Effective Leadership in Changing Times — Looking Back at the Year Where the World Had to Pivot

effective leadership in changing times

Is there anything to be said about the past year of dealing with COVID-19 that hasn’t been said already?

I believe, yes, there is. The year 2020-21 has been the year of momentous change where every individual, irrespective of race, faith, gender, socioeconomic class, and organizations across sectors had to pivot.

The world witnessed unprecedented changes and our collective ability to adapt to challenging times and channel our leadership abilities on an individual and community level.

As a leadership coach and mentor, it was hard to miss the resilience of individuals and organizations, the power of teams and that of our leaders in hard times.

How did professional development and effective leadership training adapt to the ‘new normal’?

The first few weeks were unsettling because of the lack of knowledge about COVID-19 and preventative measures. We at CCI chose to work from home for what I originally thought would be a few weeks. I quickly realized this would be a lot longer hiatus and reached out to each of our clients to let them know we were still there for them. Like many within our industry, we had to pivot to a completely virtual setting to deliver all our programs and services.

Prior to 2020, I spent many hours at airports and lounges while traveling worldwide to support our clients. I would spend time in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and many places around the world to deliver training and private coach some of our elite senior level clients.

Now, both our clients and I have benefited from virtual sessions, which make better use of our time, financial resources, and the reduction in travel for non-essential reasons, has also helped the environment.

My leadership takeaway for the year has been to review our strategy and processes to be more efficient constantly.

I didn’t expect us to be equally successful at training or facilitating online, especially when dealing with topics such as body language and presentation skills.

However, through effective leadership training and interactive communication, we could easily replicate results in our virtual sessions, as indicated from our client’s feedback. Our success with our virtual sessions demonstrated how many non-essential processes we hang on to out of habit.

As human beings, we need connection. Connecting might be challenging for some when the recipient may choose not to have their camera on, limiting the visual cues available to the speaker. But I have learned that when the speaker chooses to be open, warm and authentic, listeners and team members do engage with the speaker through different means.

With that in mind, here are some of my takeaways on how organizations have adapted to the ‘new normal’ and are developing leaders who are thoughtful, inclusive and authentic:

We are human beings who value and need connections

Our evolving leaders need to rethink how to build connections and ensure the well-being of individuals within their teams given the complexities of a virtual workplace

In the first few months of the pandemic, we saw a surge in organizations doing happy hours and free pizzas for employees to maintain team morale. At first it was different, but then ‘Zoom fatigue’ sunk in and the novelty of these types of activities wore off, as the pandemic extended beyond a year, with several lockdowns and restrictions, impacting individual circumstances and at times, mental health.  

  • Do virtual social activities really help employees feel better equipped to handle their circumstances?
  • Did it empower them with the tools to demonstrate their skills online?

These are questions each team leader/organization must ask themselves before determining the right method to provide value to their employees.

For example, one of our biggest successes over the past year has been our How to Fascinate Workshop because it’s entertaining, informative and helps team members understand themselves and each other better.  

The workshop allows teams to bond, gain greater insights as to why people behave the way they do and how to ensure everyone can work together more effectively. It really is fascinating.

There are opportunities everywhere

The only way to really achieve success is to make your people your highest priority.

I delved into the increased resource efficiency with reduced traveling at the start of this blog, but I need to make a special mention of how much that has helped individuals. I noticed many of my clients benefiting from the reduced travel. They have more time for their families and themselves, and it’s less tiresome.

Many clients have told me they have been able to use the time to focus on their personal goals and health, while still being as productive as before.

Organizations and leaders must reconsider their work culture policies about working from home and traveling for work, as well as ensuring that employees are creating work-life boundaries that allow them to thrive.

Private coaching for your teams is a great way to invest in their personal development

In the first few months of the pandemic, we saw an increased interest from organizations about providing private coaching for their teams to help them deliver their presentations, sales pitches, and lead their teams virtually.

The demand for it led us to create our Leadership Presence: Online Training Program. Such programs empower leaders with the skills, confidence, and knowledge they need about human behaviour to inspire confidence and foster trust among a diverse team of employees.

