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Acting Together

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Changing our Mental Models

A four-step approach to managing under uncertainty

Health, Learn, Work

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Alexandre Beaussier

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Alexandre Beaussier

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The context

The COVID-19 crisis has turned the acronym VUCA from an abstract concept into a tangible reality. After a long time of holding uncertainty up as the totem that should motivate transformations, it has now become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. Our habits, our beliefs, our relationships, our thoughts, and our emotions have been tinged with a constant uncertainty that we will have to deal with.

While some managers did not emerge unscathed – a survey reveals that 56% of managers are in psychological distress – others have been thriving in the challenge. This is what a study conducted among 24 SMEs in the AURA region (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France) shows. Several managers have been able to renew their habits, their postures, and their communication to instill in their teams positive dynamics of adaptation and innovation in times of crisis. In other words, they proved to be antifragile.

What differentiates the managers in these two studies? What are the abilities that allow them to thrive in uncertainty and activate the human potential of their teams?

Clarifying intentions

Crises always call for a return to basics, and managers are no exception. They must also return to their fundamental intentions: to manage human relationships and create common meaning. Reinvesting in the field of meaning – this combination of material and immaterial elements that defines the environment of knowledge, rituals, and symbols in which the team evolves is, first and foremost, a work on oneself. For the antifragile manager, it is a matter of personally engaging in a questioning process that deals with the complexity of the world and brings out their own levers of commitment.

Changing our mental models

Uncertainty is not objectively good or bad, it is the way we perceive it that defines its potential and makes it a source of opportunity. It is all about the mental model. The antifragile manager therefore manages to change their mental model when necessary. This challenge is as much about unlearning acquired automatisms as it is about learning a new mindset.

We observe 3 movements of unlearning / learning in antifragile managers:

  1. Abandon command & control, its illusions of mastery over uncertainty and its proliferation of rules and procedures, in favor of openness and care for the quality of human relationships.
  2. Abandon individual commitment and wishful thinking in favor of collective action and permanent adjustment around common objectives.
  3. Abandon the cult of results and productivity in favor of agency, experimentation, and awareness.
Renewing attentions

These transitions in mental models will only be sustainable if they are pursued through work on attention – that cognitive faculty of selecting the information that surrounds us and that determines our entire mental life:

  1. Attention to oneself, in order to better know oneself and better identify one’s own behaviors, emotions, and cognitive mechanisms;
  2. Attention to others, by taking care of interpersonal relationships and by revisiting the levers of motivation and confidence;
  3. Attention to the environment, by accepting situations and reviewing certain beliefs in order to bring out the right conditions for adaptation;
  4. Attention to the collective, by encouraging the commitment of individuals within internal and external micro-communities and by animating collective intelligence.
Developing meta-skills

The antifragile manager relies on 4 meta-skills that will be their action guides to activate the human potential of their teams.

First of all, they focus on communication and the care given to each member of their team thanks to 2 meta-skills that will allow them to breathe new life into the collaboration:

  • “Caring”: observing, describing, and evaluating the quality of interactions within one’s team, then creating better socio-professional balances;
  • “Evolving towards collaborative networks”: communicating openly and ensuring that everyone has the information and knowledge they need to carry out their missions, particularly through collaborative tools.

Then they focus on motivation and meaning within their teams thanks to 2 meta-skills that will allow them to give perspective to uncertainty:

  • Building narratives”: developing plots that create bridges between different elements, raise expectations, and guide towards action. Narratives draw desirable futures that foster commitment, especially when they are co-constructed;
  • Creating common meaning”: identifying the beliefs, symbols, and mental representations of each person, distinguishing between those that converge and those that diverge, and then creating new collective mental representations.
Managers who thrive in this way place people, their essential needs, and the environment at the center of their activities. They seize the opportunity to implement profound changes that will allow a sustainable recovery of their activities, while engaging in the necessary evolutions with a collective extended beyond their natural team.

Contact

Alexandre Beaussier

Contact

Alexandre Beaussier

Contact

To:
- Get more information
- Share your challenges
- Get a product demo

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