Always amazed and grateful for opportunities which present themselves here in little old Adelaide and it was special joining an audience with Marty Linksy co-author of The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World at a SA Leadership Academy event on Adaptive Leadership.

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

Having aspirations to be a great leader and coach in emerging situations, solving complex problems and helping others do the same, this was one of those moments to saviour and bridge the gap, from reality to a better future.

This was a few years ago and I recently took out my notes, as his work was included in preparation for my next Complexity for Coaches session with Dr Josie McLean — a wonderful series of immersive learning workshops from theory to practice based on systemic coaching with a small and experienced cohort.

I scribbled the ‘new normal’ on my pad that day with Marty, this is a term which has become quite familiar in 2020, next to it was captured the characteristics of this new normal:

  • Uncertain future;
  • Inadequate information; and
  • Change is constant.

What resonated with me mostly around change was taking responsibility to create the future, make your reality and face something you may not wish to face.

Interestingly, some time later, I was (self-)driven to form a group of organisational change management (OCM) professionals to delve into and research how OCM is best practiced in an agile environment. I was empathic to the struggles that were surfacing from retrospectives carried out with OCM practitioners supporting a large IT capital delivery portfolio.

My take was that the linear approaches to change and well known, formed and applied methods from Kotter, ADKAR and the like, could be improved, adapted.

Whilst we did not complete the paper for the Business Agility Institute, some valuable research, reading, discussion and connection occurred and a wealth of information and knowledge is available in that space.

What I have just discovered, is that my empathy was moreso a reflection of me in that situation (which I played a part in creating) and I went forward to solve a technical problem, or try to.

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

What was missing, what was the gap…it’s a bit of an aha moment for me, as I am writing this and reflecting on these related past events along with my recent/current studies into systemic coaching (I have a fair way to go yet), I was just looking at the surface and what was immediately in front of me, not seeing, feeling, observing the whole system.

Coming back to Marty that morning at the Hilton Adelaide, he was wearing a very striking hat, did I mention that, I think only a New Yorker could get away with that…wish I could.

Another takeaway was the six leadership skills he described and this is for everyone, not those with leader in there job title, we are all leaders and to borrow from the Kanban Method, which I do often — encourage acts of leadership at all levels and move forward with evolutionary change.

Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

The six leadership skills:

  • Adaptation over Execution: ‘tweaking and freaking’;
  • Experiment over Problem Solving: learn from failure; more than one at a time;
  • Interdependence over Autonomy: internally and externally, collaborate — connected economy;
  • Embrace constructive conflict: value and belief driven;
  • Next practice over Best practice: DO — don’t just look around, invent; and
  • Do not be a sacrificial lamb: more than balance sleep, eat, physical exercise, wholesome.

Coming back to the thoughts around leading and coaching people through change and the first point above around adaptation. One note I made is telling in my opinion, when adapting, we leave something behind, it may be something we are afraid of losing, empathy, radical empathy as Marty referred to it and reinforcing our beliefs, shared values can help us. Verbalise, seek what it is we are afraid of losing.

It seems, some answers to the wicked OCM questions I was posing, are now surfacing from a variety of people and sources — all of sudden, when I stopped searching for it specifically or I have started to understand it better, thanks to: Dr Josie McLean, Big Little Shifts; Aaron Dignan, Brave New Work; Joost Minnaar & Pim De Morree, Corporate Rebels — Make Work More Fun; William and Susan Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change….and many more…

I have borrowed from Dr Josie McLean — because her work and teaching has helped me bring a lot of disparate ideas together recently. The approach is similar in the other work referenced, the concept of looping and adapting (hopefully not over simplifying here, but it makes sense to me that way), which importantly is not linear, it’s continuous and our journey does not end, hence we are always reminded to ‘mind the gap’, ‘mind the new gap’ which we will inevitably form.

Dr Josie McLean — BIG LITTLE SHIFTS : A PRACTITIONER’S GUIDE TO COMPLEXITY FOR ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE AND ADAPTATION

The final Marty-ism, I wrote, which I wanted to share, ‘cos I love it, hats off to you Marty!

“…leadership is a behaviour, a verb, an activity, not a position…”

Francesco 🙏

Some great resources available on Josie’s website: https://the-partnership.com.au/ and as I wrote and published this story I am about to join her on a webinar/online event Coachayra: Awake Aware Arise https://awakeawarearise.com/ to briefly share my journey thus far to a more systemic view as a coach. I may just need to come back to this story with an addendum as I get to listen and participate in her presentation.

I live by the beach in Adelaide, South Australia with my wife, young lad and Jack Russell/Tenterfield Terrier. Passions include golf, food, humanity at work.