Have you been wondering why the old way of leadership is no longer working?
We’ve changed! Our work environment, our habits, and our priorities have all received a major shift, and our leadership needs to follow suit.
Our old ways of being, including top-down delegation, playing politics, and appearing tough as nails, no longer have the place they once did ineffective and adaptive leadership.
So, where do you start in the labyrinth of recommendations to give your leadership style a new look?
You must lead yourself! From there, you can begin to operate at your highest potential, impacting the planet in ways that align with your purpose and values.
If you haven’t read our previous blog post on starting your leadership improvement journey from within, start there. You’ll be glad you did.
The New Definition of “Leading Your Team to Success”
As I met with a colleague over lunch recently, we exchanged what it takes now – versus what it took in the past – to be successful in the workplace. As you might guess, we are both aged 50+ individuals with years of experience working with different organizations, leaders, and employees.
My colleague shared a sentiment I had recently had: Leadership is becoming more difficult, and the future of work seems to continue to lead into so many challenges. We all seem to know things need change, yet so little is done yet.
I paused to put on my coach and mentor cap, asking, “Is this true? Or is this a perception?”
Research tells us that perception is influenced directly by communication and information we encounter – and are confronted with – in our daily lives. Our perception of work is shaped and influenced by discussions we have with current and former colleagues, mentors and coaches, and social media.
My view about perception is twofold: 1) perception can change based on whom we’re speaking with, the media we read, and our own experiences, and 2) when the moment feels tough, complaining or feeling depressed or helpless will not help to improve the situation. I’d much rather spend my energy investigating what I can do. Wouldn’t you?
To many of us, it may feel as if we spent 2022 learning how to adapt faster and faster to keep up with the shift from The Great Resignation to the Great Reshuffle, and then from The Great Application to the phenomenon of Quiet Quitting.
On the other hand, it seems much of 2023 is leading us to really focus on the importance of taking care of our people, from the simplest gesture of standing on a chair to fixing the light to actively listening to them and paying attention to their contribution.
Spend the time and energy to reinforce the following five skills as part of your leadership approach, mindset, values, and skillset.
Your team is a microcosm of the larger society, a social entity where team members can socialize, support each other, and learn from each other – with you at the helm. Work to create an environment of trust within the team by valuing and acknowledging collaboration and creating real space to learn about each member’s strengths, talents, and ambitions. This may mean adopting more fluid channels of communication than might currently exist for your company, as well as creating informal contexts to facilitate spontaneous and constructive feedback.
“Collaboration has to be reinvented. We are burning up a lot of social capital built up when people were working together. How to rebuild that capital while people are apart is a challenge… Worker well-being needs more focus. We can’t just measure productivity most narrowly.”Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
Instill and support a culture of ongoing change and adaptability.
As a leader, you must prepare your teams for change at all times. You can’t just assume that they are equipped with the right skills to face change, repetitively. This requires continuously upgrading and up-leveling yourself and your skills and becoming a lifelong learner.
This approach offers two benefits to your teams. First, you serve as an example for your team members and staff to be someone who values and makes space and time for new learning opportunities. Second, a culture of learning is linked to adaptability and curiosity; when leaders exhibit these skills and promotes them in the workplace, everyone follows.
Adaptability requires a leader to be “development savvy,” which means acknowledging and promoting the idea that learning new skills can exist in various forms, including training, coaching, varying project work, shadowing, mentoring, taking on a challenging assignment, or participating in cross-functional task forces.
Preparing for change is much like approaching leadership like a scientist. Value creating, testing, piloting, failing, and adapting all mirror the complexity of a profoundly changing environment. Leaders who are successful in the modern workforce don’t avoid making mistakes. They embrace failures that lead to success.
“The pace of change is faster and, while you don’t have to know everything, you do have to know how to [find the information you need]. I think the premium on a commitment to being a lifelong learner is much higher now for our leaders.”William Rogers, CEO of SunTrust Banks
Loosen the chains of command and empower your team to be bold.
Be clear, give the vision, breathe, and let go! You can’t do it all alone; this is the purpose of having a competent, motivated team.
