Future Fit # 19: On becoming an adaptive leader: Avoiding distraction

TomorrowToday has promised to help you start the journey towards being future fit – to becoming an adaptive leader. Being merely a ‘good leader’ will not suffice when it comes to meeting the challenge of the future. You will need to be a great leader and a ‘great leader’ is someone who understanding and practices adaptive leadership. This is part of a ‘boot camp’ through which we help you begin the journey of becoming future fit; we help you in the process of becoming an adaptive leader. Each ‘session’ is designed around a thought-bullet (Head) and an action point (Hand) – something to think about and something to try out. We have promised to keep the ‘head’ part to under a minute and the practical part (hand)…well, that is up to you.

ladders into the skyFuture Fit # 19: Avoiding the real work

Work avoidance, in other words avoiding the real work that needs to be done, is one of the most common responses to an adaptive challenge. This work avoidance is hard to detect, is usually well disguised and of course masquerades as the ‘real work’ that will solve the problem at hand. The truth is that engaging in work avoidance means that the ‘hole’ is dug faster and deeper than ever. Work avoidance diverts the attention away from the real problem and that which needs addressing and this distraction can take on many forms:
•    Focus only on the technical parts of the challenge and apply a technical fix
•    Define the problem to fit your current expertise
•    Turn down the heat in a meeting by telling a joke or taking a break
•    Deny that the problem exists
•    Create a proxy fight, such as a personality conflict, instead of grappling with the real problem
•    Take options off the able to honour legacy behaviours

(List source: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz, Grashow & Linsky)

Familiarise yourself with these distractions and in your next meeting /s track to what extent they surface in the meeting. What was being discussed at the time when one or more of these distractions was adopted? Note this and give the matter some thought. Start to identify patterns of this behaviour and develop your own understanding of the work avoidance that is taking place before you address it. Adaptive challenges are the ‘new norm’ in our organisations; this means that there will be work avoidance taking place and distractions are being used to avoid what really needs to be done. If you don’t think this is the case the chances are high that this is because you simply don’t ‘see’ it. As an Adaptive Leader you will need to train yourself to spot and identify work avoidance. The sooner you are able to do this, the better.

Index of Adaptive Leader series
Click here to see the full list of the Future Fit ‘sessions’


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