Now, what can individuals do, you ask?

Here are my lessons for you on how to become an effective leader

Take the time to reflect!

This is my biggest advice for you.

Although traveling to work every day may have been stressful for some of you, the everyday commute provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our lives, listen to our favorite podcast and give our brain a break from our work. This time is essential. The only way to adapt and embrace change properly involves a lot of reflection and introspection.

Please take the time out in a day to reflect, and it can be as short as 10 minutes. This time will allow you to be more creative and approach your challenges from a different perspective. Maybe you do this by going for a walk or getting up a bit earlier than everyone in your household to have me time.

Yesterday’s leader is not tomorrow’s leader

Adapt to changing times.

The last year has demonstrated how leaders who lead with empathy perform better. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, is a perfect example. Not only is New Zealand one of the most successful countries in the fight against COVID-19, but it is also a source of inspiration to many because of its use of empathy to inspire.

Our ideas of effective leadership have changed, and leaders today are expected to be personable, empathetic and inclusive. Authoritarian leadership has not performed well across the world.

Invest in yourself

This advice on how to become an effective leader is tied to the previous two points. With increased flexibility and the rapid changes in leadership expectations, it is vital that you invest in yourself.

Be it choosing a program to develop your leadership and presentation skills, your emotional intelligence, understanding how your brain works to improve your performance, or understanding how to lead diverse teams virtually.

I recommend taking the time to reflect and identify your strengths, weaknesses, and identify opportunities for professional development.

leadership presence training program

You need to up-skill to be the leader of tomorrow. And, there’s no better time than now.

More power to you!

Leadership Training Online: Virtual Learning Proven to be 600% Better!

While the full implications of COVID-19 are still unknown, one of the major shifts most businesses have experienced is clear — customers scaling back their in-person purchases and going online instead.

In the key area of “Learning and Development” emerging evidence points to the same, a huge shift in how training, coaching and consulting is delivered.

In our training and coaching practice, we saw very quickly that teams around the world had to rapidly learn how to collaborate with one another virtually all whilst working remotely and under great stress brought on by uncertainty at so many levels.

At CCI, recognizing the pressure this was adding to leaders and workers around the globe, we quickly pivoted, offered virtual workshops and accelerated the completion of a robust Leadership Training Online Program we had been working on.

Why Leadership Training Online?

Recent research, conducted by the Neuroleadership Institute, shows that virtual learning, when done right, can be dramatically more effective than in-person workshops.

“In fact, an analysis of the likelihood of people taking action on a learning program, showed that a smart virtual learning program was around six times more likely to get people to take actions than the usual way learning is delivered in person. Not 6% better, or 60% better, but 600% better.”

The purpose of learning is to better ourselves, our skills, our decision making and ultimately our environment. Much of the training organizations are now investing in, involves human skills.

The ability to work effectively together, motivate, inspire and influence, especially under times of uncertainty and changes, is critical to the success of an organization.

And, leadership training online, a new way to virtually learn and grow, can take you from where you are to where you want to be.

Whether it is about:

  • How you show up in a Zoom meeting
  • Engage in difficult conversations
  • Stand out when you speak as you deliver an important presentation
  • How you provide psychological safety for everyone to have their voices heard
  • Run inclusive meetings
  • Mitigate biases
  • Enhance your emotional intelligence for greater effectiveness in your daily interaction
  • …And more

One thing is undeniable — being present, intentional and in the moment is where great leaders shine.

CCI’s Leadership Training Online Program

Our Leadership Presence: Leadership Training Online Program has been designed with a unique approach for sustainable learning.

Our modules are short and highly interactive. Through the use of videos, quizzes, coaching tips, extra resources, a comprehensive workbook, and the possibility for private coaching as an option, the learning is impactful, transformational and long-lasting.

Leverage this unique opportunityand seize the moment to grow and flourish, individually, as a team and as an organization.

This is your moment to shine, elevate your confidence, and increase your competitive advantage by embarking on a life-changing learning journey!

