Blueprint for Success in the Covid World and Beyond, Miriam Gilbert, Founder and CEO ImpactfulnessLab.

Blueprint for Success in the Covid World and Beyond, Miriam Gilbert, Founder and CEO ImpactfulnessLab.

Ramdas Shenoyy in conversation with Miriam from ImpactfulnessLab, London on career management and remaining relevant.

Amidst mid-life career crisis for many senior professionals during an economic downturn and now COVID 19, how can an individual grow his/her influence in the organization and the organization sees them as indispensable?

It really is a time like no other and what I see is that people fall into two broad groups: those who cling to the idea of wanting to go back to the old normal and those who dust themselves off and look how to make the new normal work.

While I have tremendous sympathy for people dealing with the shock of it all and possibly experiencing personal worry, anxiety and loss, it’s the second types who can make themselves indispensable to their business.

The main thing they can do to increase their influence is to display their “can do” attitude. Be willing to step in, step up and outside their strict role definition if need be. This is not the time to be narrow-minded about rank, role or position.

Because so many people will feel overwhelmed by the situation and the change in demands on them, those people who can cut through that overwhelm and help others manage it better will do well.

How to do that? It’s not really about having all the solutions but taking simple steps that ease the pressure:

  • Create new routines and habits fit for the new realities
  • Keep focussing on the goal for your team and your business. And keep talking about it – a lot!
  • Remind people how much they have already achieved (sometimes just turning up / dialling in for a call is an achievement when someone feels stressed)

What is the blueprint for success in today’s scenario?

Short answer: flexibility, creativity and building trust with clients, peers, suppliers and wider stakeholder groups. It’s not actually new, but the current situation has brought it into sharp focus.

If you are flexible in how you provide services to customers, you can find new and novel ways to do this even in today’s scenario.

Using creativity becomes essential and here it helps to tap into everyone’s ideas. Don’t dismiss someone’s suggestions because they are junior and similar don’t hold back with your ideas because you are maybe not the boss.

One client just told me how one of their most junior team member has been impressing everyone not just because he helped everyone with the technology challenges but also because he worked out some really smart communication structures that keep everyone on track.

Do you feel the need for an MBA education and is it over-rated?

My personal feeling is that while there are many excellent MBA programs that are focused on specific industry challenges, there are far too many general ones that just churn out basic learning without sufficient focus on the experience or challenge the student to question what they learn. The best learning occurs when people can experience the impact of the concepts they learn in the real world and then find novel and creative solutions to existing problems. Far too many MBA programs do not provide that kind of learning.

Most of the leadership training evolves around cookie-cutter theory and philosophies, what is your way to address the same?

Ugh, cookie-cutter solutions are one of my pet hates. Apart from perpetuating the issue of poor leadership, it’s also so disrespectful on a human level because so many leadership programs don’t consider how people think, feel and behave in the real world. That is why you keep ending up with failed companies, corporate scandals and huge levels of employee disengagement.

Ignoring the human (NOT HR!) aspect of any business is a massive failure yet very, very few leadership programs help aspiring leaders how to treat their people like well people, aka smart, capable, creative adults.

So how do I address this issue? Firstly, I work with clients to examine their mindset: do they trust and respect their people? Do they focus their actions on empowering their people (even though I don’t like the term empowering – but that’s another story). Then we look at the structures and processes that secretly undermine their efforts to become more human-centred in their business. Incentive schemes are often a culprit.

The trick to this learning is not to send people on day-long workshops or weekend retreats where everyone comes back with great ideas but six months down the line, little has changed.

The way I help organisations develop their people is in short, experiential settings with students getting a lot of real-life practice, coming back for reflection and tailored coaching.

What are the areas where a senior professional can work on to be relevant and successful in the changing business scenario ?(Also there will be many who will feel, that they would like to change the organization or maybe the organization is closing down– post-COVID there would be many sectors which will close shop).

In a post-COVID world, those people who are adaptable, creative and embrace change are the ones who will be most relevant.

I am a big believer that anyone can make a difference, regardless of their position or rank in an organisation. And I have seen the proof of this, too!

If senior professionals want to make a difference and be relevant, the best thing they can do is to help others overcome their resistance to change.

Doing that means understanding the source of resistance: do people feel threatened? Then show them how the change is not going to hurt them.

Do you have a “this won’t work for us” problem? Then find areas where it IS already working, some bright spots and copy them. Also, find some aspects of your idea that shows how it is consistent with the history or values of the organisation. For example, an engineering company might pride themselves on being innovative in their product – show how your idea for change taps into that organisational identity.

Most likely others will feel that there is just so much change, it can appear too much. In this case, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks and plotting a path that takes small, consistent steps – fast, is the way forward.

Your life’s philosophy.

Change is inevitable. You can be a receiver or a creator of your future in that everchanging world, and I chose to be a creator. Not everything will work out, but everything can be a learning experience. And while I don’t deny that failing can be hard, I always, always try to learn and keep moving forward!

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