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Our Top 7 Discoveries of 2021


At Lead Above Noise, we design experiences. And those experiences are built upon a foundation of Discovery.


Discovery - our brand of Discovery - is grounded in asking openly, listening deeply, and drawing insight from answers.


2021 has been a year of great Discovery for us. And today I share with you some of the discoveries that have most moved us – by challenging our thinking but more importantly by informing the bets we’ve placed and the programs we’ll be highlighting in 2022.


In the spirit of Discovery, I’d love to talk to you. With no strings, I’d love to learn about what’s on your mind, and where you’re placing your bets for 2022. If you’re open to booking a Discovery call, I’d love to learn about what’s on your mind and have an opportunity to exchange ideas in both directions.


OK. That’s my invitation to you. And now, onto the main event. Here are the top discoveries we’ve made this year – the things our clients and stakeholders have told us and elevated in importance. Not all will be groundbreaking – but certainly, they’ve been informative and essential to our own sense of direction.


What you see below are not inalienable truths, but the insights we’ve extracted from conversational research. And I hope they become food for thought for you.


 

1. Boundaries: lots of talk but little respect

When the pandemic began and virtual work became the norm – out the window went commutes and “normal” schedules. Suddenly we were working across time zones to keep the train on the tracks.


18 months later, there’s been much conversation but little action. Leaders talk about the importance of boundaries...but then continue to infringe on them. Which is damaging.


Teams are struggling to reclaim start and end times to their days. Folks in Asia are consistently doing middle-of-the-night calls, parents are struggling to engage with their kids, and expectations of availability must absolutely be re-normalized.

 

2. Psychological safety: sounds wonky but we need so much more of it!

The research behind psychological safety is indisputable. The branding is…questionable. It sounds antiseptic. But it’s a critical driver of so many outcomes – like dialog, debate, inclusivity, innovation, and more.


Teams hate the sound of it – but they love and crave its substance. In moments of crisis, we lean so deeply into emergency-execution that it’s only natural we turn the dial down on dialog, debate, inquisition, and exploration.


But as we settle into whatever-stage-of-normal this is, it’s time to turn the dial back up on safety. So we’re working with leadership teams on recreating the conditions for the safety our teams are craving.

 

3. Silos have deepened and we need to tear those walls down

Yet another natural consequence of crisis-mode is a dive back into our silos. The absence of serendipitous connections at the proverbial water cooler has hindered our peripheral vision. We’ve become so focused on executing on our intra-team goals that we’ve lost some sight of the collective mission of our organizations.


We’re working with leadership teams to recommit to inter-team collaboration…and we’re redefining what that means and how it happens in a hybrid way of being.


 

4. Inclusion needs some real accountability behind it

Teams in every industry are truly applauding the shining of the spotlight on Inclusion. It has our collective attention. But it needs our commitment to change.


We’re hearing that executives seem genuine in their want to unleash it. But they’re struggling with the execution. So we’re doing some VOE (voice of the employee) work to help inform leadership teams of what Inclusion would look and feel and taste and smell like in true and honest practice.


 

5. The hunger for purpose is real

Purpose– not the existential kind, but the what-are-we-here-to-achieve kind – has always taken up space in the corporate ether. But in the past year, I’ve seen a shift in purpose’s place on the stage.


People at all levels are really starting to question their contentment, engagement, and intent-to-stay. And reconnecting with purpose – personal, leadership, and team – is becoming a powerful activity. We’re walking teams through simple exercises and seeing big results. Have you reconnected recently with yours?


 

6. It’s time to reassess our team norms and ways of working

Teams are telling us in no uncertain terms that they’ve been operating in survival mode for nearly two years, and they’re ready to redefine their normal.


Normal doesn’t have to mean steady or static – it simply means that as we continue to evolve, we need more clarity and alignment around some basic guardrails, principles, rhythms and a more profound understanding of our drivers of (and obstacles to) our collective success. And we need to be mindfully engineering how we work together to make space for that wisdom.


 

7. There is so much Innovation just waiting to be tapped!

Call it innovation, call it continuous improvement, or call it something else entirely – people at all levels have ideas big and small and they just want to be heard!


We’re hearing…

  • There’s so much focus on speed and execution, there’s just no time to imagine new or better ways of doing things

  • Leaders here are quick to shut down ideas – they tell us there's no budget, or we already tried that, or that’s now how things get done around here…and we need to shift that

  • My leader is always telling and never asking – there just isn’t an opportunity to suggest or challenge

  • It’s all meetings all the time – there is no whitespace in our day for exploration or curiosity

Teaser – we will be doing a lot of work in this space in 2022. So stay tuned for more on this!


And that’s all for today. Was anything in here a Discovery for you? Or perhaps something I’ve said has validated something you’ve imagined to be true. Shoot us a note if you have a question, comment, or Discovery of your own to share! We do love a dialog.

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