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In the wake of the global pandemic, the world of work has undergone a profound transformation. As a leadership expert, I've observed this shift closely and have some thoughts and opinions to share. Let's explore what we've learned about leadership in this post-pandemic landscape and how it can shape a brighter future for organizations and their leaders.
Adaptability Reigns Supreme
One of the most striking lessons from the pandemic is the need for leaders to be adaptable. The old playbook no longer suffices in a world where change is the only constant. The pandemic forced organizations to pivot rapidly, and those with adaptable leadership thrived while others struggled.
Imagine a leader named Alex who, before the pandemic, stuck to rigid plans and strategies. When COVID-19 hit, Alex was unprepared, and the team floundered. Meanwhile, another leader, Sarah, had cultivated adaptability in her team's culture. She encouraged her team to embrace change, stay agile, and seek innovative solutions. Sarah's team not only weathered the storm but also found new opportunities in the chaos.
Empathy and Well-being Matter
The pandemic spotlighted the importance of empathy and well-being in leadership. Employees faced unprecedented challenges, from remote work to personal health concerns. Leaders who demonstrated genuine empathy and prioritized their teams' well-being fostered trust and loyalty.
Picture a leader named Chris, known for being task-oriented and somewhat aloof. During the pandemic, Chris took the time to connect with team members on a personal level. He asked about their well-being, listened to their concerns, and provided support where needed. This small shift in leadership style had a profound impact, as Chris's team felt valued and supported, leading to increased productivity and morale.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
Remote work, once a rare perk, became the norm during the pandemic. As organizations now transition to hybrid or fully remote models, leaders must adapt to this new reality. This shift requires a different approach to leadership, one that focuses on trust and results rather than physical presence.
Consider a leader named Taylor, who initially struggled with the idea of remote work. However, Taylor recognized the need to trust team members and focus on outcomes rather than micromanaging their every move. This shift in perspective allowed Taylor's team to thrive in a remote environment, leading to increased productivity and a healthier work-life balance for all.
Communication Is Key Effective communication has always been essential in leadership, but the pandemic underscored its significance. Leaders who communicated transparently and frequently with their teams created trust and maintained a sense of connection, even in remote settings.
One leader we worked with named Jordan, recognized the importance of regular communication during the pandemic. Jordan held weekly video conferences to update the team on the organization's status and provided a platform for team members to share their thoughts and concerns. This open line of communication kept everyone aligned and engaged, even when separated by physical distance. Other leaders found it helpful to have a ‘daily huddle’ remotely to keep their team aligned and engaged.
Resilience and Preparedness
The pandemic taught us that leaders must be resilient and prepared for the unexpected. Crisis management became a core leadership skill as leaders navigated lock-downs, supply chain disruptions, and economic uncertainty.
Many leaders like Alex have never faced a crisis of this magnitude before. However, Alex had prepared for various scenarios, including a pandemic, by developing a crisis response plan and assembling a dedicated crisis management team. When the pandemic hit, Alex's organization was well-equipped to respond swiftly and effectively, minimizing disruptions.
In conclusion, the post-pandemic world has reshaped our understanding of leadership. Adaptability, empathy, remote work, communication, resilience, and preparedness have emerged as crucial elements of effective leadership in this new era. As we work with leaders in our LEAP-Leadership Acceleration Program and coaching them throughout the pandemic, we’re finding that leaders who embrace these lessons not only survive but thrive, shaping a brighter future for their organizations and their teams.
In the words of a wise leadership parable, "Just as a tree's roots grow stronger after a storm, so do leaders become more resilient and capable through the challenges they face." Let us all be those resilient leaders, forging a path to a better, post-pandemic world.
Greetings, fellow coaches and champions of leadership growth! As we navigate the dynamic landscape of coaching, each interaction presents a canvas upon which we paint transformational journeys. With our shared passion for cultivating exceptional leaders, it's imperative that we equip ourselves with the finest tools and practices.