Business Strategy Planning: Is Strategy Relevant in the Absence of Leadership?

It has been said that strategy is destiny.

Robert Burgelman’s book notes that, “successful and unsuccessful strategies shape a company’s destiny. But if strategy shapes destiny, destiny has ways of asserting itself and constraining strategy.”

With COVID-19 many organizations and businesses have had to rethink and re-imagine their business strategy planning in what seems to be a blink of an eye. The tension between shifting strategy and external and internal factors is not new; what is different is the current economic climate and the impact of a pandemic on constraints of business strategy.

The limitations of the pandemic have essentially created lesser degrees of “stragility” or lesser degrees of freedom for organizations to be strategic, agile and nimble in shifting their course of action.

Given Canada has 1.78 million SME’s, a bulk of which are in the service sector, it is not surprising then that these companies are hit hard by COVID-19 and the ripple effect of closures, social distancing and economic shrinkage.  Many SME’s do not survive the first 10 years in business; in fact, Statistics Canada notes that SME’s that make it past a 10-year mark are 42.9% in the service industry.  So, is all lost and should small and medium sized business owners just give up? Are the odds just too high?

Absolutely not.  With any crisis there is opportunity.

How might you ask can there be opportunity when my bottom line is shrinking and my business model is no longer robust? 

For the first time in my lifetime, the whole world has slowed down to an unprecedented pace.  Take time to reflect on your current business model and re-evaluate your business strategy planning and what drives it.

Let’s assume the stay at home policies go well beyond 6 months…

  • What can you do differently to keep your business alive?
  • What are you selling and how are you selling it?
  • Are you using various technology and tools to leverage your brands and products?
  • Is your marketing strategy shifting to new platforms and if so, are you tracking your data to inform strategy?
  • Are you shifting your marketing methodology to align with the data and opportunities?
  • Is your marketing integrated in a way to drive profits and sales?
  • Who is your competition and what can you learn from them?
  • Does partnering to complement what you offer make better sense than competing in this environment and allow you to expand the scope of your brand and client base?
  • Can you really step back and look at your company objectively, where it fits in current market and assess it in an arms length objective way?

It has been said if you do the same thing over and over you will get the same results.

Therefore, in a climate of chaos, change is the only constant.

Change and change management, business strategy planning, and more importantly strategic implementation are all critical leadership skills that are absolutely foundational to any organization’s success and sustainability.

It is not surprising then that many SME’s maybe struggling to figure out what next? How do I re-strategize? What are my options and opportunities?

And to be fair, these are difficult questions to answer when you are a leader that is heavily invested in a business you built through hard work and doing what you have always known as best.

I would suggest companies may want to consider reaching out to a business strategy consultant to get an objective view of their landscape, a fresh set of eyes on their business model, a coach to help them work through perhaps the biggest business crisis they have dealt with – these are all worthwhile investments as they will help leaders and organizations not only re-evaluate what they do and how they do it, they will help leaders retain their confidence in leading change, making thoughtful and smart business decisions and developing new strategies that set the stage for the next phase of the organization.

Because whether we want to acknowledge this or not, there will be a next phase with a new economy and a new way of doing business post COVID-19.

How, as leaders, we reset our business strategy planning, how we use the crisis as an opportunity to rethink our business models, our offerings, our marketing, our strategic partnership and our support systems will all impact and determine if your business is going to be in the 50% that survives in the next decade.

Silence Speaks Volumes and Why You Need to Master it to Get Heard

silence speaks volumes

Recently I read an anecdote about the power of silence. It described an event with thousands of people crowded into one room, with everyone chatting at once and no one paying attention to the individuals speaking at the front of the room.

Three speakers failed to get the attention of the crowd – until, at last, one speaker simply stood in silence in front of the microphone. Soon after, all eyes were on him and you could hear a pin drop in the room.

He achieved this using no words at all.

Immediately it reminded me of a keynote speaker at a conference I had attended a few weeks earlier. He was introduced by the Master of Ceremony and once the introduction was complete, the keynote speaker started his way up to the podium. He was already all mic’d up and started speaking before he even reached the lectern.

