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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Overuse has deprived the word ‘great’ of its greatness

The pandemic and its uncertainties have given birth to a new language. To make sense of uncharted experiences and phenomena, superlatives, adjectives and hyperbole have been used rather freely. One such adjective is ‘great’. It started with the ‘Great Migration’ and has continued in many forms since. As the pandemic went through its ebbs and flows, we saw the ‘Great Slowdown’, which led to a ‘Great Acceleration’ and then the ‘Great Resignation’, only to be followed by the ‘Great Return’.

Towards the end of 2021, sundry thinkers, futurists and influencers told us we were in the ‘Great Resignation’ epoch. People were quitting their corporate jobs en-masse. It was true. The isolation and losses of the pandemic had made many people re-evaluate their lives and careers. Purpose and better living had become their priorities. A job market where demand outstripped supply catalysed the search for greener pastures. Attrition levels are still higher than ever for many organizations and industries. However, anything that is proclaimed ‘great’ suggests that it’s highly exceptional. Was it so? We ignore the fact that many organizations have had a ‘tick the box’ approach to employee well-being and engagement for a long time. This makes a big difference, especially to millennials and Gen-Z employees. We also ignore the reality that, whereas ‘purpose’ has been spoken about freely as a mantra, when push comes to shove, profit has often trumped purpose. The pandemic and calls for a return to the physical workplace have only accelerated something that was already building up.

Stop riding every ‘great’ wave: We would urge everyone to banish the word ‘great’ from anything one does this year. The pandemic and what it means to live with it are now much clearer. It is time to bring back balance and harmony. First, into our lives and then in our organizations. What we need is a more systematic view of our challenges. In looking at them only from a ‘great’ lens, we tend to opt for short-term fixes and oscillate between extremes. Indeed, the pandemic has called for more flexibility from organizations to deal with uncertainties. However, we need a balance between agility of approach and clarity of long-term objectives. Else, we risk losing our sense of direction and increasing personal and team stress, resulting in exits.

Operate in your Goldilocks Zone: Scientists will tell you that the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ is that space or zone of balance and harmony in the solar system that allows life on our planet to exist and thrive. The term, taken from a 19th-century British fairytale, refers to ‘just right’ conditions—neither too hot nor too cold—that allow life. Like the Goldilocks Zone of our planet, there’s one for ourselves and our organizations that we need to either rediscover or create. This zone is not inactive or lifeless, but has the ‘just right’ circumstances that allow us to thrive and grow. It’s achievable but not unambitious, challenging but not impossible. Also, it’s flexible but not chaotic, orderly but not rigid.

This approach asks us to recognize the opposing dimensions and subtexts of the challenges we face. It means being flexible enough to course-correct when needed while remaining disciplined enough to focus on the need or purpose of what one is working on. It advocates an ‘and’ approach instead of ‘only’.

Address your harmony challenge: Just as finding a personal balance of the mind, body and soul is easier said than done, so too with the challenge of bringing balance and harmony into our organizations.

As a leader, start with yourself. Ask yourself: What can I do to dial down the hyper-reactive mode of the last two years? What personal practices have I built into my routine to restore my balance and harmony? Have I built ‘pause and reflect’ and ‘respond not react’ buttons into my thoughts and actions? And then ask yourself: How am I enabling this for others in my sphere of influence?

As an organizational practice, we need to adopt Scenario Planning approaches for our businesses and bake them into the process and culture of regular planning. This lets us become more adept at employing flexibility and riding out uncertainties, so that decisions taken are part of a well-thought plan and not knee-jerk reactions. This practice can play a big role in finding balance and harmony.

Shift beyond ‘survival’ to ‘thriving’: Survival keeps us focused on only the short term, while the need to thrive takes us into the future, towards growth and hope. It’s time to focus on the long term again, but without compromising the short term. Both of these matter. This is the crux of ‘and’ thinking.

Talent retention requires the full suite of tried and tested tools, plus a few other things. On top of real and meaningful engagements on growth and development, focusing on the mind, body and soul would help.

Purpose and its meaningful play in the organization, visible and actionable ways in which people can engage with this purpose and leadership that demonstrates purposeful action are all necessary.

For organizations with significant gender diversity, a large part of the retention problem could be addressed through a focus on creating appropriate enablers for women to work in suitable comfort. There is a raft of things that can be done and each company can figure out what works best for it.

And our parting thought: Soon, we’re likely to hear more and more about the ‘Great Inflation’ that’s upon us. You will need to stay in your Goldilocks Zone to thrive through this period. There are no silver bullets, only balanced approaches.

Sanjeev Roy & Shipra Uppal are, respectively, an executive coach, author and founder of Bullzi Inc; and a consultant with Bullzi Inc.

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Updated: 12 Apr 2022, 10:21 PM IST
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