Join me on this exploration as we uncover the art and science of coaching, empowering us to sculpt remarkable leaders, one coaching session at a time. My first best practice article, which I published on my company blog, was about 360-degree surveys and when not to use them.
I’m continuing the exploration with a deeper dive into best practices when using a 360-degree survey.
Best Practices When Using 360-Degree Survey Feedback
First: What is a 360-degree survey? Imagine a panoramic view of leadership insights—that's what a 360-degree leadership survey offers. It's like taking a comprehensive X-ray of a leader's impact from all angles.
This tool involves gathering feedback from not just leaders' direct reports, but also peers, supervisors and even leaders themselves. By compiling this multi-perspective feedback, a clearer picture emerges of strengths, areas for growth and overall effectiveness. It's akin to assembling the pieces of a puzzle to reveal a fuller picture of leadership potential.
Coaching a leader using a 360-degree survey requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. There are many reasons this type of survey could be the wrong tool and do more damage than good, so take care and choose wisely. That said, in many situations, 360-degree feedback is an incredibly powerful tool and one that I use often to support a leader’s growth and development.
Here are five best practices to consider and how I and my team achieve each of them.
1. Establish trust and confidentiality.
Begin by assuring the leader that the 360-degree survey results are confidential and meant to foster growth, not criticism. Never use it as a "Performance Evaluation" tool. Create a safe space for the leader to discuss the feedback openly and with a curious rather than critical mindset.
One tool I always use at the start of the process is the "SARA model," which helps prepare for the emotional process that occurs when receiving feedback: Surprise, Anxiety/Anger, Resistance and Acceptance. I do this with the leader before sharing their 360-degree feedback and it really helps them prepare to receive and use the feedback to make improvements. Many times, clients have commented that they were glad I told them about the SARA response and that it helped them get to "acceptance," where they could use the information productively.
2. Always review results together.
I once had a coach tell me that she sent a leader her 360-degree feedback in advance of their meeting because the results were so intense, she wanted the leader to "deal with her emotions" before they met! I was horrified and dumbfounded that an executive coach would do that, so I always have my coaches sit down with the leader to review the survey results comprehensively. Never send the report/results to the leader in advance of the meeting.
Also, make sure the 360-degree survey instrument you’re using helps focus the discussion on both strengths and areas for improvement and reports the data in a way that is easy to understand. Discuss specific feedback patterns and anecdotes to provide context for the leader's understanding. Encourage them to reflect on the feedback and ask clarifying questions. Help them move through the SARA stages if needed.
Close the meeting with encouragement and a summary of two to three key development areas and ask the leader how they are feeling.
3. Set clear development goals.
Help the leader identify specific development goals based on the feedback received. These goals should be actionable, measurable and aligned with their role and responsibilities. Guide them in choosing areas where improvement would have the most impact on their leadership effectiveness.
I and my team provide our clients with a development plan "template" to help them think through these steps. I always recommend selecting relative strengths to make stronger rather than choosing their greatest weaknesses as development goals. Another framework or tool we use with clients is the KSS model—Keep Doing, Start Doing, Stop Doing—because it helps them focus directly on actionable behaviors that they can visualize doing.
4. Create an action plan.
Collaborate with the leader to create a structured action plan for achieving their development goals.
Break down each goal into smaller steps and define clear timelines. Use the KSS model. Determine the resources and support they might need, such as training, mentoring or specific projects that align with their goals. At this stage, I also ask the leader to circle back to the people who responded to their 360-degree survey to thank them for their participation and input, so these respondents know that their anonymous feedback was received and appreciated.
5. Schedule regular progress check-ins.
Schedule regular coaching sessions to track the leader's progress. These sessions are used to discuss challenges they're facing, celebrate achievements and make any necessary adjustments to the action plan. Provide ongoing encouragement and guidance to keep them motivated and on track. After six to 12 months, I do another 360-degree survey to compare and measure the results achieved from the coaching.
