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Leading in New Worlds, our new open programme, kicked off this week, with participants from businesses ranging from British public sector to FTSE 250 property, European Pharma to Australian professional sport. This diversity lies at the heart of our open programme philosophy which combines expert input with the shared learning from highly experienced leaders, seeking a new edge to their leadership.

The module emphasized the key skills needed to lead remotely through COVID, with a particular focus on balancing the competing demands of psychological and physical safety with business performance. However, there was also rich conversation when we explored how a skilful focus on psychological and physical safety can be an accelerant for trust in the business, achievable performance and leadership impact.

Lead yourself

Achieving this balance starts with how you lead yourself and we heard vivid examples of the need to provide certainty, calm and direction, when team members were struggling and beset by anxiety. This required the mastery of the leader’s own fears and concerns, and which starts with the ability to talk about them. Leaders welcomed the chance to discuss these in breakouts and take further their own plans to thrive and manage stress, which often get left on the shelf, in the speed and busyness of daily life.

To Lead your teams

It was immediately striking how different people’s current leadership worlds are, ranging from Melbourne’s 2-hour limit on going outside, to leaders operating mainly from their offices, and other leaders having teams in the UK operating within a range of different lock-down limitations, within the same team! Others described steep commercial challenges, of clients being closed, or unavailable through normal channels.

A vivid example – how ready are you?

One leader described the challenge caused by a unit team member testing positive, and the need to respond very quickly, decisively and calmly in relation to cleaning, staffing, connecting with individual team members and then re-opening. They also described the need to lead from the front, managing their own anxieties in order to help set an example and tone for other to follow lower down in the organization.

It reminded me of a similar situation at my large local tennis club, where one of the coaches reported COVID symptoms and swiftly notified all his clients and self-isolated (in fact he tested negative). It raises the question for all leaders: How ready are you for the most likely ‘What – ifs’ of leading through COVID in your organization?

High performance underpinned by a team climate of connectedness and safety

Leaders discussed how they balance the task and social connectedness that lies at the heart of creating a culture that drives sustained commercial performance. A key part of our input was to emphasise how task connectedness is vital in creating and recreating pictures of success for the team and organization. This in turn stimulated our leaders to think about the different ways they wanted to communicate what success looks like this week, this month, and beyond, in order to keep helping people know how they need to pull together.

Talk into Action

Every Leading in New Worlds module involves participants committing to a new habit for 21 days; which will be formed from a combination of their own individual context, with an aspect of new input from the session which will stretch their leadership capacity to increase their impact. We’re looking forward to module 2 in 21 days.