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Leadership Development, Thought Leadership 22 June 2020 Andy Lothian

If Coronavirus is a teacher, what is it teaching us?

Today, I was privileged to lead a conversation exploring the question, ‘If Coronavirus is a teacher, what is it teaching us?’

The conversation was initiated by the Institute of Directors. The host was my good friend, the IoD’s Executive Director Malcolm Cannon. We were joined by a large group of interesting, thoughtful and engaged leaders and directors.

I was able to share some of my learns from the current crisis, along with some principles that have guided me over the past three decades in people development:

  • Be ‘on purpose’. Plans are useful bridges across turbulent waters. But always ask yourself first, why are you crossing the river in the first place? Purpose provides the ‘why’.
  • Self-awareness is the foundation on which all else is built. Increased self-awareness can help you develop the ‘human skills’ that will enable you to respond positively to whatever change you face.
  • Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, on who’s work Insights draws from, said, “We are doomed to make choices.” Being clear on your strategy will help you make discriminating choices – especially during periods of disruption.
  • There’s incredible power and potency in community. Be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it. You don’t have all the answers. And you don’t have to. If you’re a transformational leader, you’ll have gathered around you people who are better than you at what they do.
  • Create space and be curious about the disruption you’re experiencing. At the very least it will liberate you. It may even help you discover the very innovation that enables your business to become the business of the future – in the here and now.

One question from Malcolm resonated with me – whether Coronavirus is teaching us to be more inclusive – either consciously, or unconsciously. That’s certainly my hope.

Insights, the company I started with my father almost 30 years ago, has a purpose to, ‘Create a world where people truly understand themselves and others and are inspired to make a positive difference in everything they do.’

That purpose didn’t change during the last global economic crisis a decade ago. And it won’t change as a result of the current crisis – that’s how we know Insights’ purpose is right. Your purpose is constant, because if it’s not – you should go and work on it. As Jim Collins said, “The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.”

The way Insights delivers on its purpose is by helping people to learn more about themselves, resulting in increased self-awareness; and to learn about preference and type, as a way to better understanding others and making deeper connections.

Self-aware people know their strengths, and areas for improvement. They are aware of possible biases and blind spots. They understand their sense of purpose and core values. They are able to recognise and appreciate the impact they have on others.

And it’s that last point that talks to inclusion.

When you have high levels of self-awareness you can moderate your behaviour to be more inclusive. If you know that you have a strong passion for action that, on a bad day, can overwhelm others – dial that energy down a little. If you are brimming with ideas, but so many that it may confuse others – be more discriminating about the ideas you choose to share. Don’t spend so much time checking in with each member of your team that you don’t get anything done. Don’t spend so long on process that you lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve.

Coronavirus is causing an unprecedented level of disruption. Its applying greater pressure that is manifesting in many more ways than we could have conceived. So how do we navigate all of that successfully? By invest in our own self-awareness and developing those brilliant ‘human skills’ of empathy, curiosity, humour, communication and leadership.

There was a time when those skills were called ‘soft skills’ – they’re not. They’re hard skills. They’re essential skills. They’re human skills that help us be more understanding and valuing of difference – and that makes us more inclusive. Investing in your human skills is the gift to yourself that will keep on giving, and one you’ll never, ever regret – I promise.

And if the world needs anything right now, it’s people who have heightened self-awareness, who value difference and who encourage inclusion.

To hear more about this, here’s the link to the conversation we had today on ‘If Coronavirus is a teacher, what is it teaching us?’

Until next time.

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