Remember that effective coaching is a personalized process, and the approach might need to be adapted based on the leader's personality, learning style and the specific feedback they received. The ultimate goal is to support the leader's growth and help them become a more effective and impactful leader within the organization.
Love in the workplace, often referred to as "compassion," "empathy," or "caring," plays a crucial role in creating a positive and productive work environment. Here's why it's important:
Most every employer comprises various teams. The large versions are often called business units or departments. Of course, they can also be smaller assemblages of employees—committees, workgroups or simply project teams.
Whatever the name or type may be, every team starts somewhere. And its success or failure very much hinges on the knowledge and skill of its leadership. When leaders allow teams to form and develop with unrealistic expectations or too little oversight, bad things can happen. Conversely, when leaders recognize that every team needs some time and TLC to grow into a functional unit, good things tend to follow.
No matter what type of team you’re forming, you probably shouldn’t expect its members to instantly bond and quickly reach the level of a high-performing team.
For our purposes, a high-performing team is one with a clearly stated purpose, an identifiable leader with decision-making authority, well-defined roles, mutual accountability and shared goals. It has an additional characteristic as well: a high-performing team consistently produces good results.
The Tuckman Model
Few teams hit the ground running as high performing. Most undergo a multi-stage development process; among the most time-honored ways to measure this is the Tuckman model. It was created by psychologist Bruce Tuckman way back in 1965 and still holds value for leaders today. The model breaks down team development into four essential stages:
The initial stage is usually marked by a mixture of attitudes and feelings. Some members will be excited and optimistic about joining, while others will be anxious or perhaps skeptical about their roles. Meetings and other interactions will generally involve cautious attempts to get acquainted and discussions of big-picture concepts, as members determine norms and, in some cases, form cliques.
When forming a team, leaders need to build trust, set expectations and encourage involvement. You want to develop a keen sense of belonging in every member. Creating a team charter is a great tool to help your team, as is conducting different kinds of "get to know you" activities.
This is when things "get real." Having found some level of comfort on the team, some team members may begin to distrust others—whether because of interpersonal clashes, past experiences or other reasons. Resistance to assigned tasks and bristling at certain rules or methods may occur. At this stage, members often begin to question the wisdom of the project at hand or even the purpose of the team itself.
Leaders can weather this storm by welcoming, confronting and resolving the inevitable conflicts that arise. Don’t quell open disagreements, as long as they’re civil. Make time for healthy dialogue. Conducting personality, conflict or team-styles assessments and upskilling team members in areas such as communication and problem-solving will help the team sail through the storm.
Barring a total disaster, most teams make it through the storm. Eventually, a sense of cohesion develops, and the team enjoys a relatively open climate of productive communication. Boundaries are set and interactions are generally friendly. Constructive criticism can occur without fear of retribution. Some people even have fun!
A leader’s role at this stage is to encourage cooperation, leverage the strengths of each individual and, again, identify and resolve conflicts before they get out of hand. Encourage members to roll up their sleeves and work collaboratively. At this stage, having the skills to facilitate open dialogue and enforce accountability is critical.
Welcome to the promised land. It's upon reaching this stage that a team can become high performing. Members will generally be excited about their work and find satisfaction in the results. They’ll also trust each other and interact with a high degree of openness. Best of all, teams at this stage will largely be able to manage themselves, resolve their own conflicts and act collectively, as a whole. You may even be able to turn over some of the day-to-day leadership to a team member.
You might still have to put out the occasional fire, but on high-performing teams, leaders can generally focus on monitoring progress, measuring results and celebrating achievements. Helpful tools include having the right technology and accurate metrics to measure team performance—as well as knowing how to throw a good party.
The Ultimate Objective
Bear in mind that, in some cases, you might need to reform and relaunch a long-standing team to reap the benefits of all four Tuckman stages. And to be clear, the Tuckman model is only one way of looking at team development. But it’s been around a long time and I believe it still serves as a good jumping-off point for the concept of seeing teams as organically evolving entities rather than "plug and play" machines.
