sense of agency shown by little boy in cape

There is nothing “business as usual” about what we’re all navigating right now. The ongoing coronavirus crisis has upended everything we thought we knew. But I’ve been inspired by the responses of various businesses and thought leaders. Recently, I heard Michael Margolis, CEO and founder of Storied, speak at a virtual conference and he touched on a phrase that strongly resonates with me.

Sense of agency.

In a matter of days, our individual and collective sense of agency—the feeling of control we have over our own actions and lives—came to a screeching halt.

But our current circumstances provide a unique chance to reimagine, invent, and create like we never have before… if we help our team members regain a sense of agency.

To reclaim our needed sense of agency and control we must:

1. Get Back to Basics

In tumultuous times great leaders go back to the basics.

  • Connect. Humans are wired to connect. As we all grapple with how to do this virtually, your role as a leader is to help your team members cope and thrive. Communicate how they bring value to their role and to the company. Some employees may be hesitant to expose their anxieties or stressors in their jobs, but make sure you let them know you’re there as a sounding board—free of assumptions and judgment.
  • Remember that emotions are contagious. These days we’re often asking people to do more for less, so it’s important to keep in mind that emotions are highly contagious and negative emotions are the easiest to catch. There are still tough conversations to have, your own emotions to deal with, and business decisions to make. But try to spread positive emotions with every interaction.
  • Be empathetic. At EPI, we’ve found it helpful to name what we’re feeling. And in many ways, we are experiencing grief. Unfortunately, there isn’t one right way to handle grief or process this collective trauma. You can’t fix everything, but you can and must be an empathetic human. Because empathy in leadership isn’t a soft skill anymore.

2. Reimagine

Business as we knew it cannot be recovered; it must be reinvented. But difficult times can lead to extraordinary creativity.

This is an opportunity to seize agency and create new and improved ways to operate.

If we embrace the uncertainty and view it as a chance to reinvent or reimagine how we do our work, we set ourselves up for growth and resiliency in our organizations. There are many examples of how jobs are being redefined.

Each of our specific situations is unique, but we’re all in the same general boat. How we learn and adapt to these rapidly changing circumstances will define us, our families, and our work in the future. Simon Sinek points to the infinite mindset as being essential now; we must ask ourselves “How will we do what we’re doing in a different world?

3. Lead Decisively

In the middle of a crisis, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with information, ideas, and outside rhetoric. But don’t freeze. Don’t do nothing. It’s easy to sit and spin, constantly thinking of alternatives or imagining what could go wrong and never making a decision.

Don’t become victim to paralysis by analysis. To become innovative, you must continually try new things. Making a decision is movement. Choosing not to decide is a decision in itself.

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.” – Millard Fuller

Certainly, leading decisively can also result in mistakes. But don’t worry; you learned something, and you can adapt and pivot. Show great crisis leadership with bold and decisive acts that retain flexibility for change.

4. Sustain Change

Some things will continue to change, but consistency is key to creating and developing a new normal. Adapting to change is what keeps us relevant and valuable, with a competitive edge.

  • Model the behaviors you want to see from your team.
  • Support the changes with ongoing feedback.
  • Reward innovation and growth.
  • Create conditions that anchor the changes as the new “way things are done.”

With these tactics, you can regain your sense of agency and help your teammates regain theirs. In the process, you can set yourselves up for immense innovation. Who’s ready?

Headshot of EPI CEO Michelle Kelly

Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)

More Good, Good Stuff from EPI

Click here to read The Only Constant Is Change

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