Successful organizations are moving away from a hierarchical structure to network structures that resemble an ecosystem rather than a pyramid. The notion of reporting and abiding by one manager is a partial and restrictive view of the day-to-day interactions that occur in your organization. So, it only makes sense that empowering your team means relinquishing control and taking decision-making responsibility in a more collaborative and agile way.
This is not to say that decisions should now be made according to individuals’ opinions; rather, it’s important to define clear frameworks for decision-making and action-taking ahead of time to avoid frustration and reinforce clarity.
Start to think of delegation not as a spontaneous act you make, but as a strategy for empowerment that requires setting the scene and equipping team members with the ability to perform and be accountable. After all, you hired your team – and wish to retain them – because of their skills, culture fit, personalities, and motivations, so it is only logical to empower them by encouraging them to be accountable to your business’s overall vision.
“People want guidance, not rhetoric. They need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given the responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”~Howard Schultz
Thoughtfully engage emotions in the workplace.
You may be surprised to learn that a recent survey in the UK revealed that men may be far more emotionally sensitive in the workplace than women; men were more than twice as likely as women to get emotional because their “ideas weren’t heard” or because they “were criticized.”
This research points to an important distinction. Emotions were always present in the workplace. Now, we’re talking about them.
Emotions play a central role in human behavior both at home and at work, and ignoring emotions at work equates to ignoring what environments or moments activate the root causes of certain behaviors. It equates to ignoring business risks and warnings, ignoring regulations and laws, and more. You can’t afford to ignore emotions, so it’s time to be trained in understanding and engaging them.
It’s trendy to consider digitizing and hybridizing our workforce as the current “big change” for many organizations. However, we know that 90%+ of our decisions are made through emotions. Leaders need to engage their teams on an emotional level by demonstrating empathy, creating open communication, and contributing and adapting their own communication style to motivate their team members in ways that are specific to each person.
To be effective, leaders must also emotionally engage teams through inspiration and encouragement toward a clear shared purpose, set of values, and company culture. Adaptive leaders then make a clear link between values, purpose, and emotions to behaviors and decisions that the team needs to make.
“‘There are two kinds of people who don’t experience painful emotions such as anxiety or disappointment, sadness, envy,’writes psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar. ‘The psychopaths and the dead.’”
Stop ignoring your team’s fears and doubts. Instead, start managing them.
Fear is a complex and personal topic; what intimidates or paralyzes one person might motivate another to act boldly. So, the role of the leader is to ensure they understand what motivates, blocks, energizes, and paralyzes each team member. Does this feel time-consuming or costly? Consider instead how much time and money it will cost you if a team member suffers a mental health break, decisions are not made, or doubts spread through your workforce like wildfire.
Fear and doubts are BIG obstacles to innovation and creativity:
“The second-biggest human barrier to innovation is difficulty dealing with uncertainty and loss of control. Such fears trigger the ambiguity effect, a cognitive bias that leads us to avoid options with uncertain outcomes. Management executives seeking more control over outcomes often prioritize incremental innovations they perceive as less risky or push teams for assurances that their projects will pay off, producing the counterproductive result of less experimentation, less-ambitious ideas, and less creativity.” –Laura Furstenthal, Alex Morris, and Erik Roth.
“Innovation” is an age-old buzzword, but it’s an important part of being an adaptive and agile leader who leads teams that are ready for anything. Recent research from McKinsey outlines that business leaders expect 50 percent of total revenues to come from new products, services, and businesses within the next five years. Uncertainty and constant change might lead some members of your team to feel fearful or doubtful about the future. But actively listening and taking the time to truly hear your teams, communicating openly, and choosing your words to inspire and activate clearly all set you on the path toward innovation.
Fears cannot block innovation; it would mean putting your business at risk. These fears need to be managed, not hidden and ignored!
Your Next Step
Effective adaptive leaders aren’t born simply by deciding they want to change. This type of development requires training in specific techniques for leadership that will effectively transform the trajectory of your team, business, or organization.
At Point North International, we partner with experts in psychology including HumanForce and Collective Brains to adopt the training and techniques leaders need to be successful in the modern workplace. We train executives to be great mentors, leaders, and change-makers. To find out more, reach out to schedule a call.