Headed back to the office? How Polarity Thinking™ can help you navigate this change for yourself and your team
The struggle is real. So many of my clients right now are focused on navigating re-entry to the office. For some, it’s about “active inertia,” the notion that it’s hard to shift back to picking up dry cleaning and paying for tolls after so many months of working from the dining room table in your sweat pants. For others, there are very real concerns about COVID, the variants, etc.—and very different levels of comfort with health and safety protocols. As I reflect on the push / pull factors, it’s noteworthy that many of my clients are doing just fine working remotely. They have gotten into a good groove with collaboration tools, and engagement has not suffered. Yet what I am hearing is that many organizations are concerned about the long-term effects that remote working will have on culture. There’s fear that new hires won’t acclimate, and that over time people may lose their sense of connection to each other and to the organization. There’s something about in-person face time that serves as glue. And there’s fear that things are getting unstuck.
How to look at a complex challenge—map it
When faced with a layered and complex challenge, I know it's time to pull out one of my favorite, most versatile tools, the Polarity Map™. Polarities are a way to help you reframe a “problem” and consider the upsides and downsides of the two seemingly opposing forces at play. In some cases it’s helpful to do a simple “pros and cons” list, and consider upsides and downsides of a choice. Polarities, however, are more complex and nuanced, and they get you out of “diagonal thinking,” an either/or mindset, and into a “both/and” mindset which opens up creativity and possibilities.
At CliffsNotes Book Club this month, the architect of Polarity Thinking™, Dr. Barry Johnson, spoke about his book And: Making a Difference by Leveraging Polarity, Paradox, or Dilemma. For a primer on polarities, find notes and the recording on the portal. Also visit Barry’s Polarity Partnerships site.
Laura Mendelow and Dr. Barry Johnson
When considering the return to the office, what is the polarity at play
Two years into the pandemic, the polarity I am helping many clients see and navigate is a focus on culture versus a focus on results. For many, the central question is: How can you scale culture -and- maintain results -all while- we are navigating hybrid work and return to the office (whatever that looks like for your organization)?
As we consider return to the office, I mapped the two poles as ‘focus on culture’ and ‘focus on results.’ Ideally, we want to spend more time in the ‘upsides’ of each, where you’re productive -and- engaged.
The positives of focusing on culture are what you’d expect to see among the “great workplaces” award winners, namely:
The positives of focusing on results are what investors want to see, and also make for stability and job security. These include:
Understanding the polarity at play, and what the upsides and downsides of each pole are, will help you navigate the flow between the two poles. As I talk with leaders about the map, it allows the conversation to shift away from the rules and COVID protocols, and focus on the bigger picture goals, and how each person contributes. It’s a plug-and-play discussion starter for a team meeting and can spark a wonderful idea-storm with solutions specific to your organization. Let me know how it helps your group!