Ultimately, whether a group is newly formed or has been around a while, your objective should be to develop it into a high-performing team that enjoys working together and produces positive results for your organization.
Manager’s Toolkit – Tips, Tools, and Trustworthy Best Practices for High-Impact Results
In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of management, the role of a manager has never been more critical. As organizations strive for high-impact results and exceptional performance, managers find themselves at the forefront, leading their teams through complex challenges and inspiring peak performance. Just like a skilled craftsman, a manager needs a well-equipped toolkit to navigate the intricacies of modern leadership successfully.
Welcome to our first in a series of articles, "Manager’s Toolkit – Tips, Tools, and Trustworthy Best Practices for High-Impact Results." In this series, we delve into the essential elements that make up an effective manager's toolkit, offering valuable insights and time-tested strategies to excel in the art of leadership. Whether you are an experienced manager looking to refine your skills or an aspiring leader taking your first step into this exhilarating journey, these articles are designed to equip you with the tools you need to elevate your management prowess and achieve great outcomes.
Your manager's toolkit should be equipped with a variety of tools to effectively handle different situations and challenges. Here are five essential tools that will greatly enhance a manager's capabilities:
1. Effective Communication Skills: Strong communication skills are at the core of successful management. Managers should be adept at active listening, clear articulation, and providing constructive feedback. Good communication fosters trust, alignment, and cooperation within the team.
2. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence enables managers to understand and manage their emotions and those of their team members. It includes empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to navigate emotions in a professional setting. Managers with high emotional intelligence foster a positive work environment and handle conflicts more effectively.
3. Goal Setting and Performance Management: Managers should be skilled in setting clear and achievable goals for their team members and monitoring their progress. Effective performance management involves regular feedback, coaching, and recognition to keep the team motivated and focused on achieving objectives.
4. Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: Being a good problem solver and decision-maker is crucial for managers. They need to analyze situations, identify root causes, and implement effective solutions. Managers who can make well-informed decisions efficiently contribute to the success of their teams and the organization.
5. Delegation and Empowerment: Delegation is essential for maximizing team productivity and development. Managers should know how to delegate tasks according to team members' strengths and provide the necessary support. Empowering team members by granting autonomy and trusting them with responsibilities can boost morale and foster a sense of ownership and commitment.
Additional tools, such as conflict resolution skills, time management, adaptability, and strategic thinking, can further enhance a manager's effectiveness in various situations.
Furthermore, we recognize the significance of trust as the bedrock of exceptional leadership. As managers build trust with their team members, they create an environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and open dialogue. Our next article will share some tools for developing trustworthiness and guide managers in developing strong bonds with their teams, earning respect, and inspiring loyalty.
Developing a well-rounded toolkit enables managers to lead their teams more successfully and navigate the challenges of the modern workplace. These ‘power tools’ for managers are amazing but people need to learn how to use their power tools – that’s where our LEAP – Leadership Acceleration Program comes in. Over the course of 12 months, our Certified LEAP Coach works with a small group of leaders to draw upon real-world experiences and proven methodologies to allow managers to practice using their power tools and implement them in their daily workplace settings. As we continue this journey through this, and future articles, we hope you find a wealth of knowledge that will help you not only achieve your management objectives but also foster a more fulfilling and rewarding work environment for your entire team.
As an independent coach and consultant for 25 years now, we are always honing our coaching practice in support of helping our clients grow and achieve great things. Over the years, I’ve learned and used quite a few coaching methods, tools, frameworks, and of course assessments. A couple of tools I’ve even created myself because I couldn’t find anything out there that measured what I was looking for. I’ve been asked many times (by other coaches) what is the ‘best’ tool for X or Y when I’m coaching so I’ve decided to share our best practices and tool-kit by featuring them in newsletters and will be doing a couple of workshops for Coaches/Consultants too so be on the lookout for announcement of those!
Where to Start? At the beginning… assessment tools that get to the heart of things!
