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agile leadership
Thought Leadership

Agile Leadership: Adapting to Change

The ability to adapt and flex is based upon how well we do work together. In the midst of any change, and especially rapid change, the weaknesses in process, culture, and even strategy create pressure. It is that pressure that shows us how adaptable and flexible our company is.

Company values underpin everything in your organization.

The way those values look and sound in daily work – in addition to how businesses incorporate values into decision making – is what we rely on during change. You are the example everyone will look to day to day, and model that behavior.

You must take action to recognize what is important while making decisions in your business. Without understanding and buy-in from those working for us, it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill. A key part of effective leadership is your credibility. Credibility is something others give you – you don’t give it to yourself. Earning that trust is very similar to the open and the close in a sales conversation.

In my conversation with Tom Libelt of Smart Brand Marketing, he shared, “The two main things in sales are always the opening and the closing. Because if you can get those two figured it out, you’re OK. You get people interested. You get them to buy things that matter with confidence.”

A lot of leadership is borrowed belief, which is something I learned from Gary Barnes. The people who choose to follow you believe in the vision you’ve shared. Each thing you do from the moment they place trust in you. In your capacity to have the roadmap to get to the goal. 

You may already know that most of the time the roadmap is unfinished (and sometimes is a blank piece of paper!). 

Capacity For Change

How much space you have – your capacity – determines how readily you can embrace what needs to happen for rapid change. One of the core skills necessary is creating space because space is what allows us to develop capacity.

You know that there is always more than one way to get to an end goal. Sometimes, even when we know the fastest, most efficient, proven way … we choose a different route. Honor that. The course you set is one that is based on your past experience, comfort with uncertainty, and the information you have to make a decision.

Working with a constellation of stars instead of a single star – your North Star – will create competing priorities. When priorities compete, stagnation and confusion follow. The outcomes are always less than optimal. It is important to understand what is the most important thing. 

“Breakthroughs really happen in solitude. That’s where you can start scoping out the vision in various areas of your life. My vision sets the course and becomes my North Star,” Paul Casey, of Growing Forward shared in our interview. A period of time out of the daily stuff is a retreat to assess and evaluate. 

Your capacity to be agile is shaped by being present, managing energy, the strength of relationship, emotional awareness, and flexibility. Here are some questions to work into your Present Retreat™ process

  • Being present. What happened, what is happening, and what course is being followed (what you expect to happen). Is the course the charted one or are adjustments necessary?
  • Managing energy. When you are stretched, tired, or reactive, it’s an unspoken agreement that your people should also be that way. Are your actions setting an expectation to push through or to support being ready to push through occasionally?
  • Strength of relationship. How are you building and maintaining your networks of mentors, supporters, and clients? Is the network of people you can call on robust?
  • Emotional awareness. What are the situations you react to versus respond to? How much stress do you have in your life right now and what are the implications of that stress on the way you are able to receive, process, and work with data?
  • Flexibility. How open are you to developing an idea versus sticking with an idea at all costs? What will it take to make you even more willing to adapt as resources fluctuate and you become aware of additional information?

We stated the importance of values at the beginning. After you’ve taken time to work through a question, overlay company values on top. If there is a gap, make a commitment to close it. Agile leadership is what underpins company culture.

Agile Concepts in Business Decision Making

Decisions that come out of a structure that reinforces both culture and collaboration is a primary focus for agile leaders.

Leadership is ongoing work. The effort to know priorities and continuously work to align the right actions is what it’s all about. There is no immediate gratification. There is no checking off a list. Nor is there indication the course you’ve charted is the right one. That’s why a clear North Star is necessary. 

It is important to be able to communicate what does not fit and what is unwanted as much as clarity around the vision. This is the practical part of agile leadership. Being OK with saying something doesn’t fit, being OK when an idea that you don’t like does fit, even being OK with having difficult conversations.

When we know what we want and what we don’t want – we can hold ourselves accountable. And, the people working with us can hold us accountable too.

The dread in needing to call out behavior and decisions that aren’t working might come from the fact that we don’t provide enough feedback when things are going right. Kathy Atkins, of The Lattitude Group said, “Holding people accountable goes both ways. Holding them accountable for all the good stuff they do, which is usually far more than things that don’t do well. Also, holding them accountable for what the situation is, and keep[ing] people whole.”

The last piece – keeping people whole – is easy to overlook when things are going well and when there is major change. We start assuming people know what we think, yet when it doesn’t come out of our mouths people may start feeling incomplete. Taken for granted.

Decisions we make don’t have to last forever. They have to last for a period of time. When you consider that – the confidence in your decisions goes up. You only have to be thinking about what is happening now and what is immediately next. You will make different decisions when prioritizing threats and opportunities.

Stay Curious and Seek Information to Develop Your Agile Leadership

There are many approaches you can take to develop your capacity and integrate agile leadership into the way your company works.

Here are a few approaches the Red Direction culture reinforces and that promotes collaboration: 

  • We are always on the lookout for how to utilize each other’s strengths and be of service to each other.
  • Everyone knows the priorities, and the values help us self-check the way we work together.
  • We assess different ideas and choose one together.
  • We use structures to leverage time, which allows us to bring in space to be creative in our solutions.

Begin Integrating Agile Leadership Principles

The more we do the more we learn. The way you and your team work is a reflection of your culture. The collective actions are a reflection of the structures. 

Sometimes we face critical moments where making rapid and drastic change is necessary. What’s contained in this article and the Rapid Change and Adaptability podcast program provide one starting point to navigate.

When your company is maintaining or growing is the best integration time these concepts. You have the ability to make space and align culture change to existing priorities as you go. Consider where you are at – and one area you could improve on – and what approaching that will look like in the coming days, months, and quarters.

You can increase your capacity and become even more of an agile leader.

As an additional reading material, check out the following articles:

Adapting to Change Requires Flexibility

The New Competitive Advantage

For more tips on growth, leadership, and business strategy check out our previous articles.

Still feel like you need a bit of help with some business direction on this topic? Then ACT to Plan by contacting me for a 30-Minute Unstuck Quick Consult. We’ll discuss your aims, where you are, and where you should be to move deliberately toward your team-building goals!

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