We are here – 2021. How has it started for you? I’ve enjoyed a break in the sunshine with my family, and I’m feeling energised and ready for what I intend to be a better year than 2020! I hope you have had also had the opportunity to regenerate.

This week in Victoria after much of 2020 in lockdown, up to 25% of government employees and 50% of private sector employees in Melbourne are permitted to go back into the office. This presents leadership challenges and opportunities.

There is excitement: joy at meeting colleagues face-to-face, reconnecting with the guy who makes the coffee in the cafe downstairs, brainstorming in front of a whiteboard with real life colleagues. Others may be feeling the opposite: anxiety at facing public transport, wondering about the overwhelm of the noise, not fitting into last summer‘s work clothes! Behind the different emotions and varying levels of enthusiasm, the rationales are equally as diverse.

Have you gone ‘back to the office’ in some way? What have you noticed?

From a leadership perspective, how you show up will impact the confidence, connection and productivity of your team.

While it’s natural for some leaders to want to WITHDRAW AND PROTECT what we have, this will contribute to a culture of fear and/or avoidance. The problems we face can seem intractable when we spend too much time in reflection and too little time connecting with others, and in action. Productivity suffers and engagement takes a big hit. The risk of perishing as an organisation is real.

When leaders take an ADVANCE AND CONTROL approach, challenges are seen as ‘issues to manage’. There may be a false sense of bravado – as a leader I have the answers – that leads to ‘telling’ people what to do. This won’t land well on people who have been self-managing from home for most of 2020! Enforcing bureaucratic rules (even rules that ‘worked’ pre-COVID) may result in resentment, and risks creating a do-the-minimum culture where the aim to is to survive.

Shit happens, right? COVID did hit, is still with us, and will be here for a while.

The most effective leaders are responding with an approach of ENGAGE AND EXPLORE, building thriving organisations. Rather than telling people what to do, these leaders know they don’t have all the answers in a highly uncertain environment. They ask great questions that involve individuals and teams in collaboratively finding the answers. Challenges faced are worked on collectively, with people learning together. This kind of leadership takes courage and vulnerability, and it fosters confidence and trust. These are Leaders Who Ask.

Where are you sitting today on the Leaders Who Ask return to the workplace ladder? How does that impact you? And those around you? What choices do you need to make to move to an explore and engage leadership style? What questions could you ask?

Go Fearlessly


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