Article (November-2020)


Leaders need to hit "refresh" button to develop specific mindsets

Anand Pillai

Designation : -   MD

Organization : -  Leadership Matters Inc., Delhi-NCR


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What kind of specific traits and mindsets are required to lead businesses during the crisis?

AP Leaders will define what they do in a crisis (COVID-19 response)-or be defined by it. We have seen more Volatility Uncertainty Complexity and Ambiguity in the last 6 months than in the last 600 years! NO futurologist or Science fiction book/movie has even remotely predicted the situation that we are in right now where almost 2/3rd of the world is in semi or complete lockdown. Clearly in crisis times like these where we have hit a rock bottom, we need to go "hit refresh" and develop two specific mindsets - the Beginner mindset and the Growth mindset.

a. The beginner mindset refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying/analyzing a subject/situation. Going "back to basics" or doing "Zero based budgeting"

b. A growth mindset is an attitude and belief that people intrinsically have the ability to develop their talents, abilities, intelligence, and emotional intelligence. It basically means that you believe success comes from the consistent effort of working through challenges/crisis

What resources and leadership differentiating actions fuel the change process in such abnormal environments?

AP Andrew (Andy) Grove, former CEO of Intel, who wrote the book "Only Paranoid Survive", has a model that can help leaders not only to deal with crisis moments in their existence but also use them to thrive and overcome. Andy Grove, calls these moments "strategic inflection points" or SIPs. He presents advice for surviving and overcoming in these critical times. Here are nine actions that can fuel the process of overcoming any type of crisis.

Action #1: "Strategic inflection points": Whenever there's a change in the market, leaders have to reevaluate their strategies.

Action #2: Employees must react to strategic inflection points - not only in their company, but also in the wider market.

Action #3: Strategic inflection points can lead a leader/ company either to catastrophe or a new chance for success.

Action #4: SIPs can confuse a business/ society, so strong leadership is needed to ensure that people/employees remain focused and relevant.

Action #5: For internal and external employees to follow a new strategy, leaders must transmit a clear and simple message.

Action #6: Since employees are emotionally attached to their company, leaders must solicit objective opinions from outsiders.

Action #7: To stay current in the market, leaders need open communication with employees, outside experts and journalists (fake news!)

Action #8: Leaders need to build flexible teams of creative staff who are comfortable with change.

Action #9: Business conditions can change in an instant (Like COVID Lockdown), so leaders must be vigilant and prepared for multiple scenarios.

Post pandemic, how is the organization learning culture expected to evolve and how will it accelerate our way out of crisis?

AP Peter Senge, in his book The 5th Discipline (1990) says one-third of 500 companies will disappear within 15 years, and the average lifetime for the largest enterprises is approximately 40 years. In my opinion this disappearance can happen in just 5 months in a global pandemic and lockdown like COVID if we do not create an organization learning culture. His book which has become a classic in Change/Crisis management addresses the question how today's organizations can have a learning culture to experience continuous growth to accelerate and perform better so as to leading themselves out of the crisis. The five disciplines of learning organizations are as follows:

Discipline 1. Building a Shared vision A Shared Vision means all employees in a company share the same vision of where the organization needs to go (instead of a vision-statement where management has written where the organization should be going). This is the most critical in a crisis situation.

Discipline 2. Mental Models. These are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. Needless to say these can become mental blocks in arriving at a solution in any situation.

Discipline 3. Team learning. As someone rightly said "None of us is smarter than all of us. Leveraging the wisdom of the group through team learning is a powerful way to grow capacity within the organization as well as in the individual members.

Discipline 4. Personal Mastery. This much needed discipline in times of crisis, will enable us to naturally take the initiative, not get burned out, and come to work each day fresh and with purpose.

Discipline 5. Systems Thinking the Fifth of the disciplines is Systems Thinking: appreciating that individuals, policies, organizations, decisions, relationships, etc., are interconnected elements in a larger context. Systems thinking also recognizes that the four core disciplines are integrated and essential parts of a larger approach to organizational learning.

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