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  • Tamar Balkin

Are Some Leaders Better Placed For Complexity Than Others ?

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

“You know I'm still standing better than I ever did…

I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah

I'm still standing yeah yeah yeah”

I'm still standing by Elton John

Take an unscientific poll of your peers, friends and family and you will notice that the impact of the changes to the nature of work and the global economy is varied: some people are coping well even thriving in the new environment; and others are struggling.

Some people are so nervous by the current circumstances that for them work is seen as a marathon not a sprint. However inevitably, they will come to the realisation that working super hard will not get you to the end quicker, rather they will be exhausted at best, burnt-out at worst. 

How can you set up yourself and your employees for future success?

Naturally you need to start with yourself.

  • What is your mindset?

  • Are you a realistic optimist?

  • How comfortable are you with ambiguity ?

  • How honed are your basic leadership skills ?  

My colleagues reminded me that times of crisis and uncertainty exacerbates the impact of  poor leadership.  So take the time to get real honest feedback on your leadership capability, especially your emotional intelligence, empathy and general interpersonal skills, so you can focus on improvement. (See past blog for some tips.)

On an organisational level

When did you last go back to basics and look at the actual work that you do?

In the last few blogs,  I have written about empathy and purpose from an individual level, now it's time to focus on it from a customer perspective.

“Where do you have a role to play in the jobs your constituencies want to get done?”  Rita McGrath

Answering  these questions will refocus on the customer: 

  • What customer needs are you serving?

    1. List of the outcomes that the customer is trying to drive

    2. What do you have to offer that is helping them to achieve  those outcomes

  • Can you realistically serve them?

  • What do you need to do differently on a  small and large scale?

  • How will you know?

  • What financial pressure have you set?

  • Is it realistic ?

  • Does your traditional business model help us?

  • What aspects of your culture are impeding us?

  • Have you consulted employees who don’t normally have a voice?

A lecturer in my Masters degree emphasised that  to get a real sense of what was going on in an organisation, it was imperative to take the time to chat to people at all levels  especially those in customer facing roles. Typically they  know what is going on and where there is friction and frustration.   So once you are certain you have created psychological safety, reach out to your staff and ask directly, “What did you do this month that disappointed a customer?” Remember it is really hard to get a good understanding of all aspects of your stakeholder and customer experience, not only do you need a high level of non judgemental curiosity it's important to acknowledge   that “we get so preoccupied by what we are doing and need to get done, we forget the customer”

On a team level

Remember jobs need to be designed to help people be their best at work, not to be a hinderance to getting things done.   So take the time to examine:

  • How demanding is the workload, if you are expecting people to do more with less how realistic is it?

  • How much control do staff  have and why?

  • Is it safe for people to say no?

  • What expectations are people placing on themselves?

  • How is everyone doing emotionally?

  • How supported they are in their environment- in terms of resources  

  • Clarity of roles: do people know who is doing what? Is it realistic?

  • What are the skills needs interest and values of my existing employees?

  • How do they match the work requirements I have now and in the future?

  • Are the right people in the right jobs in term of skills needs interest and values?

  • What is the quality of relationships within the team?

  • What unsustainable unhealthy work patterns have become normal?

Be honest and ask yourselves, have you fallen into the trap of saying “just for the moment.. commercial interest trump the values and the wellbeing focus”?

So what is the relevance of the magnolia? 

For me the magnolia is symbolic of natural innovation, as it is one of the few plants that blossoms in the Australian winter. On your travels over the next few days, keep an eye out for these beautiful flowers, take a moment to stop and admire them and if you like email me a photo. 


References: Work and Life Podcast with Stew Friedman Ep 174. Rita McGrath: Seeing Around Corners My Pocket Psych Ep 065: Employee wellbeing with Dr. Kevin Teoh Griffin, B. and Hesketh, B. (2003). Adaptable Behaviours for Successful Work and Career Adjustment. Australian Journal of Psychology, [online] 55(2), pp.65–73. Available at: [Accessed 28 Feb. 2019]. More references available on request.‌

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