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“What business leaders need to do to lead effectively” With Stacey Ashley

I think what business leaders need to do to lead effectively is they need to look after themselves. Again, turbulent change is often a marathon not a sprint. They can’t afford to burn themselves out. They need to make sure that they are self-resourcing, that they’re filling their own cup, that they’ve got enough balance […]

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I think what business leaders need to do to lead effectively is they need to look after themselves. Again, turbulent change is often a marathon not a sprint. They can’t afford to burn themselves out. They need to make sure that they are self-resourcing, that they’re filling their own cup, that they’ve got enough balance so that they can lead in a sustainable way across what’s a very long period of time. Not just a few months, but it could be 12 months, two years, three years, for us to get to a point where we feel like okay, we’ve kind of done the bulk of that work although there’s still ongoing change or turbulence. I think that that has got to be a key.

As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Ashley, a leadership and coaching expert.

Obsessed with possibility, Stacey helps leaders to navigate the complexities of globalization, technological advancement, social interconnectivity, massively accelerating change, and a multi-generational workforce.

With over 30 years’ experience, Stacey has helped 1000’s to develop their leadership competence, confidence and credibility. The author of three books on leadership, she has been featured in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, INTHEBLACK, HRD, CEO Magazine & Coaching World. She typically speaks at conferences, runs workshops, consults & coaches.

She helps HRD’s, People & Culture Executives, C Suite, Executives, Transformation & Change Leaders:
✔️ Build the practical foundations for effective leadership
✔️ Get out of the trenches, to lead strategically and with influence
✔️ Transition quickly and effectively to leading larger, more complex portfolios
✔️ Effectively lead change and transformation
✔️ Develop a coaching toolkit and approach
✔️ Create a leadership coaching capability

Stacey typically speaks at conferences, runs workshops, consults and coaches

Among her many awards
■ LinkedIn Top Voices 2018
■ Four International Stevie Awards, including for Coach of the year 2019
■ Nominated Telstra Business Women’s Awards 5 times including 2020
■ Nominated Telstra Business Awards 4 times
■ Best in Executive Coaching Services — Australia 2019
■ Most Influential Woman in Executive Coaching 2020 — Australia

CORPORATE CLIENTS INCLUDE:
ABC, ASX, AAPT, ACCOR Hotels, AEC, ANU, CBA, CSIRO, DHA, Engie, JORA, MLC, Mustad, Navitas, NDIS, Perrigo, QLD Ed, Torrens Uni, UBank, UNSW, ZIP

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started?

I’ve been leading for nearly 50 years now. I led my very first team on stage at the age of six, and have been leading ever since. During my professional career, I spent time in telecommunications, IT, and finance. I led my first professional team at the age of 23. And the teams just got larger and more impactful from there.

I spent a significant amount of my career leading large change and transformation programs, both in Australia and overseas. Since starting my practice about 15 years ago, I’ve been working with some of Australia’s most well-known brands to create even more leaders who can effectively and successfully lead change and transformation. Some of these brands are ABC, AccorHotels, ISX, University of New South Wales, Jora, and CSIRO.

I’m a leadership expert. And I’m obsessed with leading possibility and creating the opportunity for leaders to be leading in possibility, to build the essential foundations of leadership. There are too many leaders getting caught up in the foundations of leadership which is preventing them from stepping up into their leadership where they can flourish. I put leadership and coaching skills into the hands of as many leaders as I can so they too can be leading in possibility.

I’m a four-time International Stevie Award winner, including Coach of the Year 2019. I’m a nine-time Telstra Business and Women’s Awards nominee, Amazon bestselling author, and was named in the 2018 Global LinkedIn Top Voices. I typically speak at conferences, consult, coach, and train to enable more leaders to be leading possibility.

How I got started

I remember it very clearly. I was sitting in the Boardroom of Tower One. It was a brilliant afternoon. I was looking out of the floor to ceiling windows as the sun was just beginning to set behind the trees.

