From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.
And as always, our illustrations from Katie Sadow.
From the Field
01 / Unlock Your Ethical Imagination
From Chris Konya
TL;DR The NBA continues as a role model for America with its response to the systemic racism that could have torn the organization apart, but instead is seeing it thrive. For example, the organization is forming a social justice coalition, using arenas as polling locations, and dedicating advertising spots at every playoff game. They have reimagined and redeployed their resources in an unprecedented way. How did they do it? Rather than traditional autocratic leadership, their leadership approach includes deep listening, authentic introspection, and transformative empowerment and it is creating real progress.
Why It Matters The NBA’s response is profound. It’s important to see that it works through a combination of individual leadership and business leadership; only by fundamentally challenging and changing perspectives and behaviors in both areas were they able to unleash an impactful ethical imagination.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now Challenge your own ethical imagination.
Thoughts We are in an unprecedented moment. The rules that bound business behaviors before are no longer relevant. What can you do to take new action for beliefs that have never before seen real justice? Find places where business practices in your organization conflict with your sense of ethics and find ways to work towards “triple bottom line solutions”: good for business, good for consumers, good for society.
02 / Looking Inward to Connect Outward
From Nora Mestrich
TL;DR “How are you feeling? No really, how are you feeling?” It’s a question we’re asking and being asked quite a lot these days. The overwhelming effects of COVID-19 have left many people responding that the pandemic has been responsible for a negative down tick in their mental health. Studies have shown that compassionate leaders foster more loyalty and engagement from their teams under normal circumstances, and that type of emotional connection becomes doubly as important during a time of crisis.
Why It Matters With a murky and unprecedented road ahead, people are looking to leaders to ease anxieties and provide a clear path forward: most effective are those who act with deliberate care and optimism. McKinsey outlines four qualities that leaders can follow to help foster a compassionate environment: Awareness (be aware of what is happening in and around you), Vulnerability (lower your guard and confront the immediate situation), Empathy (tap into the emotions of others) and Compassion (make people feel genuinely cared for).
One Thing You Can Do Right Now Look inward as grounding before turning outward to support those around you.
Tips Affix your oxygen mask before helping others. By practicing introspection and understanding your own anxieties about the current state of the world, you can reach a deeper level of compassion from those around you. Embrace daily rituals and commit to self reflection. Practice gratitude towards yourself and those around you. Share your emotions and be vulnerable with your network. Listen to the worries of your employees and let it help shape the path for the future.
03 / A Vision You Can Feel
From Camille Drucker
TL;DR Getting ‘leadership’ right in times of crisis can often feel like a Catch-22. On the one hand, uplifting people requires a focus on devising bold, visionary strategies. On the other, delivering timely progress means prioritizing swift, practical solutions. Through their creative exploration of Leeside, a climate utopia set in 2057, Quartz inadvertently (or intentionally?) proposes a happy medium: a simulated future within which inspiring ambition and thoughtful implementation blissfully coexist.
Why It Matters As corporations reset for growth beyond the COVID-19 crisis, leaders are feeling the pressure to chart a future-proof path forward for their people and their shareholders. While there’s no denying the value of strategic vision, long-term goals can quickly lose internal traction if they feel too nebulous or too intimidating to operationalize. Going the extra mile to bring your ambition to life can go a long way in helping stakeholders grasp—and champion—your next normal.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now Take the time to dimensionalize the end state, not just the process or practice that needs to change.
Tips (from Leeside)
Fully set the scene — Seeing is believing. What future ‘bets’ is your vision predicated on? What do you predict your industry will look like 5-10 years from now? How might you model these predictions?
Humanize your plan — What are the key objectives of your strategy, beyond the numbers and the jargon? How might you visualize them?
Confront concerns — Keeping things inspiring doesn’t mean glossing over roadblocks. What hurdles do you expect to face? How do you plan to manage them?
Don’t shy away from whimsy — Morale isn’t trending high these days. We could all benefit from a modest dose of levity.
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