Some team members who are working remotely are absolutely thriving, loving the independence and reduced distractions. Other remote employees are just barely surviving, missing the community and connection with co-workers in the office. For those required to be onsite, it’s not uncommon to see a growing rift with their colleagues who “get to work from home.”
It is not just the virtual and hybrid nature of our world that is adding to its complexity. There are other factors like the pace at which we are working. The other day, I heard a client say that deadlines were too tight to get a process in place and hire additional people. They are under the false pretense that things will become easier or slow down after they get over the next big hump.\
In reality, the current environment is the slowest pace of change you and I will experience for the remainder of our careers.
As our world only increases in complexity with changes in technology and shifts in societal norms, we need a workforce that also evolves at the same rate of complexity.
To solve our organizations’ biggest challenges, we need people who have the capacity to work on multiple cross-functional teams, with peers who have competing priorities.
Ultimately, we need leaders with a higher degree of interpersonal agility – the ability to adapt to the needs of the situation and the stakeholders around them.
How to Build Interpersonal Agility
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Heather McGowan, author of The Adaptation Advantage, on my Future of Leadership podcast. In her book, Heather cites research from the 2018 IBM Institute for Business Value Global Country Survey which indicates that the social and behavioral skills gap is now greater than the technical skills gap.
What are those top social and behavioral skills most in demand for the future?
- Flexibility, Agility and Adaptability
- Time Management and Prioritization
- Collaboration and Effective Teamwork
- Effective Communication
We can and must build our capacity to become more agile.
Here are three steps to do just that.
Step 1: Know Your Agility Strengths
Everyone has a starting point – interpersonal strengths that come naturally to them and guide how they interact with others. For example, it might be easier for you to be self-assured and project confidence. For others, perhaps they are comfortable using objectivity to separate facts from emotions and keeping the discussion focused on logic.
To get to know your agility strengths, think about the following questions:
- What interpersonal behaviors come most naturally to me?
- How do those influence my interactions with others?
- What is my impact on other people, processes and the business?
- In what social situations might I overuse or over-rely on those strengths?
Step 2: Expand Your Agile Capacity
We all gravitate toward certain behaviors – our comfort zone. But for most of us, there is a need to stretch to how we connect with others to be more appropriate in different situations. When we over-rely on what is comfortable for us, it can distort the way we look at the world and understand a situation. Learning to stretch your mindset, on the other hand, expands your range, giving you the agility to reach for healthier, more effective responses that meet the social and emotional needs of the situation. Respond to the following questions to identify where you might need to stretch.
- Do you tend to focus more on empathizing with others or being objective?
- Do you tend to assert your own opinions or naturally remain open to others’ ideas?
- Are you dynamic in nature and project a strong social presence or more composed and diplomatic?
- Are you more outgoing and expressive, or reserved, separating facts from emotion?
Step 3: Create an Action Plan
Now that you have a broader sense of other mindsets that can be available to you, take some action.
- Write down the number one way in which you want to stretch in different social situations. For example, maybe it’s, “I want to be more outgoing and speak up more in meetings.”
- Define why making this stretch is important to you personally and professionally. If you have a big enough “why”, the changed behavior will come more naturally. Following the example in Step 1, speaking up more might increase your leadership credibility, or shift how others perceive you.
- Identify one specific situation in which you can apply this new mindset and the specific behaviors you will try out. For example, the Tuesday, 10:00 am Senior Leadership Team Meeting. During that meeting, I will be prepared with ideas to share prior to the meeting and interject my opinion, even if it means interrupting others who might be more assertive in nature. I will also state my views clearly, eliminating wishy-washy qualifiers like “if that makes sense,” “you know,” or “just.”.
Download Your Change How You Connect Through Agility Worksheet
The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of our world require all of us to be more agile.
We invite you to download our Change the Way You Connect Through Agility worksheets below. This practical framework will help you reset your thinking, strategy and culture so that you can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.