Re-Entry: Me as a leader
He knew what he knew, he knew what he didn’t, he took in what others knew.
“As you enter positions of trust and power,
dream a little before you think.”
— TONI MORRISON
3 questions for you:
What kind of leader were you before all this?
What kind of leader are you today? What’s your Fearless Leader dream for July 1st, the New New Year?
Until my coach reminded me, I didn’t remember how during the Apollo 13 reentry, Commander Lovell had a damaged ship, one sick pilot and one who was filling in. They were cold and wet, low on water, and there was no certainty they would survive. The commander had a lot of support, yet he was on his own.
He knew what he knew, he knew what he didn’t, he took in what others knew. He lived in reality, constantly checking and adjusting, rebalancing and realigning, using all the tools he had (including duct tape and plastic book covers) for the best chance of a safe re-entry.
What an example to look to today! Like Lovell, you’re the commander who’s never encountered this challenge before, time is of the essence, and you can’t afford to make mistakes on re-entry – the results would be catastrophic.
Have you been sharpening your leadership tools the last 4, 5, 6, 7 weeks?
Are the flaws you had before more apparent now?
Is there still disagreement, anxiety, indecisiveness, avoidance in you or in the people around you?
What’s on your toolbelt for reentry?
“You never know what events are going to transpire to get you home.”
— COMMANDER JIM LOVELL, Apollo 13
Remember to self-assess in each of these spheres:
Me as a leader
My leadership team
This week’s sphere: Me as a leader.
This week’s Desired Result: I’m calm and certain.
This week’s tool to achieve that result: Current Reality Check
About this Tool: The Current Reality Check has always been crucial to the operation of your firm. You use it to keep checking facts and adjusting assumptions, continually rebalancing and realigning the approach to keep your re-entry plan on course.
You should be pulling out this tool on a strict schedule. It could be weekly when things are running smoothly, say before a weekly partner meeting or as you prepare for an all-staff forum. These days it’s your daily practice at the start of each day.
To do a Current Reality Check, you need to gather and update your FAQS, which from now on stands for:
FACTS: Things you know are true, from a reliable source
ASSUMPTIONS: Things you aren’t sure of but can reasonably assume
QUESTIONS: Things you don’t know yet
SAVVY: Things others in your firm know or think
“It is not as much about who you used to be, as it is about who you choose to be.”
— SANHITA BARUAH, author
I’m coaching clients to begin planning re-entry to the physical office simply by asking the staff what they’re hearing and thinking. But don’t start by saying ‘Here’s the plan; what you think?’ Instead, Start with the FACTS:
‘According to the Governor’s plan, professional service offices may reopen in Phase 2.’
Add a reasonable ASSUMPTION:
‘They haven’t stated a date when that will be, but if health trends continue, it could be (date).We’ll work with that assumption for now.’
Openly share the unanswered QUESTIONS:
‘We haven’t decided when – or even if we’ll resume work in the physical office.
We don’t know yet how it will work so people are safe and the firm runs efficiently.’
Invite their SAVVY:
‘We want to hear from each of you what you’re thinking about re-entry.’
Some tips for getting your staff to share their Savvy:
Before an all-staff forum on Re-Entry, let people know you want to hear from everyone, so they can prepare. Schedule plenty of extra time so everyone gets to speak. Explain that everyone will listen without comments or discussion. Call on people from ‘bottom’ to ‘top’. Don’t let upper level folks chime in, comment, reply, or rebut. Record the meeting or have two people take verbatim notes.
Even misinformation is welcome – it tells you about people’s thoughts, beliefs, fears.
After everyone speaks, recap broadly what you’ve heard, without commentary and with appreciation. Finally, KEEP THE DOOR OPEN and come up with a way for all to keep sharing what they know and what they think, both publicly and privately. Repeat.
So how does this tool help you become calm and certain?
Knowing your Current Reality is calming because you are always certain – not of everything, but you are certain about what you know.
You are certain about what you and others are assuming.
You are certain about what your people know and think and worry about.
You are even certain of what you don’t know.
You don’t have all the answers, and Fearless Leaders don’t act like they do.
You and those around you, those who are looking to you to lead, will become calm as you share with certainty what you know and what you don’t know, and genuinely look to others as you plan for re-entry.
Images: Gottardo Piazzoni, “The Sea” at de Young Museum, San Francisco; shadows at The School of Architecture At Taliesin, Arizona; Ruth Asawa installation at de Young Museum, San Francisco; rocks sorted in the sand on Lopez Island.