Working with leaders of multicultural, multigenerational teams, the top 5 challenges I hear regularly are:
- “I don’t have the bandwidth”
- “I can’t keep up with all the changes”
- “I want our community to be strong and positive, but something is off.”
- “I can’t do it all”
- “I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing” (particularly when it comes to talking about diversity/inclusion/racial equity)
I can certainly relate! The demands, needs, and requests that we, leaders, face can lead us to a state of overwhelm–which impacts our ability to think clearly, communicate confidently, and to be comfortable with change.
After 6 years of coaching leaders and supporting hundreds of folks to address their biggest challenges, I’ve discovered a pattern.
I call this pattern the 5 Power-C’s. These five things can negatively impact, disrupt, and disturb our state of flow if we’re not careful.
The Power C’s: change, conflict, communication, clarity, and community dynamics
Sometimes we are challenged by one of the above. Other times they all five hit us like a tsunami.
A client told me recently that she felt like she could barely keep her head above water. She had been hit by the tsunami of all five. Her desk and inbox was overflowing and she didn’t have the headspace to think clearly. She cares deeply about racial equity and inclusion and was particularly concerned about what to say after one of her employees said something culturally insensitive in a meeting. She noticed that she was avoiding following up with the employee. She also felt like the moral was low on her team and she couldn’t put a pin on WHY.
I asked her what her hunch was about why it may feel that way.
“Well, maybe it’s because there have been so many changes or maybe because we haven’t celebrated each other or connected in authentic ways. The pace has been so fast, we’ve forgotten to be HUMAN with each other.”
While constant change was contributing to overwhelm and low morale, the only thing that’s absolutely predictable is that change will happen.
The good news: once we see a pattern in how we are addressing change, we can identify better solutions for approaching change.
With intentional leadership, we align our vision, values, systems, and actions for maximal impact. In my 10 week coaching program, we address each of these Power-C’s in detail.
The first step, is to normalize that change is inevitable and an integral PART of the work. When we recalibrate our expectations for embracing inevitable (even unexpected) changes and shifts in dynamics, we’re less reactive and more responsive. Being an intentional leader means anticipating the need to adapt and being flexible with our community.
When we reframe our beliefs/thoughts we see change as something that can be on our side. We see it as an ally, and we can even remove “change” from the tsunami list. In my 10 week coaching program we engage around William Bridges’ research on the phases of change and transitions, which is an invaluable tool and resource.
Conflict is also inevitable with group dynamics. In fact William Tuckman’s research on team dynamic suggests that “storming” is a natural part of new community processes. Again, if we recalibrate our expectation and see conflict as a sign and signal of progress, we have more headspace to engage meaningfully.
Easier said than done, I know. Growing up in Texas, I was conditioned to avoid conflict, be polite, brush things under the rug, and put on a happy face. I call myself a “recovering people-pleaser” for a reason. Brains science suggests that we’re wired to avoid discomfort and most conflict causes discomfort, so it’s not intuitive to lean-in.
However, when we expect conflict to be a part of the process, then we realize we really just need to strengthen our communication skills as leaders striving to be emotionally and socially intelligent. David Rock’s research on neuroleadership is invaluable.
Communication is at the core of beneficial leadership. Whether you’re communicating with one person or a group, communication matters. To communicate with intentionality requires clarity on 4 steps:
- What is your purpose / desired outcome of this conversation?
- How do you want to be experienced?
- How do you want to listen?
- Which of your core values connects to this conversation?
- How will you follow up after this conversation to make sure you’re on the same page?
Clarity is an essential for leaders. Here are 5 things you always need clarity on:
- Your vision for success
- Your core values and how the project connects to them (they are your filter)
- Your priorities for the year, month, and week
- The systems you have in place that will allow your vision, values, and priorities to consistently be tended to.
- The action steps you intend to take that will allow you to best make progress on your goals and priorities
The number one pitfall I see leaders make is misdiagnosing the problem they’re trying to solve.
I hear things like
- “The team isn’t as productive as I know it can be”
- “It feels like there’s something people want to say but aren’t” (aka elephant in the room)
- “Moral is low and people are exhausted”
They see those symptoms and they diagnose the problem externally, usually because they don’t have the tools or skills to know what to do. There was a time when I didn’t understand why people weren’t engaging on the deep, meaningful level that I wanted them to. I tried everything. I brought ice-breakers in, we played games, I took them to happy hour. Still, the dynamic was off.
It wasn’t until I held up the mirror and looked at my planning, the agenda design, and/or the questions I was offering the team that I saw the problem wasn’t external, it was internal and started with my leadership style. All the band-aids in the world won’t help a broken bone
Diagnosing the stage of your team dynamic is critical. That’s where Tuckman’s work is invaluable. Here’s a brief overview of the four stages.
Which of the Power-C’s do you struggle with?
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
Also, if you’re interested in putting some of these into practice, I’m hosting a power-packed online workshop/webinar on December 12, from 5:30-7:00 PST, and I’d love you to join. Click here to register.
Rachel Rosen is a seasoned Facilitator, Executive Coach, Consultant, Racial Justice and LGBTQ activist, and the Founder of S.P.A.R.K. Leadership and S.P.A.R.K. Community. Rachel is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. offers experiences that support leaders and teams to unleash their potential to facilitate powerful experiences, collaborate, and build trust–all in service of building a better tomorrow.
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