The organization I was working for was moving towards becoming a values-based organization. I had spent the entire day in a workshop about values, part of which was to identify my own values about my work, and the organization I work for.

I joined this company in start-up, was employee number seven and had been offered incredible opportunities during my time there. I’d worked all over the world. I’d run international projects. I basically had a free hand in my own department because I was the domain expert as well as the leader, and I had moved into ever more influential and interesting leadership roles.

Growing from an initial team of 3, to leading teams of hundreds, budgets of $100Ms, I led significant change and transformation programs in Australia and Overseas. I had led professional industry conferences, the creation of standards, developed new career pathways for my team members, had the highest levels of engagement in the organization, and was sought after as a coach and mentor.

So I was sitting in the workshop at the end of the day, reflecting on my values and watching this beautiful sunset. In that moment I realized that my values around my work, career and organization weren’t being supported.

I had enjoyed my time there and it was time to leave.

I wasn’t satisfied to be one great leader within one organization, I wanted to create more great leaders in lots of organizations. So in that moment, I made the decision to leave a very comfortable organization, in a very comfortable role, doing what I was very good at doing, and make a bigger difference.

I had always wanted to be the CEO, and then it just wasn’t important anymore.

Now it was about elevating the practice of leadership.

What I was born to do.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting and what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?

Like a lot of people who leave the safety of a corporate environment and then set up their own business, there were a few unrealistic expectations. One of mine was that I would set up a practice and of course people would come; build it and they will come. Funnily enough, in the beginning that’s exactly what happened. Build it and they will come. So business just flowed and the pipeline was full and I was in delivery and everything was great. Until it wasn’t.

Over time I recognized that I actually needed to do some work to fill the pipeline and that wanting to coach and wanting to train and wanting to speak and wanting to help people actually wasn’t enough, that I in fact needed to build a business around that. Without having a marketing and sales background, that of course had a fair amount of challenge in it. There was a lot of learning to do.

I think a key lesson for me was that I needed to actually build a business that would then allow me to do my coaching and training and speaking, rather than just focusing on what I wanted to deliver. So that was about learning what I needed to in some of those spaces and also outsourcing the things that I didn’t want to learn or that were going to be too time-consuming that it would take me away from what I would describe as my zone of genius, which is more the delivery part. So in order to do what I wanted, I needed to make sure that I had set up the infrastructure, the process, the resources and the tools to allow me to do that; to run a business, to run a practice, as opposed to just focusing on what I wanted to do.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you get to where you are? Can you share a story?

This was a tough one for me. Is there a particular person? There are so many people that I have come into contact with who I’ve learnt from or have supported me in some way or have offered me some advice or guidance. But the person that I am most grateful towards is my husband, who has been a stalwart supporter throughout the 15 years that I’ve had my practice. Whether the practice has been going well or not, he’s really believed in me. When I wanted to write my first book, he was the one who told me that I could do this. So he would be the person who I’m most grateful towards, who’s had the most belief in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. The person who reminds me of all that I have accomplished when I feel like I’m not making progress. He is also the person who asks me the hard questions to help me get refocused and back on track.

Extensive research suggests that purpose-driven businesses are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision? What was its purpose?

When I started my company there wasn’t that much clarity around the vision. The purpose came out of my experiences during my corporate career where I really felt that there wasn’t enough good leadership and so that was really what drove me to start my own business. To help to develop leadership; to create more leaders who were actually doing leadership; being leadership. Now I would describe that as the practice of leadership.

Over time, my purpose and the vision for the organization have become much clearer. Now it’s about actually elevating the practice of leadership. Working with leaders on their clear responsibility to develop more leaders, it’s about putting the foundation skills that leaders need into as many hands as possible. In particular coaching skills, because I believe that creates a huge opportunity for leaders and the people that they work with and the organizations and the people that they serve.

