In the last article we explored how ‘move towards, away from and against’ strategies can appear in responses to the symptoms of Ambiguity Anxiety, approaches and coping strategies for working with it. In this article we are focusing on how to deploy practical ‘Move With’ strategies and approaches to create mutually supportive environments for teams and organisations…….
Utilisation of Power
While supporting leaders to transform their organisations, a key question that I encourage them to explore is how is power utilised in their organisations? The utilisation of power is something that’s frequently overlooked and/or taken for granted because it sits behind an invisible veil that informs how organisations operate and function. This ranges from approaches to market, the nature of external and internal relationships, to how teams, divisions, strategies and operational processes are managed and executed. The core question is centred around how is power manifested in practice? Is power used to govern, manage and control, individuals, teams and organisations, or is it utilised to create shared understanding, and facilitate mutuality-based environments?
Mutuality Supportive Environments
The foundations for mutuality-based environments are what I have come to term as a ‘Move With’ strategies and approaches. Move With strategies and approaches facilitate psychological safety, as the focus of attention is based on accessing power through the collective. When faced with wanting to create something new, not-knowing, ambiguity or resolve complex problems, people proactively seek to engage others, to deepen understanding, expand and evaluate their frame-of-reference. Founded on depth in relationships, they create contexts to explore associated complexities utilising the views of others to learn and create alternative perspectives. The by-products of this process are trust and shared ownership. Individuals know that they are not alone and this facilitates felt sense qualities of safety and support to create new/different, step into the unknown and work with ambiguity and complex challenges.
Move with approaches consist of building depth in relationships, returning authority to the workforce for innovation, decision-making and creating collaborative approaches for complex problem-solving. Leaders and their teams can leverage the power in diversity of thought, by drawing on a range of knowledge, skills and experiences to foster creativity and utilise potential from within their challenges. Not-knowing is seen as a valuable commodity, where people with less experience and knowledge are valued as key assets for questioning and challenging the status quo. The objective input of new joiners to teams and organisations is actively encouraged as they play a key role in validating ideas and participating in the practical application of new/different strategies, policies and procedures.
Particularly in times of uncertainty, mutuality-based environments can shine light into transforming the dark side of behaviours that can appear in anxiety-related responses to not-knowing and ambiguity. Mutuality-based environments create psychological safety and support that facilities shared ownership, positive motivated engagement and productivity for individuals, teams and organisations.
Key Practices For Creating Mutuality & Distributing Power
Clarify Purpose - clearly defined purpose statements create unifying contexts that connect hearts and minds and build collective accountability. This supports individuals, teams, functions and divisions to understand the impact and the practical contributions that they can make to organisations. Knowing purpose also creates the framework that informs the alignment and attainment of goals, objectives and the focus of day-to-day activities.
There are 3 key principles for creating effective purpose statements:
1. Keep it short, ideally one sentence
2. Use clear language
3. Jargon-free that anyone outside the organisation would understand
Return Authority – In today’s environment, it is a significant challenge for an individual leader to know and be everything to everyone. Successful leaders of today, thrive by returning authority. In practice this means letting go of the need to know, be seen to be right, have the answers and make all the decisions. Actively seeking and encouraging views, perspectives, ideas and opinions of others. Inviting participation and harnessing the power in diversity of thought. The combination of these practices create a supportive context for well-informed collective engagement and robust team based decision-making processes.
Honour Complexity – Investing time and effort in partnering with others to explore the different territories and dimensions of complex challenges, can reveal alternative options and facilitate creative approaches for establishing resourceful solutions.
Engage Ambiguity - Just because something is ambiguous does not mean it is impossible. The most effective approach for working with ambiguity is on an incremental basis, one step at a time. It helps to hold a purposeful positive focus of intention prior to stepping into the unknown. Followed by monitoring and evaluating the impact of actions and outcomes before stepping forward. A key factor to consider is that ambiguity is what it is -ambiguous. It is the nature of the relationships we have with ambiguity that is the difference between how we effectively navigate an unknown territory and work with it. Individuals and teams are more likely to step into ambiguous unknown territories when they feel mutually supported by their colleagues.
Resolve Conflict – One of the inevitable by-products of encouraging and utilising the power from diversity of thought is that conflicts will emerge. Engaging and working with conflicting views and opinions is a natural part of the process of developing depth in all relationships. Investing time and effort to explore the causes of challenges work with and resolve conflicts as and when they arise, creates a unifying resourceful context. Conflict resolution establishes environments that build and facilitate shared understanding, collaborative support and sustainable depth in relationships.
Mutuality based environments, that facilitate sustainable partnerships are the key foundations for creativity and innovation. Enabling leaders to fully leverage the benefits of diverse skills, knowledge and different perspectives, to utilise complexity and ambiguity to create competitive advantages for their organisations. The outcomes from mutuality-based environments are reflected in creating high-performance standards, engaged and committed workforces that lead to tangible increased bottom-line outcomes in the short and longer-term.
If after reading this, you recognise that power has been utilised to control, manipulate or even dominate individuals, teams or your organisation hopefully you now have some insight into practical approaches for creating a mutuality based supportive environment. The practices we have been exploring can be applied in many different contexts with local, regional and global teams. Leaders don’t have to be in physical contact with their workforces to facilitate mutuality based environments. All it takes is focused positive intent to invest time, engage and work with the inevitable challenges of applying a different approach within yourself and others as the journey unfolds.
Catherine Hayes is an Organisation Transition and Transformation specialist. She supports leaders and their organisations to navigate and work with complex transition challenges to deliver tangible results. Combing 30 years of practice with 20 years of applied research, organisational, clinical psychology and Buddhist philosophy, she has created change processes and diagnostic analytics and tools that support insight into the complexities and functioning of organisations. Including the development of a transition leadership approach that supports leaders and their workforces to acquire transition capabilities, whilst implementing their transformation agendas. Catherine is also the creator and facilitator of the practitioner Exec MBA Transition Leadership Series at CASS Business School.
Get in touch with Catherine: Catherine@transitiondynamics.co.uk