Building leadership capability in a volatile environment

February 15, 2018 2:54 pm

Leaders at all levels are feeling the pressure associated with uncertainty, ambiguity and for many, the constant threat of industry disruption.  They want to be resilient and high performing but worry that blind spots and biases will impact their performance when they are working in situations where there is so much change and complexity.

Even senior leaders are no longer sure how to leverage their unique strengths and experiences in this dynamic environment.

Over the last year, our research has focused on determining the best ways to build capability for leaders working in volatile environments.

One key finding is related to learning and high performance.

We found that immersion in challenging situations that include appropriate support and accurate, timely feedback is critical for development.  Recent neuroscience supports this finding by demonstrating that our brains are ‘primed’ to learn when we have the right balance between stimulation and safety.

We also found that clarity is essential for high performance in a dynamic environment.

Most leaders know that clear expectations are important in any work situation, but our research has revealed that when the business requirements are rapidly changing it is even more of an imperative.

Our findings suggest, the more complex and challenging the business environment the more likely there is to be confusion associated with expectations. Thinking is derailed by anxiety and attention diverted to activities that matter less to the business. From a brain science perspective, ensuring that everyone is on the same page, increases predictability, enabling people to devote their full attention and concentration to the aspects of the work that will contribute the most to business results.

These conditions do not always occur naturally on the job.

What you can do right now

It is up to organisations to ensure leaders and other high potential employees are provided with the resources they need.  If there is a lot of change and volatility in your business here are two actions you can take right now to improve learning and performance:

  1. Purposefully implement ‘on the job’ and formal opportunities for credible, accurate and structured feedback.
  2. Ensure that the business culture supports ‘practice’ in challenging circumstances and opportunities to ‘try out’ new behaviours in a ‘safe’ environment.

We will be sharing more of our findings at the launch of TalentFAST™ our new fully immersive online simulation and coaching program.

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Dr Connie Henson, author of BrainWise Leadership, runs change leadership programs informed by the latest neuroscience research through her company Learning Quest. For information visit Follow on twitter @LearningQuest

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