Building Agile Teams Through Vulnerability And Awareness

In this conversation, Johanne opened up about difficult circumstances in her own life and how these changed her approach to navigating complexity. As a Master Expert on leadership and coach for senior executives she applies what she knows about vulnerability to help transform leaders and organizations by focusing on fostering self-awareness, giving voice to resistance, and working with the human side of change.

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Building Agile Teams Through Vulnerability And Awareness

A few standout ideas from Johanne are summarized here:

How we grow as people and leaders: Growth happens when the complexity of the challenges before us exceeds our current problem-solving models and skills can manage, yet we keep moving forward anyway. Whether through a time of personal of professional crisis, or the evolutionary pressures of our organizations and roles, change happens when we practice new behaviors and mindsets that foster self-awareness and grow our ability to embrace complexity.

Hold onto complexity: The work of senior leaders is inherently complex. Leaders must resist the temptation to feel more comfortable by controlling, reducing and simplifying problems. Learning to “swim at the edge of uncertainty” by listening, asking questions, and embracing experimentation is the mindset that leaders need to embrace to thrive in new organizational contexts.

Listen to the resistance: During any organizational change you will find resistance. Labeling it as a dysfunction won’t serve the change. Instead, leaders should embrace resistance as a sign that something important is being protected or considered, and ask what are we really solving for? What is the human problem that underlies the business issue? Delving into the messiness of the issue and truly listening to resistance is the best way to shift the energy and engage people in the change.

Focus on principles, not structures: It’s easier to focus on the business side of the problem and look at organizational structure for solutions. But many challenges are on the human side of the business. Figuring out the principles to guide a team through human challenges and needs – like safety, belonging, and purpose – is where we can foster a team’s ability to grow and function throughout any business challenge.

Self-awareness is the foundation: Understanding our own patterns and habits increases our comfort with ambiguity and complexity. Instead of focusing solely on training and skill development, we should balance our approach by working to know ourselves better and do the ‘inner work’ of leadership development through reflection and feedback. This awareness helps us leverage natural human strengths to collaborate.

Vulnerability increases engagement: Creating an environment that meets basic needs like trust and belonging will unlock energy that might otherwise go into managing tensions, fighting for positions, and protecting egos. When everyone feels comfortable being themselves at work and trusts the team to work together through a challenge, they can invest their energy into work. This approach can unlock potential in the existing workforce and lead to greater motivation and productivity.

Agile transformation means being an agile leader: Agile development involves a series of behavior shifts that enable structural shifts. The transformation's success requires leaders role model the changes they want to see, both in terms of behavior and mindset. Making thoughts and feelings transparent for the team injects humility into an organization and will help employees on their own journey of change.

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