Results: No one was ready and missed his first comments.

By the time he got to the lectern, he was well within his presentation. It felt like we had missed the beginning of a movie and then were trying to figure out what’s happening. Had he waited to reach the lectern, paused, looked at the 4 corners of the room to make sure he was connecting with everyone, and then began to speak, it would have made a world of difference.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to recover.

He had failed to get everyone’s attention by not using silence to create anticipation, and not waiting for everyone’s eyes to be on him, before he began to deliver his message.

This story inspired me to think that silence speaks volumes, and of the great value of silence in business, and what using silence can accomplish to:

  • capture the attention of a crowd
  • demonstrate respect
  • speak using other forms of non-verbal communication
  • help you be the most articulate you can be

In this post, we’ll cover a few of the many ways silence speaks volumes, and why you need to master it to get heard.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Listen Up!

silence speaks volumes

In a conversation, sometimes the most important thing you can contribute is simply listening.

To remain silent and listen may seem like no contribution at all, but it takes effort to be fully present in a conversation – and the rewards pay off.

Some people may have the “gift of the gab” but ultimately, being a skilled listener takes equal or more attention to detail.

Listening is hard work that requires focus, practice, and patience. Apart from being the hallmark of a good conversationalist, the ability to really listen is invaluable. 

  • Listening at Level I

This is all about grabbing control of the conversation.

For example:

Person A: Where did you spend your last vacation?

Person B: I went to India.

Person A: I love India. The Taj Mahal is amazing – gigantic, beautiful. I have never experienced so much poverty and so much luxury at the same time. And we took a train; then we had a driver for part of our trip…

  • Listening at Level II

This is a give and take – a two-way conversation.

Person A: Where did you go on vacation last summer?

Person B: I went to India.

Person A: What did you enjoy most about your trip?

Person B: The people! 

  • Listening at Level III

This is all about listening to the environment.

When you enter a room — what is the mood?

Or, when you enter a boardroom — do you sense tension? How do you adapt? Is the mood somber? What can you do to lighten things up? If the boardroom is quiet, it would never occur to you to speak loudly.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Pay Attention

What can you expect to learn from another individual, whether a mentor, colleague, superior, or friend, if you constantly feel the need to assert your own opinion?

  • In a professional setting with new or unfamiliar information, keep your ears open constantly. By taking in the most knowledge as possible from others, you will continue to learn and grow — which will lead to upward mobility in your career.
  • Show the utmost respect to the person you are conversing with by silencing your other conversations. Unless absolutely necessary, take your cell phone off the table during meetings. When someone comes to your office to talk, darken your computer screen or close your laptop. This will help you focus on the individual and will make your meetings more efficient, too.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Choose Your Words

silence speaks volumes

Never be afraid of letting a conversation hang in brief silence before answering a question or responding to a comment. In fact, you should get used to it!

  • Before immediately jumping to respond to a question or comment, take a moment to reflect on your words. Not only will this help you to craft a more articulate response, it will also incite the attention of others. People will begin to notice that you take time, energy, and thought into answering a question — and that you are not simply blurting out the first thing that pops into your mind.
  • This is an especially important tip during a job interview or a first-time meeting with a client. It creates a positive first impression that you are a thoughtful, conscious individual. This first impression will inform your professional relationships and will work to your advantage.

Silence Speaks Volumes: Body Language

Silence speaks for itself.  

When you are silent, in no way does it mean you are not communicating. The next time you are not talking, pay close attention to how you may be speaking without words.

  • Body language, even when standing still, says a lot about you and your attitude. Are you standing with slouched shoulders, arms crossed, or fidgeting? If so, others may perceive you as bored or apathetic. Or, is your posture aligned, your shoulders back, and hands on your hips or at your sides? This suggests you are confident, prepared, and alert.
  • When listening to someone, eye contact is key to let that person know that you are interested in and engaged with what they are saying. If you are truly listening but your eyes are wandering around the room, the speaker might suspect your indifference.
  • Just like silence speaks volumes, your professional image speaks volumes about you too. If you do not take the time to polish your image by paying attention to dress codes, fit and cut of clothing, age-appropriate attire, and grooming, your image can silently override anything you have to say – no matter how articulate you are.

