Remember the meetings of yestermonth? The ability to call them, conduct them, host them, cancel, postpone, re-schedule and ultimately control their outcomes — were an unfortunate reality of the pre-COVID-19 workplace. Too often, the pecking order of power and who got to participate in them, whose stock went up and whose went down, was the focus. Dominant narratives prevailed and it’s likely some of the best thoughts and ideas were not heard. Meetings in the old normal got to be less about getting stuff done and more about preserving exclusivity within the organization.
When meetings are mostly about preserving a status quo like an organizational hierarchy, we may find ourselves acting like a chameleon. In playing for self-preservation by blending in, we quit doing things that make personal and group transformation possible — things like listening, sharing, collaborating, creating, helping people, learning from one another, solving problems worth solving.
Now’s our chance to change all that for the better.
We recently helped a group of leaders from around the world disrupt the old normal meeting model and the way we used to come together to collaborate with a virtual sprint. 49 leaders each spent an average of 34 minutes of time over a 7-day sprint to define Leadership in the New Normal and align on a shared roadmap that defines small, incremental steps any leader can take to transform their organization, and their leadership, for a forever-changed world.
One of the most profound insights to emerge from the sprint:
The biggest obstacle to a new type of leadership is the inertia of old leadership — the threat that we’ll go back to same old ways of doing things, camouflaging new possibilities for meaningful change .
One way to overcome inertia is with direct, aligned action — and that’s exactly what our contributors did. They participated in 21 exercises with each exercise taking about 90 seconds to complete. These short moments of hyper-focused problem-solving enabled a group of strangers who shared a common purpose — being better leaders in the New Normal — to co-create a roadmap for a plan of action.
‘Being better about how we meet and why’ surfaced as a clear theme in contributors’ responses. Leaders are ready to say goodbye to many aspects of how we once gathered, and our purpose and processes when we did.
Contributors rallied around four objectives for leaders in the New Normal:
- Embody radical open-mindedness, inclusion, and 'presence’
- Choose enabling technologies
- Establish new work processes and policies
- Redefine organizational value systems and structures
For each of these objectives, contributors defined a set of key actions to be implemented in 3-month intervals for the next 9+ months. The key actions were selected, ranked and scheduled by the group according to six criteria:
- Difficulty to implement
- Time to Implement
- Economic impact
- Social Impact
- Process Impact
- Policy Impact
The sprint generated hundreds of ideas for leaders to position their companies and communities for a post-COVID-19 world. A strong theme running through the ideas is a more collaborative work environment. “Quit trying to be a hero, listen for a change,” said one leader. “Let someone else make a decision you’d normally have made,” said another.
Which brings us back to meetings. However our gatherings are configured in the future, we have an opportunity ahead of us to make them better than what they were in the old normal. In indigenous cultures, gatherings include the full community, begin with conversations, and self-organize through those conversations. When organizations are hierarchical, every gathering comes pre-organized. There’s no way to involve the community in the solving of a problem. Any conversation is an illusion meant to maintain a status quo. And nothing stifles innovation like a status quo.
We are going to need innovation more than we ever have. No more status quo. As our 49 contributors made clear, now is a time to listen. Share. Collaborate. Create. Help people. Learn from one another. Solve problems worth solving. A time for shedding our chameleon skins and revealing our superpowers.