your role as a leader is providing a top-down view of how the business should work as a whole. When you display agile leadership traits, your whole organisation follows suit. Show traits of listening, learning and adapting. These will support agility in your business rather than putting up obstacles.
Top Tips for Leading Teams in a fast-paced environment
1. Be proactive rather than reactive – Move away from firefighting and look outside your field for inspiration.
2. Don’t worry about what you don’t know – Get comfortable with uncertainty.
3. Say goodbye to bureaucracy – Look for ways to minimise paper pushing and lengthy meetings. Focus on adding value and learning fast.
4. Be a good and willing listener – There’s no point creating a strategy of you don’t understand your team’s perspective. Change is constant and you can only see it coming by listening first.