Today’s new world of work comes with a more mobile, flexible and globally diverse workforce, and an increasing rate of technological change. More than ever, we need the ability to be adaptive and resilient.
In the public sector, recent state and federal elections and budget announcements have perpetuated language like “efficiency dividend” and “job cuts.” Adding to this uncertainty are the multiple reviews and reports on public sector effectiveness stating we need to invest in upskilling our employees, adding further complexity. Dealing with these uncertainties of work and home life often causes stress and anxiety which can then affect our ability to respond well.
Whilst many policy shifts or transformation programs can affect us directly, the tangible challenge of dealing with a new leader or supervisor can be personally challenging and confronting.
One way to deal with the fear of the unknown is to break the ‘uncertainty barrier’; a barrier we create in our own minds that exists when facing an unknown agenda, something a new leader usually brings to the table.
Rest & Rise Above
It is important to recognise that when we’re suffering from stress and fatigue (all too often, in our ‘always on’ world) our biology influences our ability to moderate the threat response when confronting the unknown.
To shift out of the default, emotionally driven response and operate from a position of measured cognitive rationality requires conscious effort and energy; energy we don’t always have unless, as conscious leaders, we maintain healthy habits (good sleep, food and exercise).
From this more rational perspective, we can start to accept that we may not always be able to control the outcome, but we can control our response to it.
Consider the following to help you craft a measured response to change and uncertainty brought about by new leadership:
One of the important steps in becoming a better, more adaptable leader – and follower – is to acknowledge our conditioned responses and biases. Our deep-seated beliefs and previous experiences can colour our perspectives of the future, particularly when we are running on autopilot.
By consciously acknowledging that these colours can influence our view of what is likely to play out, it becomes easier to remove ourselves from any emotional baggage or fears we may have previously experienced. Separating from the old allows us to take a fresh view on the new.
Re-imagine & Reflect
New leadership will often bring new ways of working, new reporting, operating rhythms, expertise and communication preferences. Instead of spending energy thinking of how things could go wrong, imagine how you can embrace the opportunity to learn and stretch yourself.
Sure, it will be hard to establish rapport at the start – every new leader must take time to figure out their own patch as well – but work hard to figure out how best to invest time in the new relationship so that both of you can benefit.
Often new leaders will create 90 day plans. Think about one for yourself and figure out how best to make your plans and your new leader’s plans work together.
Get comfortable with discomfort
Confront the unknown, difficult and complex with the knowledge that any initial discomfort is a hump. A little stress is good for us. Although the sympathetic nervous system drives the fight, flight or freeze response, when experiencing mild stress our biology prompts action. With practice, we can learn to operate on the cusp for bursts of time allowing us to break new boundaries.
Know also that although the human mind will seek patterns and comfort in what we experience. Practice awareness and know your limitations before promising too much too early on in a new leader relationship.
Construct a Positive Perspective
Create a sense of purpose in the relationship by settings goals together. You stand on the threshold of possibility. Be proud of who you are and remember that leaders are looking for people who can anticipate the future, deal with change, are authentic, demonstrate trustworthiness. Leaders look for those who can inspire those around them to achieve more.
Developing an ability to see other people’s perspectives is vital in the new world of work and particularly important when confronting change. Learn to lead by learning to learn.