So now the vision is to create as many real leaders as I possibly can and the purpose is to elevate the practice of leadership because that will make a difference and make the world a better place. I also believe that it leads to more people being able to realize their potential and be happy at work and in life.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Both in my corporate career and since I’ve had my practice there’s always change and transformation and uncertainty simply because the world is getting more complex. We’ve got globalization, technical development, innovation, complete change in direction of industries, creation of new industries and also the incredible evolution of information. That in itself brings its own challenges. So how do you lead your team? There are a few keys for me.

The first one is to just be really consistent with letting people know what’s going on as far as you know. And as far as you’re able to tell them, because sometimes confidentiality is a factor. But I think the more that you’re able to share with your people so that they can be on the journey with you, that enables them to make good choices and decisions for themselves. And to know also that you are leading them and that they can trust in the fact that you actually are being open and that you are sharing information. That then enables them to participate, to contribute. They may have ideas. They might know where the risks are, more so than you, because they’re in the detail and you aren’t as a leader. So you can start to draw on their expertise and those sorts of things. I think the first thing is about transparency and communication.

The second thing is to be really visible in terms of leading. Part of that is of course the communication. You want to create a certainty in your leadership, to create a level of stability in an uncertain time, create the level of certainty that you will actually lead your people. So that is about communication. It is about being seen and so that might be about whether you give an update, whether you are having regular meetings with your direct reports, whether you’re having team meetings, group meetings, things like that. So really being visible as the leader so that people can trust in that.

The third thing when we have uncertainty or challenge or difficulty, is to remember that we need to have a balanced approach as far as we can. It’s not about burning everyone out because we’re all trying to solve a problem. We do need to make sure that we bring balance to that process, and recognize that people do need to rest and rejuvenate. They do need to have time that’s not work time. They do need to be involved in some of the things that bring them energy outside of work. We need to have that balance by reminding and checking in with people that they’re doing some of those things to support themselves and self-resource.

The fourth thing is that in uncertainty and difficult times we also need to remember that sometimes we’re in a marathon not a sprint, and I think this year’s pandemic situation is a great example of that. We cannot be operating at 110% all the time because we’re going to burn everybody out. We need to pace our approach to the uncertainty and the change that creates. One of the suggestions that I have with the people that I work with is that we need to use a paced approach, and there are four key stages of that.

The first one is that we Activate, which means we set up our activities, we get everything ready to deal with whatever we have to deal with.

The next phase is that we Calibrate where we check on how that’s actually going, “have we got the right activities, what have we learnt in that initial phase?”

We then prepare ourselves for Accelerate. When we accelerate, that’s when we do our really intense activity to move forward and make progress on whatever it is that we’re focused on or dealing with. That may be a slightly longer phase.

Then we go into the fourth phase of the paced approach which is about Evaluating and Celebrating. So we evaluate our progress, we evaluate what we’ve learned, what worked, what we would do differently or better next time, how we would change things. Of course, we celebrate — — we acknowledge, we recognize, we value contribution. All of those sorts of things that we know that we need to do. Then that prepares us for going into our next phase of Activation.

That’s what I talk to my clients about so that they have the ability to sustain their approach during uncertainty, challenge, transformation, change, all of those things. And it’s also the approach that I take within my own practice.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through the challenge? What sustains your drive?

Yes, I have considered giving up. Sometimes it’s been really hard. That might be because there’s not enough clients, not enough revenue. It might be because it’s hard to juggle the different aspects of running a business and then also juggling the different aspects of running life and a family and those sorts of things. Sometimes it’s been about a belief in my ability to actually deliver what I want to do to make the difference that I want to make. Sometimes things didn’t work as I had hoped they would. Things that I thought would be successful haven’t been. That’s happened over time.

To get the motivation to continue, there’s a couple of things. One is to check in with why I even started and to remind myself what’s important about what I do and the difference that I can make, the contribution that I can make to leaders and leadership and the far-reaching impact of that.

