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From my perspective, the transformation began on the day U.S. businesses closed their doors for in-person work due to Covid 19. Many women with young children were forced to resign due to insufficient childcare. Organizations that still had any dress code put that by the wayside. No one could see you from the neck down on most company calls, so why be overdressed?

The separation of work and family that had been a vital boundary couldn’t and wouldn’t be enforced. Companies whose work had been all in person were now operating online. Zoom became the new medium. With hours spent in online communication, it was inevitable that young children or pets would wander into the screen for attention. A smile and a shrug replaced previous mortification. Some people called what was occurring the “humanization of the workforce.”

People appreciated the extra one to two hours a day they gained by not commuting to an office. In some cases, people were given the flexibility to do their assigned work any time in 24 hours versus the previous 9-5 expectation.

Everyone knew at some point the pandemic would go away, but the big question was, now what? Some senior leaders said, “Let’s get back to work or back to normal.” Some employees said to themselves, “What did you call the things we did during the pandemic? I thought that was work.” In some cases, it was done better and faster virtually. Some of the employees came away from the lockdown to realize that they could be more effective virtually and didn’t want to go back to an office.

That struggle between “traditional” and “virtual” led to what is being called The Great Resignation. Many employees who were given the request to return to the office would reject the call to return in person, stating the intention to find an organization that would let them do this work, but would permit working remotely or make an appearance in an office once a week.

For the people who went back to the office, the flexibility they experienced while working from home was not something they wanted to give up, at least in some ways.

Art Petty wrote an article entitled, Leadership Caffeine – The Imperative to Think Differently About Managing and Leading. He suggests 12 areas that need to be rethought. They are:

  1. A) Stop relying on open-door communication practices. Flexibility (1), Interpersonal Risk-Taking (5)
  2. B) Change the way we do goal setting. Flexibility (1), Feedback- Seeking (8),Experimenting (3)
  3. C) Teach people to engage in relationship building to get things done. Collaborating (6), Feedback- Seeking (8), and Interpersonal Risk-Taking (5)
  4. D) Mix up idea generation approaches to generate more and better ideas. Flexibility (1), Speed (2)
  5. E) Stop giving or accepting blind, no-context targets as absolutes. Flexibility (1),Performance Risk-Taking (4)
  6. F) Kill the meeting overload culture. Flexibility (1), Feedback-Seeking (8)
  7. G) Quit making people walk on hot coals to earn trust. Collaborating (6) Interpersonal Risk-Taking (5), Flexibility (1)
  8. H) Teach people to run toward challenging conversations. Performance & Interpersonal Risk-Taking (4&5)
  9. I) Don’t assume anyone knows what their job as leaders should be. Speed (2), Flexibility(1), Feedback Seeking (8). Reflection (9)
  10. J) No one gets to manage and lead others without tuning in to their “Why.” Feedback -Seeking (8), Collaborating (6), Experimenting (3), Flexibility (1)
  11. K) Stop looking only to your customers for ideas to innovate. Flexibility (1), Experimenting (3), Collaborating (6), Information -Gathering (7)
  12. L) Don’t expect a team to generate magic without help. Collaborating (6), Information- Gathering (7), Speed (2)

At this point, I want to shift gears and talk about the Burke Learning Agility Inventory and its nine dimensions, and then I will come back and connect them to a couple of items on Petty’s list of “do different.” Burke’s definition of learning agility is “finding yourself in a new or ambiguous situation and figuring it out.” That sounds like life during the pandemic. Burke’s research has established that more learning-agile people do the following nine areas better than people who are less learning-agile. The dimensions are:

1) Flexibility – Being open to new ideas and proposing new solutions

2) Speed – Acting on ideas quickly, so those that aren’t working are discarded, and other possibilities are accelerated

3) Experimenting – Trying out new behaviors to determine what is effective

4) Performance Risk-Taking – Seeking new activities that provide opportunities to be challenged

5) Interpersonal Risk-Taking – Discussing differences with others that lead to learning and change

6) Collaborating – Finding ways to work with others that generate unique opportunities for learning

7) Information-Gathering – Use various methods to remain current in one’s career

8) Feedback-Seeking – Asking others for feedback on one’s ideas and overall performance

9) Reflecting – Slowing down to evaluate one’s own performance to be more effective

Petty’s list focuses on “what” needs to change in the workplace. Burke’s dimensions address “how” to make those changes. Here are a couple of examples of how you could use Burke Learning Agility dimensions to improve Petty’s “what” areas. For the rest of Petty’s “do different,” I will place the Burke dimensions that will improve Petty’s “do different.” Petty’s “D” is about relationship building. That can be addressed using the capabilities of Collaborating. Feedback-Seeking and Interpersonal Risk-Taking are also parts that would help someone improve in that Petty area. Petty’s area “H” – Teaching people to run toward challenging conversations- Burke’s Performance and Interpersonal Risk-Taking would help in this area. In many situations, the different parties have a further understanding of the risk level in a case. Once there is shared understanding, people can Collaborate (another Burke dimension) on solutions. While Petty addressed issues that are relevant to today’s challenges, he doesn’t suggest a solution. That is the strength of the Burke assessment.

About the Author  

David Hoff is the COO and EVP of Leadership Development for E.A.S.I-Consult®E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.