Reset, Refocus, Retrain

In April 2019 I published an insight article about the the need to begin shifting our focus from a ‘survival mindset’ to a ‘substance mindset’ – to a ‘human-centred’ approach to business and leadership.

Since then, we’ve been ‘pandemic’d’ – what a challenge it has, and will continue to be!

Last week I facilitated a (dial-in) conversation with 40 district leaders in a large government department – providing them with an opportunity to reflect on their People Experience of COVID-19, and provide them with new ideas and strategies to meet their current people challenges. The insight for them as leaders having experienced the challenges so far was the importance of getting the people bit right and that they had been forced to change the way they were leading, to ‘step things up’ particularly around how to manage and motivate their stressed and change-fatigued teams.

In my previous article I referred to the writings of Andrew Yang (who was a recent candidate for the US Presidential Election) and his prediction of what he calls ‘The Great Displacement’ where, over the next 10 – 15 years the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will render many of today’s jobs no longer necessary, socially displacing millions of workers who are unlikely to be able to retrain.

His work is a call to Human-Centred Capitalism as a mindset reset we must make if we are to set ourselves up for a changed future. This is about a ‘refocus’ where humans are at the centre of the equation rather than power and profit.

The displacement Andrew predicted is now in play, not because of AI, but because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. As we realise just how difficult it is going to be to get this infection under control, we have to accept that the negative economic, business, and therefore social implications are going to be like we’ve never experienced in our lifetime.

Effective, visionary, human-centred leadership at every level (Global, Country, State/Territory/Organisational/Parental) will be the critical key to future success.

Being human-centred in your leadership approach is both a mindset and a skillset and easier said than done. For example, research tells us that people in positions of power (leaders, teachers, parents) are more likely to fall prey to unconscious bias, particularly in times of change and stress. This bias takes the form of a reduced tendency to comprehend how other people

  • see the world,
  • think about the world, and
  • feel about the world.

Because of the demands on their time and with more people competing for their attention, they are more likely to stereotype people and will have less motivation to consider each employee as an individual person with unique challenges and needs.

The result is that those working for them can get blocked, or shut down cognitively, or feel unappreciated or unheard – resulting in low engagement, low motivation, resistance and push-back and low productivity. If this is what you and your teams are experiencing, it’s because they are operating with a Survival Mindset and you need to find a way to move to a Substance Mindset – and quickly!

It looks like this

So what is the opportunity presented to you as a leader right now? It’s the opportunity to open up the conversations, to take time out to Reset, Refocus and Retrain.


The pace of change is accelerating. Long term goals and vision is important, but focus and motivation depends on short term goals, tangible wins and a sense of progress; and the ability to pause, reflect and prepare for the next sprint. It’s like breaking a marathon into chunks so you can reset your mindset and check on your physical status so you know you are on the right track for completing the longer run successfully.

All teams need a RESET every 3 months for a ’90 day sprint’. As a leader you must make the time for the team to ‘go slow to go fast’.

In addition to this, there is a critical mindset reset around what it means to lead, work and communicate in brain-friendly ways.


In times of stress and change it is very easy for us to lose site of the goal, to divert on ‘comfortable’ tangents, to get demotivated and disengaged quickly. Once you have taken time to RESET, the next step is to uncover the value of where the team and individuals (and the leader) have been placing attention, and if that focus has been useful, leading to clarity for all on where to be refocusing effort and attention for the best performance and productivity.


This is the area most often missed – and I believe in this time there are two ways in which individuals and teams will need to RETRAIN to stay ahead of the game.

Firstly, you will literally, as a result of both imposed change and ‘team-created’ change (ie, when the team has an AHA moment about how to do things differently), need to retrain the brain connections of each individual involved in the processes and day-to-day operations. Change in the brain requires a change in neural connections and initially this is an energy intensive and uncomfortable process. In order for change to be complete, the brain will need to create new thinking and behavioural habits and embed them so that they become natural, comfortable and automatic. This is achieved through the process of neuroplasticity, and can be fast-tracked when you know how!

Secondly, and I believe most importantly, leaders and their teams need to RETRAIN and upgrade their communication and teamwork skills. More and more the research shows us that we do not communicate in brain-friendly ways – wasting time and increasing emotional energy expenditure that could be avoided or significantly reduced. We also know that our knowledge of how to TRULY leverage the strengths of team members and be TRULY collaborative is relatively undeveloped.

High performing teams need to be two things: highly productive AND highly functional. RETRAINing your team in these two areas will develop what we now refer to as Collaborative Intelligence – the ability of a team to leverage its individual and collective strengths, and to think effectively with people that don’t think like you.

What will you do to take advantage of the opportunity to prepare you and your team for a successful and productive future?

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