Another thing is to remind myself of what I’ve already done and what I’ve achieved and the differences I’ve already made. That might be simple stuff, like looking at the results that some of my clients have had or the people that I’ve worked with. Even reflecting back into my corporate days and I see some of my team members and the things that they have gone on to do in bigger roles, in bigger organizations on a global scale. I can feel like, well I had a small part in that. That’s incredibly satisfying. All of those reflections on what I’ve already done, the difference that I’ve already made, people I’ve helped, organizations that have felt an impact because I’ve worked with them. All of those things are important.

Occasionally of course you just get that out of the blue reminder, someone might drop me a note or send me a voicemail about how something I’ve shared with them has helped them. That is incredibly motivating because then it reminds me that I am making a difference.

The other thing that motivates me is I feel like I’ve still got more to do. I’ve still got a bigger contribution to make and so I want to do that. I really believe that the world needs more equipped and better and more aspirational leadership. So if I can make some contributions to supporting that, then that’s all the motivation that I need.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

I think the most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to lead. What I mean by that is don’t freeze. You do need to step up, you do need to make decisions, you do need to take action, you do need to keep people informed, you do need to be visible. That is about being a leader, showing up every day and doing the best you can within the bounds of what’s happening.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Those are good questions and I think questions that people have been asking, particularly in 2020. Here’s a couple of thoughts: I think that when we have uncertainty and challenge and some really hard situations to deal with, it’s very easy to get in the trap of all the things that we can’t do. One of the things that I encourage the leaders that I work with to ask is, “What can we do. So given the restrictions, the conditions, what can I do? What can we do? What are our options? What are our opportunities?” I think that giving people something to focus on where they feel a level of control and influence is very helpful to keep people feeling like they can contribute, they can participate, they actually have something to do, is very important.

In terms of inspiring and motivating and engaging your team, again I believe it’s about showing up every day. Being a leader, being the best that you can be in the situation. So that may be looking for those opportunities. It may be role modelling, taking action.

For people, for example, who have at the moment been stood down. I’ve seen leaders who are still regularly connecting with their teams even though they’re in stand-down mode, who have been helping them to come up with a way forward, who have been making sure that those people are not stagnating but they’re looking forward. They’re setting an example. The leaders are saying, well okay, I don’t have as much to do at the moment, so I’ll take the opportunity to do some professional development. You can do professional development without having to make any financial investment. If that’s an issue, there are still ways around that. Sometimes it’s about setting the example, it’s about the connection and it’s about being the leader. All of those things help your team to stay motivated and engaged.

But I think really looking for the “what can we do?” as opposed to “what can’t we do?” really helps people to reframe their approach and their mindset and creates the potential for people to stay in that can-do place.

What’s the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

I think that letting people know what’s going on is important. But when we communicate difficult news, I think it’s about “what’s the positive intent behind it, what’s the purpose here?” It’s not because we want to tell you bad news, it may be our purpose is because we want to keep you informed. Maybe it’s because we want to give you the information you need so that you can make the important decisions that you need to make.

So I think setting the scene with the purpose or the positive intent is important, and communicating the news, the information, and then giving people the opportunity to consider their options and way forward. So if it was sort of one-on-one or a team, you might actually coach them through. So now based on this, what can they do? What options do they have? What are the decisions that they need to make? So that they do still feel a sense of control or influence over the situation.

I think you can do exactly the same thing with customers and stakeholders. We don’t just drop the bomb of the news, we actually help them then to digest that, understand what the impact is and then what they can then choose to do. We always have a choice; it’s about how do we tackle that choice process so we can support people.

I think transparency as much as possible is important, the positive intent behind why we’re even communicating this news, and the willingness to support people to then be able to make the best choice for themselves based on that news is important as well.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

This is something that leaders have been struggling with or challenged by during 2020 in particular. But I think what we’ve got is opportunity. Yes, there’s a situation where we don’t know what the long-term result is going to be. But there are still factors that we do have relatively good insight into. So we can look at what do we know, as well as what don’t we know.