At Corporate Class, our expert facilitators provide in-person and live online leadership training that covers everything you need to know about mastering body language, communicating with confidence, nailing first impressions, leading with purpose, and more!

Learn more about our Individual Training programs or get in touch with us to host a customized Business Workshop.

You can also master your leadership, body language and presentation skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

leadership presence training program

Learning to Rise During COVID-19 with Dare to Lead by Dr. Brené Brown

We’re all experiencing a new normal – both in grieving our past lives, prior to February 29, 2020, and in finding a new way forward. The psychological effects of COVID-19 have been devastating for our society.

Since March 1, 2020, our global environment has changed due to COVID-19. CBS anchor Gayle King says, “I feel emotionally drained. I feel spiritually drained. I think a lot of people are feeling this during this time.”

The second order of effects of COVID-19 include disruption of family routine, social distancing, isolation, loneliness, layoffs, job loss, exposure to extreme stress, and moment by moment digestion of knowing that more than 2 million people across the globe have COVID-19 exposures and that there are more than 180,000 deaths globally. These are all anxiety provoking.

Learning resiliency skills during and after a major event such as COVID-19 is not easy. Modern neuroscience tells us that we experience physical, social, and mental threats, all with the same intensity.

However, in this light, our rising skills are ever so imperative. Author Dr. Brené Brown says that gaining skills in rising up enable people to take risks and jump into the vast unknown. Learning to rise is a three-part process: “the reckoning, the rumble and the revolution.” People are emotional beings. When you react emotionally to something, you can move forward by becoming curious about what you feel and why. Tune into your mind and body’s reactions, such as an increased heartbeat, a dry mouth or ruminating thoughts.

Let’s take a closer look at the three steps to Learning to Rise:

  1. The Reckoning: Our reckoning during COVID-19 is being in a situation where our emotions run high. We find that our physiology is taking over our thinking, and logic and behavior are not present. The key to the reckoning is being aware, present, and conscious that something has gotten a hold of you. Next, it’s time to get curious about it. For instance: I’m in a lot of pain, feeling really vulnerable, my stomach is in knots, feeling like I am paralyzed, want to punch something, or I need to get away and run from this situation (freeze, fight, or flight). This step can be hard because most tend to blame others or outside circumstances.
  2. The Rumble: Brown describes how people “offload” emotions onto others instead of reckoning with their feelings. They tamp down their emotional reactions until one small comment or action sparks an out-of-proportion outburst. Or, they get angry, place blame and make excuses. Rumbling is stepping into the story, owning it and taking it to the mat! Rumbling typically includes the story we make up absent of data. Consequently, it’s usually based in fears and insecurities. These evolve into conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories can often contain confabulations. Brown defines this as a lie told honestly. We replace missing information with something false that we believe to be true. This shows up at work when we share what we believe is factual information, but it’s really just our own opinion. Brown encourages us to write our SFD (shxxx first draft) to start an interruption. It’s a simple way to notice your story while being in your story. To put rising skills into practice, start with:
      • “The story I’m telling myself…” or “The story I make up…”
      • Write it down!
      • There are a whole host of follow-up questions that Brown outlines as the Story Rumble process. The most challenging question is: “What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?”
  3. The Revolution: According to Brown, the revolution is all about claiming authorship of our own stories and lives. It’s about taking off the armor and rumbling with vulnerability, living in our values, braving trust with open hearts and learning to rise!

As we move to gain control of our lives through building, deepening, and strengthening our resiliency skills, we practice mental endurance and model resilient behaviors for our communities and families. By doing that we embrace Daring Leadership. I Dare You to Lead.
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Terri L. Williams
Senior Consultant, Corporate Class, Inc.
Dare to Lead Certified Facilitator