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What Have We Learned?

A year ago, this past weekend our lives changed here in Alberta, and across Canada. Our kids thought they would be out of school for a couple of weeks. My parents, in their 70s, thought that they would be home for about a month. My lawyer husband thought his work would tank, and I was racking my brain to find ways to still do in-person training in a pandemic. A colleague - a physician, said that we were in for at least a year, but likely two years of “quite a ride”. Only one of those statements turned out to be true. My kids finished off the year on screens, my parents have been isolated for almost a year, last year was a good year for my husbands’ firm and many law firms, and I re-invented and found ways to make training impactful – even online.

So that is what happened. A bigger question to me is why did that happen? We only learn with the opportunity and space to reflect. For me, writing this blog affords me that opportunity (lucky you!).

This has been a world-wide experiment in adaptability. By this point many of us have heard about technical versus complex problems. Technical issues can be complicated, but solving for them in a certain way results in a known outcome. Sending a rocket ship into space is an example of a technical problem. Complex problems do not have one defined way of solving, and no certain outcome. Raising a child is an example of a complex issue. In fact, the very way in which we tackle the problem will change the outcome in some way – but we don’t know what that change might be. It is in these very situations – when the outcomes are unknown – that we need to navigate ourselves and others by adopting an adaptive stance.

The thing about complex issues is that – for the most part – no one has ever been in that situation before, and no one can guarantee the result. That means identifying “what we need to do” has to be informed by many data points and perspectives, not just our own. We have had a year to adapt, but have we been adaptable? I hear how people have “Zoom fatigue”, and the “pace is unsustainable”. Here is the thing - pre-pandemic we spoke of how work was overwhelming, and that we had “meeting fatigue”. Maybe we adapted our way of interacting, but were not adaptable in our stance to get a different outcome.

We had a training session yesterday on how to build teams virtually. What continually strikes me about this body of work is that it is not just about how to “be” online more purposefully, but really how we need to “be” with each other generally. An adaptable stance does not mean that we just change the interface with which we do our work, but we change the very intentions with which we go about getting our work done. We spend time to create the opportunity for all to weigh in and tap the “cognitive capital” of the team. It is about inviting, not telling. It is about facilitating, not consulting. It is about placing our own ideas aside to deeply understand the ideas of others. Only once we have done that should we move to “what are we going to do”.

Our Leadership Series just launched with a partner organization, and we kicked off with our Adaptive Leadership seminar. The “aha” moment that each person had was around how they listen, and how their listening style and intention contributes to their ability to be an adaptive leader. While it seems simple, it is a practiced skill and a way of being that starts out as deliberate, but becomes who we are (to quote the amazing John Clarke).

Interested in starting that journey? We have our Leadership Series starting this May to add to your journey. If you take the whole series you may be eligible for the Canada Jobs Grant that would cover up to 66% of the training costs. New changes in place now offer funding to business owners (including physicians) and sole proprietors.

So what is stopping you?

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