Into The Unknown: Purposeful, Present & Prepared

By

Bernard Lee

7th Jul 2020

5 min read

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As we navigate this journey into the unknown, people and organisations need to be purposeful, present and prepared.

The world has hit a ‘reset’ point during this pandemic. In the coming days, more economies will reopen and more businesses will restart. We have models to predict how things will pan out. Yet, the reality is, we are faced with a multitude of unknowns. 

Despite the uncertainties, there are some things we do know. We know that we cannot remain in lockdown forever. We know that people need to be reconnected with one another. We know that the workplace and how we work, has changed.

As we navigate this journey into the unknown, people and organisations need to be purposeful, present and prepared.

Be purposeful

If there was ever a time people and organisations should be more engaged around purpose, it is now. As you restart your organisational/individual journey, do it with a clear purpose.

Purpose is not where you want to go (that’s vision) or what you want to achieve (those are goals). Purpose is a much larger question around your reason for being and why your organisation exists.

A dear friend passed away in Atlanta last week. His purpose could be encapsulated in the following: ‘helping the thinker believe and the believer think’. His work involved speaking to millions of people around the world, gently persuading them to think and reconsider their thoughts.

Every conversation was purposeful. His aim was not to win an argument or demonstrate how learned he was. He just wanted to invoke a deeper contemplation of thought in whomever he engaged with.

purposeful

My purpose is to make a difference in the lives of people and organisations through leadership influence and impact. This is what I want to be known for when I’m no longer here on Earth.

Whether you are a sole proprietor, start-up, conglomerate or homemaker, you may be tempted to take on engagements or projects, especially when times are bad. Many times I ask myself, do I really want to do this? How does this serve my purpose? It pays well (and that’s important too!) but is it aligned with my purpose? Then there are times when I ask, how can I turn this engagement/project/assignment/task around and make it purposeful? 

Read: 3 Non-Negotiable Roles of a Leader

At the start of our Movement Control Order (MCO), I felt compelled to reach out to organisations to help them navigate through this season. I contacted a few clients/friends and asked if I could be of help. Looking back, I’m glad I was able to spend the last 8+ weeks journeying with them through a series of facilitated group sessions and individual conversations. I count it a privilege to walk with them through this crisis. Not only have they benefited from the sessions, I too have grown as a person.

Studies have shown that increasingly, people are looking for a shared purpose in their work. Talent will likely stay at purpose-driven organisations. There is also a strong correlation between being purposeful and business performance.

Organisations do better when everyone is rowing in the same direction. Without the shared purpose, organizations tend to run in circles, never making forward progress but always rehashing the same discussions. ~ North American Senior Manager

As you restart your business or re-enter your office, pause and consider the questions “What is my/our purpose?” and “How does what I/we do serve this purpose?”. 

Be present

While people may be there physically, they may not be fully present mentally and emotionally.

As you restart, purpose yourself to be present. Whether it’s a virtual meeting, a leadership team conversation or a one-on-one coaching session; seek to actively engage with the people around you. Engaged people deliver superior value. 

Make intentional connections when you return to the office. A danger is to presume everyone is doing fine and we’re here to work together to achieve a common goal. While people may be there physically, they may not be fully present mentally and emotionally. The psychological impact of the pandemic and social distancing is far greater than we realise. 

As a leader, I have been guilty of being presumptuous. Many times, I had assumed that an email I’d sent contained all the information needed. While that may have been true, it was not engaging. I realised that engagement meant I needed to be present and interact with my team members, listen to them, and offer a shoulder to lean on – things that I could not do through an email.

Create and offer informal and formal support groups to build a community of connectedness. The sense of camaraderie creates a safe environment for people to be open with their struggles as they return to work. The vulnerability allows for acceptance and ultimately eases navigation of the change.

A true leader values people. Make intentional time to be present with your people. Regardless of your seniority or organisation setup, be present with your people and your people will be present with your business. 

Be prepared

As you have thought through your purpose and are present with your people, here are some areas where we can make intentional preparations:

1. Culture– Culture is a key to shaping the post-pandemic organisation. With new norms of remote working and social distancing, people and organisations need to turn their attention to building trust and ownership. The sense of belonging strengthens commitment and the desire to see everyone succeed.

2. Process – From creating new channels to reach and respond to customers through to strengthening approval and audit trails, the business case for digital transformation has been accelerated tenfold. Be mindful that digital transformation is about people, not technology. It’s a mindset change in people where technology is an enabler.

3. People– Based on your organisational purpose, identify the skill sets required for the future. Determine how jobs will look like (job construct) and how people can be redeployed or reskilled. Quickly ascertain if you need to buy, borrow, build or bot. 

4. Structure – Shift from traditional spans and layers. Consider alternative cross-functional hybrid models. Explore moving away from usual work silos and deploy project teams with clear deliverables. Empower idea generation and ownership. Explore opportunities for co-creation and leverage on innovative thinking. Get it out quick, test it, tweak it, test it again, refine further (in many ways, just like a design sprint). 

5. Resources – Prioritise and deploy resources that reflect your purpose. The resource commitment (financial or otherwise) is a litmus test of putting money where your mouth is. Allocations should be dynamic and versatile during this season. Allow short(er)-term investments to act as milestone markers. Much as we wish, our resources are finite. Steward them responsibly.

Baby steps

We are all creatures of habit. We like to be in control. If you are like me, uncertainty causes some level of anxiety which leads to stress. In the midst of uncertainty, we can take baby steps to be purposeful, present, and prepared. 

See Also: How Does Developing Our “Self” Lead To Purpose?

 

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