Then we can start to shape our plans to cater for “what we do know” and then to look at “what are the opportunities in the future? What do we need to be prepared for in terms of the potential outcomes and the likelihood of those happening?”

Then we make decisions about where we invest our focus and our resources and energy to support those different opportunities.

I think the big thing is that leaders can’t freeze, they can’t wait until it’s over. Leaders do need to make decisions, take action. I think a lot of it is about building capability that allows us to be agile in the future.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

I think there’s probably a lot of number one principles. One of the things though that I have been talking to leaders about is that in order for them to be able to create a platform to continue operating with, there are three key Ps that they need to consider.

In this kind of turbulent, changing type environment, the first “P” is what are the Protocols that we’re going to operate by? That could be about process, platforms that we use. It could be about how regularly we communicate. Just the key elements of how we do things and how we’re going to continue to do things.

The second key “P” is Priorities. What are our priorities? What’s priority number one, number two, number three and so on. And share those with all the people that make up the community of your organization.

The third “P” is People. So making sure that our people are considered, supported, are resourced, know how to operate and that sort of thing.

With those three Ps what we facilitate is communication because we have the protocols in place and we’ve got our people aware of those protocols. We facilitate collaboration, because we’ve got our people understanding what our priorities are. We facilitate delivery because we’ve got the priorities and clear protocols of how we operate.

Those three things, Protocols, Priorities and People, if they are in place, help us and our people to navigate and continue to navigate during the ups and downs of turbulent times. You have to revisit those on a regular basis to make sure the protocols, the priorities and the people that we’ve set there are still relevant.

Can you share three or four of the most common mistakes you’ve seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Number one visibility. The leaders or the leadership get very focused on dealing with the situation and so they become invisible to the rest of the organization. The people don’t know what’s going on. They feel left out and so there’s a potential for disengagement. The level of trust declines because the leaders are invisible. “Why should I trust my leader, I don’t even see him/her very often.”

Number two is that communication suffers, it often declines because we don’t know everything, we don’t tell anyone anything. In the absence of communication, in that vacuum of communication, people make things up. The corporate grapevine can be pretty destructive sometimes and so what you want to do is make sure that there isn’t a vacuum of communication. You want to be messaging really regularly, even if it’s to say, “things haven’t changed, so let me just reconfirm what I said last week.” People need to know what the situation is.

Another one that can happen is that sometimes if we’re in a challenging time, things can get very transactional and so we can lose the humanity in our organization. People don’t feel like they’re connected, they don’t feel like they’re a valued member of the team. So leaders need to be really conscious of keeping the humanity and keeping the connection and making sure that their people are a priority.

The fourth thing is that if we have an immediate, challenging situation, difficult time, sometimes the focus becomes exclusive on dealing with that turbulence and leaders take their eye off the horizon. So yes, we’ve got to be tactical in terms of dealing with the difficult time, but we’ve also still got to maintain our strategic perspective to ensure that we have a future. Because if we don’t have a future, solving the current problem is not enough.

Generating new business, increasing profits can be challenging during good times and more so in turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during the difficult economy?

In these times, it is even more important to be able to demonstrate the value of what you do and how what you do is able to solve the challenges and problems that your audience, your potential purchasers, are facing. You really need to have that great insight into what’s top of mind for your purchasers? What are the problems they’re facing and how does what you do help them? You need to have that really good understanding. Then you need to be able to communicate that really well. That would be the first thing.

The second thing is, as a leader, you need to create or offer certainty or stability. All of those things that people are looking for, that organizations are looking for. Everybody wants leadership during difficult times, so if you can offer that kind of leadership, and you can be very visible and you share value and opportunity and you give generously, then people are much more likely to trust you in terms of spending their money with you because they know that you’re a good bet and that you have already provided benefit to them.

