By Patrick Gallen, Partner, People and Change Consulting, Grant Thornton Ireland

Patrick Gallen
Patrick Gallen

In my last article I proposed that resilience in not a fixed trait, but rather one that can be developed by focusing on a few specific areas and behaviours.

In this article I build on this theme, by looking at change itself and the mind-sets and leadership practices needed to navigate the ever-increasing levels of complexity that surround us.

We know that change can be unpredictable, stressful and uncertain. But we also know that successfully navigating change can create great opportunities for innovation and growth.

As leaders, especially in times of uncertainty, we want to respond to the challenges around us and to take people with us on that journey. We may even find that others turn to us for authoritative certainty, even though this is not possible.

But it just isn’t possible to make an uncertain world certain, or to promise that change will be controlled and carefully managed. What is possible, however, is to prepare your team to make the necessary but possibly uncomfortable adaptive changes in their behaviour or work.

The three things you can do to “lead not solve” are: align your team to the bigger purpose; coach; and develop self-directed teams.

Align your team to the bigger purpose, by focusing on what is directly connected to your team’s identity and value.

What, even if valued by many, should be left behind in order to move forward? Does everyone know what is central and precious to your team’s identity and capability; and does your purpose show in what you say, what you do, what you measure, and what you prioritise?

A shared vision or a shared sense of purpose is the strongest predictor of organisational leadership effectiveness.

We know that telling someone what to do does not grow their ability as much as helping them to figure it out for themselves.

Coaching shifts the relationship with your people, it gives them time to think, to better understand their challenges, uncover insights and discover solutions (often different solutions to the ones you might have predicted).

Coaching is easy to understand but hard to do, especially when we are used to (and often expected to) give our opinion and offer solutions. There is a strong link between coaching and ‘lead not solve’.

By aligning your team and coaching, you start to build self-directed teams. Questioning technique is so important as part of this transition process.

Questions speak to our curiosity as human beings. We become less curious as adults, partly due to the cognitive and emotional demands placed on us. Rekindling curiosity creates opportunities for new insights, both our own and others.

Taking a coaching approach with your people by asking questions. Lots of them; obvious questions, unanswerable questions, provocative questions. You might already know the answer, ask anyway.

You will be providing a team member with the gift of time to think. This is so important in the current remote working environment as we build self-directed teams, to make good decisions and make distributed decision making an essential part of the way we work going forward. As Solomon Gabirol once said, “A wise question contains half the answer”.