Archive for March, 2012

Adaptive Leadership: Staying in the FLOW

Staying in the flow of change and not avoiding or fighting it creates a dynamic opportunity for an adaptive leader. It is dynamic because… if you don’t stay in the flow of change–change will take you somewhere and likely to a place you don’t want to go. By staying engaged in the flow you learn what it truly means to be adaptive and begin to predict and speculate about change. All business systems have processes and ideally each process should have clear goals or outcomes defined. Its always comes back to “core purpose” to inform why we would adjust and change.

In order for us to measure progress towards results and adjust purposefully…we need feedback. So the key point for Adaptive Leaders is to make sure you are in the flow of as much feedback as you can get. When feedback is not a part of the system loop it leaves the entire system at a competitive disadvantage and at risk for failure. Marriages and families suffer from the same painful lack of good clear feedback that will give a person clarity about “what is” really going on and nothing less than complete candor.

It is hard as a leader to get feedback on our blind spots. Well, let’s say its hard to get really great feedback…period.  And it gets even harder as you get higher in an organization or if you are the owner. Why? Because whether we like it or not people are fearful of reprisal and not many of us are raised up to give candid feedback…even when it matters a great deal. How many blog posts and articles have painted the picture of how key leaders failed their constituents and customers? Too many to count and it is explained in hindsight many times as…they just didn’t see “it” coming.

Absent of feedback, the scene becomes more of a mad scientist approach that then leads to a mess of poor results and catastrophic impact to employees. An Adaptive Leader has to always make sure that they are seeking the feedback or information that could change a decision or the trajectory of a business. Many businesses that fail don’t have to and could avoid much of the trauma inflicted because of harsh corrections. I call it “whipsawing” an organization. Whatever you call it, it ain’t gentle. These types of corrections to a business system can’t be avoided in crisis, but that’s actually the point. Not every situation needs to be a crisis if you have a finger on the pulse of what is going on.

Can you set yourself up for more success? Heck yes! Especially if you are in charge of leading the system. You better have a say in what’s important and insert yourself in conversations that matter most. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself to see if you are “staying in the flow”.

  • As a leader do I participate in the designing and development of processes for feedback?
  • Do your feedback mechanisms with your direct reports create or maintain a high level of awareness needed to make decisions?
  • Do you engage a coach and confidant that challenges you with straight talk and investigates your perspectives?
  • What can you do to encourage candor and a culture of feedback?
  • How do you close the loop after you receive feedback? What does acting upon it look like?

Adaptive leaders understand (and respond to) change and are always moving with change. So much has been written about change and change management. However, much of what is written has been around managing change and not leading it. Even more pertinent to the concept of flow is the understanding of transition. Transition is essentially what it takes to move between change(s). Leading transition is different than managing change. Leading transitions requires keeping goals and values as the vanguard for why we transform ourselves to new ways of taking action and stay in the flow.


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