The third thing is, you do need to look for what you need to do differently. What is the opportunity? So not what can’t you do but again what can you do? What’s the opportunity here? How can we take what we already do and make it more accessible or deliver it in a different way, or demonstrate how it solves a particular problem right now or reduces the risk or increases a potential or a profit? Then of course you’ve got to deliver on your promise.

Here is the primary question of our discussion, based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Share a story or an example for each.

  • Number one is be real. Yes, that’s about honesty and authenticity and all of those things. But I think it’s just about showing up and being real.

As an example, back in my corporate days I had a really challenging situation in which we were doing a big reorganization across the business, and as a result a significant number of my team were going to lose their roles and some of them would be outsourced but some of them simply would no longer exist in the new organization. Of course, it’s always hard to make those decisions and then to have to tell people that they no longer have a job. That was a very intensive process, leading up to making the decisions, defining the structure, then determining who wasn’t going to have a role, who was going to have a role, what was the process going to be to let people know. Then at the end of that I had to let people know.

So I had two days where I had to let 19 people know, one at a time, that they no longer had a role. So effectively I was doing back-to-back meetings for two days letting people know that they no longer had a job. I found that pretty hard. I guess I didn’t try to pretend that I was okay about it, and that everything was rosy. I was very transparent in terms of the impact that it was having on me to tell people this. So much so that at the end of the first day one of my newest and fairly junior people in my team came in at about 6:00 PM at night, came into my office and asked me did I need a cup of tea and a biscuit because it looked like I had had a hard day.

I think by being quite real and “raw” helps you to maintain connection. People see the humanity and they know and they understand that while you have to do these things as a leader it doesn’t mean that you enjoy it and it doesn’t mean that you want to do it. But from a business perspective it is important to do it, so you will. But it’s about keeping it real. So I think that’s how you keep connection with your people.

  • Number two is that balance between tactical and operational and strategic. When we have times that are uncertain and turbulent and there are ups and downs, we need to respond to them tactically. We need to alter and adapt our operations but we still need to keep our eye on the horizon, on the strategy. Things may change, but we still need to have that perspective.

We need to always have something that we’re aiming at rather than just going through the motions today to deal with today’s problems. To be able to lead effectively, we need to be able to balance the tactical, operational and strategic elements. That is about making decisions and taking action not just to address the tactical response or the operational necessities but also to be building a way forward to that strategic direction. That can be about capability and it can be about seeking opportunities so there always needs to be some investment in the future as well. By investment I mean energy, focus, resourcing, building capability.

  • Number three, I guess these are not in a particular order but a third element I think is that leaders need to lead. They need to show up, they need to step up. They need to face up. They need to be leaders. They are role modelling leadership. They’re showing people that they are leading. Leaders need to create that certainty in their leadership by being visible as leaders. Yes, it’s about making decisions and taking action and making choices and it is about being seen doing those things as well. That’s within the organization, that’s with stakeholders, with providers, all the people that they need to be leading.

One health organization I have worked with this year has done this really well. Historically, this organization is not known for having easy access to executive leadership. This year though, as part of their approach to dealing with the pandemic conditions, they have created a weekly online forum with the CEO and at least one other member of the Executive team. A forum where they offer a short update about what is happening in the organization and what the priorities are, and then they open it up to questions from anyone in the community of their organization. This has been a game-changer for how close the people in the organization have been able to get to their leaders and created a wonderful opportunity for the leaders to demonstrate their leadership.

  • Number four, communication, communication, communication. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “We’ve had too much communication about the changes going on around here.” So number four is communication. Consistent, early, often, multichannel, multi-modal. Be on message consistently. Help the people in your team to be on message consistently.

If you don’t know how to craft the messaging then the four PS model is a very simple one to follow, which goes like this:

– Purpose. What’s the purpose of what we’re doing or what we’re challenged with or our strategic direction? What’s the purpose?

