Leaders that are self-aware, take care of themselves, communicate vision and purpose and stay calm and connected with their people and customers, are the leaders who are performing well at the moment.
This was a common view at our virtual Mentors Forum last week for our network of mentors and coaches based around the world. Their perspective drew from their work with clients as well as their own current executive and director careers. While most joined from home offices in lockdown, we enjoyed the novelty of seeing our Perth colleague jump in the car to drive to a meeting – remember that?
The discussion focused on challenges and opportunities currently faced, 18 months into the pandemic, and how we can build people’s effectiveness to lead themselves, their teams and their organisations in the times ahead.
The forum agreed experiences can be vastly different for businesses depending on whether they are in thrive or survive mode, global or small but the common challenges were:
- Keeping people engaged, motivated and supported – how can we help people practically make true connections, build energy and demonstrate warmth virtually? How do we help people manage change and be comfortable with ambiguity? Leaders need strong EQ capabilities, take deliberate actions and bring a personal touch. Skills training or a guided structure may be important for those check in conversations.
- Managing the greater responsibility – leaders have taken on increased duty of care with staff wellbeing. Psychological safety, isolation, anxiety to vaccinations and mandates are all important areas of focus. Colleagues in the US discussed how do you create this in the workplace when 50% people aren’t vaccinated? Dialogue is key. Requires leaders to pause, listen and consider dynamics in the workplace. Boards as well as executive teams are necessarily discussing this from a care and risk management perspective.
- Retaining talent – with many state and international borders closed some industries are offering more benefits and higher salaries to retain valued people. Unemployment rates in the US and Australia are very low with the “Great Resignation” a major factor. There is a greater emphasis on leader’s ability to communicate the why and value alignment. Clear vision and purpose will help keep hearts and minds engaged. Moderate leadership is not going to retain people.
- Taking accountability for poor performance – leaning into the tough conversations which can be easy to let go during these times.
- Maintaining remote working – leaders all accepting this is the new normal and adapting workplace cultures and office spaces to enable people to continue to do their jobs, effectively onboarded, trained, connected and the sense of being part of a culture while working remotely.
- Managing yourself – prioritising self-awareness to manage your stress, energy, health and wellbeing is key to success, particularly now. “In order to effectively lead others in increasing complexity, leaders must first learn to lead themselves.” (HBR, 2021)
- Effective communication – recognition of its importance among uncertainty and disruption. As leaders, communicate your organisation’s vision, purpose and why? The rest is noise.
- Connection – proactive and innovative solutions to keeping team and workforces connected and informed.
- Flexibility – people are rethinking their lives, where they live, how they work, asking what the right balance is.
- Authenticity – leaders are seen as more authentic, compassionate and more sensitive to people’s lives and personal situations
- Mentoring & knowledge transfer – renewed focus on the value of learning through others as we navigate unchartered waters. Implementation of buddy systems, new communication channels and knowledge transfer structures – informally and formally – to build and teach others.