Erik Kruger is founder of Modern Breed, an international learning and development firm cultivating a new breed of leaders and teams. As a speaker, writer, and thinking partner for entrepreneurs and business leaders, Erik shared his expertise with Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) members during a recent learning event about the future of leadership. We asked Erik how leaders can adapt their leadership style to thrive in the Covid environment. Here's what he shared:
"Now that I can't see my team, how do I make sure they stay productive?"
Of all the questions I've been asked during Covid-19, this one has come up the most. At face value, it's a good question: It speaks to the idea of project management, of making sure our teams know what to do.
But if you listen closely to how some leaders are asking these questions, you'll pick up on something deeper.
More subconsciously (and honestly), the question really is, "Now that I can't see my team, I'm not sure I trust them--how do I keep them productive?"
So, leaders set out to find strategies that will make them feel in control. Yet something is still amiss.
Leaders with self-awareness, however, continue to sit with this question and soon come to a new realization: That this has nothing to do with trusting the team but rather with trusting themselves.
So, the question is, "Now that I can't see my team, I don't trust myself to lead in this new way. How do I make sure they stay productive?"
Finally, we know what it's all about: Trusting yourself to lead in a new environment.
Inside two distinct daily huddles
It's natural, in an unfamiliar situation, to feel some insecurity. However, if you don't deal with that insecurity and fear internally, you'll project it onto your team externally. You'll end up micromanaging them, controlling them, and at worst surveilling them, ultimately destroying the fabric of your team.
One place this can manifest is the daily huddle.
Let me tell you the story of two daily huddles on two different teams.
Team 1 has a daily huddle. The leader's intention in setting up the huddle is genuinely to support the team and make sure people are aligned. People who join the huddle want to be there, and they want to be there for their team members.
Since the leader shows up with transparency and self-awareness, the huddle helps the leader, too. Everyone knows the leader is a human who's also adapting to a new situation, and on Team 1, the leader acknowledges this fact. This gives the team a chance to support the leader as well as one another. Because of this, the team huddle builds trust. People leave the huddle feeling energized, excited, and aligned.
Team 2 also has a daily huddle. In this case, the leader lacks awareness around self-trust. Internally, the leader wants to control the team. As a result, the leader runs an inauthentic daily huddle.
The leader says, "We'll meet every day to support each other." But everyone on the team knows the real intent: to make sure everyone's dressed, ready to work, and aware of the marching orders. Because of the mismatch between intention and execution, this daily huddle breaks trust. It feels like a daily reminder of the leadership's desire to micromanage.
If you are a leader reading this, then the following handy graph might help.
Here's how the relationship between awareness and self-trust plays out:
Low Self-Awareness + Low Self-Trust = External Projection
This is the leader who feels like the team isn't trustworthy. It's never the leader's fault; it's always someone else's fault. These leaders look for issues outside of themselves and tend to be controlling, which is counterproductive.
Low Self-Awareness + High Self-Trust = Blind Confidence
This leader might transfer their high confidence from the old environment into the new one. Left unchecked, this creates a false sense of confidence. Because of low self-awareness, this leader isn't course-correcting, recalibrating, or actively acquiring the new skills required to lead in a different context.
High Self-Awareness + Low Self-Trust = Conscious Calibration
The leader in this quadrant is open with the team about insecurities. These leaders realize the insecurity is personal; it's not about their team. There's an opportunity to grow, upskill, and learn more, and this leader seizes that opportunity.
High Self-Awareness + High Self-Trust = Environmental Certainty
On this team, the leader is familiar with this environment. It's not new to them, so they feel comfortable leading with confidence. Of course, this should never lead to complacency but rather a never-ending quest to improve as a leader.
In which quadrant do you find yourself today?
Ultimately, awareness around self-trust is one of the factors that will help you and your team thrive in a new environment. Armed with this knowledge you'll be able to avoid taking measures to exert control and micromanage, because you will realize the challenge is about trusting yourself more than it is about trusting your team.