Organisational Silence in a new era: AC (After Covid-19)

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3 minute read.

In the 21st century, the information age, the ability for teams to communicate rapidly with each other is the difference between winning and losing teams. World and life have become so complicated that they’re like a puzzle (with complex problems akin to putting together 3,000-4,000 puzzle pieces).

The ability to make sense of the bigger picture is not possible by one person. In a team, we all hold a piece to the puzzle. If you can unlock and train the ability for your team to put their pieces on the table, you can begin to see the patterns of what’s showing up quicker and better. Teams that puzzle better tend to have better judgment. If you string together good judgments, you can win and beat almost anything. This act of “sharing the puzzle piece” is another way of saying – get your team to speak up. This and the process of applying judgment and decision making is trainable and infinitely upgradable.

Team work
World and life have become a complicated puzzle, you need the team to come together and share their pieces in order to see the bigger picture.

Greatest threat to objectivity: Confirmation Bias

Harvard Business Review recently published an article called “Lessons from Italy’s Response to Coronavirus”. One of the key lessons is on recognising your cognitive biases. Specifically, what behavioural scientists called confirmation biasIt is the tendency to search for and overvalue facts and information that confirms and strengthens our personal beliefs.

Our way of thinking and working in the BC era (Before Covid-19) is our “beliefs”. It is so baked into our rituals and automatic, that it is now our blind spot in the AC era (After Covid-19). Situation is changing dramatically, and we are yet to fully adapt and adjust our approach in the new era.

In AC, 2 things no longer exist and making sense of what’s happening becomes harder.

1. Management by Walking Around (MWA)

In the past, you could go around the office, tap people on shoulder and check in with them. “Hey – how are you?” “What are you working on?” these small interactions gave you insights into what’s happening that is now harder to get.

2. Serendipitous collision

This is the idea of those unplanned meetings and sharing of problems / information that happen in a workplace between colleagues in different circles. Many companies like Zappos and Pixar, purposely design their office space to encourage these “happy accidents”. In most workplaces, we all gather at some point in the cafeteria/canteen and bathrooms. When these collisions occur, it can spark the most creative of solutions and ideas because innovations are often found at the edges between our sectors, disciplines and silos.

Now, ALL meetings now must be scheduled and require both parties to agree – our ability to innovate at work is stifled. We predominately spend time with those ‘usual suspects’ in our close network (or teams) with similar expertise, backgrounds and experience. Or they can be our spouse, children and housemates who do not have the full picture of your working world. Some can positively challenge your thinking; but some can reinforce your own beliefs because they’re reacting to what you say/share. We need to get deliberate in how we make these happen if we want to innovate and adapt in this fast changing COVID world.

Why sense making is harder in a virtual environment?

7% of communication is verbal and 93% is non-verbal. Even with video cameras enabled, if you are running a team meeting, the thumbnail for each person is small. It becomes harder to read facial expressions over camera and pick up on the subtle signals your team are sending via body language.

Similarly, there’s a much larger filter between what people are thinking and what they put down into writing. On average, an adult can type 60 words per minute; speak 300 words per minute and think 3,000-4,000 words per minute. There is now a much larger filter of what’s not said. And as a leader, you might be worried about “what are they not saying” and turn to reading between the lines.

What to learn more?

Tune into the “Leadership in Practice” classes, taught weekly by Next Jump’s Co-CEOs Charlie Kim and Meghan Messenger for practical tips on how to effectively lead teams under the new norm.

This classes series is aimed at Executives and Leaders who spend majority of their time leading meetings, coaching top/middle/bottom performers and/or have the responsibility of caring for people. Most of us have had little to no formal training on what takes up 80%-90% of our time. With the world changing at a quicker pace than ever experienced, the leadership challenges are magnified. Join this is evolving curriculum, to learn the most up-to-date leadership skills so you and your team can perform at your best.


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