If you’ve made it this far into 2020 and you’re still standing, chances are you have at least a dozen different examples of pivots you’ve made to both your personal and professional plans. Twenty-twenty has, if nothing else, kept us on our toes. One of the most common questions we’re asked is what differentiates companies that turn this 2020 plot twist into profit versus those who don’t. The answer isn’t something these companies do but instead, something these companies have. It’s something every leader should focus on: mental agility.
Mental agility generally refers to the speed and process by which people can come to a decision or craft a solution. People with more mental agility are comfortable operating in grey zones, recognizing they may not have all the information they’d like to make a decision, but acknowledging one needs to be made anyway. They can quickly wade through relevant and non-relevant information and apply past experiences and mental models to fill in the gap and make a call. They’re not only able to do this, they enjoy it! The challenge of creating new ways of doing things excites them. According to Korn Ferry, only 15% of the global workforce are considered highly agile. However, companies with highly agile executives report 25% higher profit margins than their peer group.
People with more mental agility are comfortable operating in grey zones, recognizing they may not have all the information they’d like to make a decision, but acknowledging one needs to be made anyway.
If your team’s mental agility bought a one-way ticket on the 2020 struggle bus, here are some ways to bring it back:
- Foster inquisitive exchanges: This should not be confused with establishing an inquisition. If this isn’t already a cultural component of your company, use 2021 planning sessions as a chance to encourage team members to ask questions without judgement or repercussions. Build schedules that allow for questioning, whether team members are instant processors or need a little time to think things through.
- Create a safe space to iterate: As Churchill pointed out, perfection is the enemy of progress. Encourage colleagues to bring their ideas or frameworks to the team for collaboration. Challenge each other to tunnel into aspects of a business challenge that needs another layer of specificity or examine the broader impact of specific points. Don’t make the team feel like they have to have all the answers to be a part of the conversation.
- Check your ego: As a leader, you must recognize that the plans you laid out in Q1, or the processes you’ve built up until this point, may not be relevant anymore. You need to actively solicit feedback and ideas from a variety of sources within and outside of the organization. You can then flex your mental agility by filtering through the input to short list new processes or products to review with your team.
Mental agility is a key driver of high performing teams generally, and exponentially in the current economic environment. While challenging your current leadership team to demonstrate more mental agility, make sure you’re evaluating any new hires against this core skill as well.
Not sure how to get started? Reach out to us.