– Picture. What’s the picture of it when we get to where we’re going? Now, when we’ve got uncertain and turbulent times it might be, what’s the picture for next week? What does it look like?

– Pathway. What’s the pathway to get us to where we are going? That could be a short-term pathway of this week we’re going to focus on this, next week we’re going to focus on this. Or it could be longer-term if there’s a little bit more ability to project into the future. People want to know what’s the pathway, that we have some kind of a plan to get to where we’re going.

– Part. What’s my part? What’s the part you want me to play here? How do I contribute? How do I participate? That’s about keeping people connected into what’s going on so that they know what to do and how to do it.

So that’s how you can build a message to communicate regularly and keep that communication going. Two keys for communication are that it needs to come from the most senior person in your organization because that’s someone everyone looks to for that information, and also immediate leaders are very impactful. So those immediate leaders whether it’s a frontline leader or a middle manager or an executive, they all need to have that messaging so that they can be consistent and regular with the messaging as well.

I was working with an organization who supposedly had been formed by the merge of two other telecommunication organizations 12 months earlier. Only when I arrived at my big programme of change for their customer experience process was when I discovered that they were still two separate organizations. So they had different rules, different systems, different policies and different cultures. My job actually became to help them to integrate that organization. The very first thing that we did was to create a cross-functional team of influencers from all levels of those organizations who were able to communicate the message. We used that approach to craft the message every single week for nearly 12 months to help people to know what was going on in terms of integrating into a single organization. We needed people to know what was going on so that they could participate. And of course, it was very helpful.

  • Number five I think what business leaders need to do to lead effectively is they need to look after themselves. Again, turbulent change is often a marathon not a sprint. They can’t afford to burn themselves out. They need to make sure that they are self-resourcing, that they’re filling their own cup, that they’ve got enough balance so that they can lead in a sustainable way across what’s a very long period of time. Not just a few months, but it could be 12 months, two years, three years, for us to get to a point where we feel like okay, we’ve kind of done the bulk of that work although there’s still ongoing change or turbulence. I think that that has got to be a key.

The other thing that’s really important about sustainability of self is, you are role modelling leadership. That it is okay to look after yourself so that you can bring your best and that’s about balancing the number of hours that you work, the intensity, what else you do with your time, how many meetings you have, whether you allow yourself creative time, how you socialize, how you look after your health, all of those sorts of things. So that’s something that I think is really key for leaders to lead effectively.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that early in 2020, leaders were operating in sort of a frantic, frenzied mode where there was lots to do and they were trying to do a lot of it themselves and they were communicating and checking in with all their people. They were doing all of these sorts of things but they weren’t necessarily checking in with themselves. They were making sure everybody else was okay, but they weren’t doing it for themselves.

I felt like what happened towards the end of the second quarter of this year, was that leaders got very tired. They had been working intensively for months on end, often in very different circumstances with work from home or teams on the roster. There were lots of different dynamics in play. And they were tired, they were exhausted.

I feel like since then there’s been a bit more of a check-in and a little bit more of introducing a balance and self-support and that it is okay to look after yourself so that you can actually look after the people that you serve as a leader. So that’s super key to be an effective leader during turbulence.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is a hard one because there are so many great ones to choose from. But I’ll share one that my Dad actually shared with me, which is that “happiness is a journey not a destination.” As someone who is quite results-oriented, I think what that quote has reminded me to do is sometimes to stop and smell the roses. To appreciate progress, to enjoy what’s going on right now and not only be looking at the future, at the next goal, the next milestone. That there is much to be gained from appreciating what’s happening now. I think in times of uncertainty and turbulence exactly the same is really relevant. Let’s appreciate what we do have. Let’s appreciate what we can do. Let’s appreciate how we can contribute. Let’s notice our progress, let’s be grateful for what others are doing around us and for us.

How can our readers follow your work?

Here are the links to my website, The New Leader book and social media accounts.

Stacey Ashley’s website

The New Leader book

Linkedin

Facebook

Instagram

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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