I don’t think I’ve met a coach that doesn’t use some sort of assessment. Ennegram, MBTI, Strengths-Finder, DiSC, etc. are great for looking at the individual being coached to help them discover more about their strengths, stressors, needs in their work, and workstyles but we’ve found that 360-degree feedback from people who work closely with the client is one of THE MOST POWERFUL tools to support the coaching and development plan. In fact, 360-degree feedback is so powerful – when it is done poorly (or with the wrong instrument) it causes great damage. These tools are designed to gather comprehensive feedback from multiple sources, including peers, subordinates, supervisors, and sometimes even clients, to provide a well-rounded assessment of an executive's performance and leadership skills.
Today, we’re going to share the BEST TOOL and one BEST PRACTICE for when NOT to use this very powerful coaching tool.
When selecting a 360-degree feedback tool for executive coaching, it's essential to consider factors like the assessment's validity, reliability, reporting features, and how the tool can align with the specific coaching goals and the organization's culture and values.
Our Affiliate Coaches (and their clients love) the CheckPoint360 Survey. This instrument was created by Profiles International (a Wiley company) based on research of 1000’s of leaders/managers in hundreds of organizations globally. We like this instrument because it confidentially and anonymously measures 70-key leadership behaviors that are associated with 18 skills-sets and 8 universal competencies. Most 360-surveys are overwhelming, hard to digest, and lack clear development priorities. Plus, many of them measure the leader on a scale of “dissatisfied to satisfied” or “ineffective to effective” which is very judgmental and causes the ‘rater’ to over-inflate/under-report their ratings based on their judgment of the person. It also causes the leader to become defensive and unable to see the feedback as helpful developmental feedback.
Our instrument invites the “respondent” to the survey to provide feedback on a scale of ‘frequency of observed behavior’, so they are honestly reporting how often they see the leader display a particular behavior. No judgment. Just their experience in working with the individual. The leader being coached is much more accepting of the feedback because they can envision themselves doing a particular behavior more frequently if needed. Our Coaches rely on the Profiles’ 360-Survey for many more reasons, not the least of which is the simplicity and clarity of the reports that support the leader in setting specific goals and priorities for their development. Want to learn more, contact me or be on the lookout for our Webinar Workshop!
When NOT to use a 360-degree survey tool
While 360-degree feedback tools can be valuable resources for executive coaches and leadership development, there are certain situations where using them might not be appropriate or effective. Here are some scenarios when a coach should avoid or carefully consider not using a 360-degree feedback tool:
1. Lack of Trust: If there is a significant lack of trust within the organization or between the executive and their colleagues, the feedback gathered through a 360-degree assessment may not be candid or constructive. In such cases, the feedback may be skewed or not genuinely reflective of the executive's performance.
2. Organizational Culture: Some organizational cultures may not be ready to embrace the openness and transparency required for effective 360-degree feedback. If the culture is hierarchical, authoritarian, or punitive, using a 360-degree tool could lead to negative consequences and resistance.
3. Unwillingness to Act on Feedback: If the executive or the organization is not prepared to take action based on the feedback received, using a 360-degree tool can be counterproductive. Collecting feedback without a commitment to change can lead to frustration and de-motivation among participants.
4. Coaching Goals and Readiness: If the primary coaching goals are not aligned with what a 360-degree assessment can offer, it might not be the right tool. For instance, if the focus is on a specific skill development that doesn't require input from multiple sources, other assessment methods might be more suitable.
5. Time and Resources: Implementing a 360-degree feedback process requires time, effort, and resources from both the coach and the organization. If these resources are limited, it might be better to focus on other coaching methods that can provide valuable insights without the extensive preparation required for a 360-degree assessment.
6. Small Team or Confidentiality Concerns: In organizations with small teams, it might be challenging to maintain confidentiality in the feedback process. If executives are concerned about their responses being traceable to specific individuals, they may be less likely to provide honest and constructive feedback.
7. Unstable Organizational Context: During periods of significant organizational change or upheaval, using a 360-degree feedback tool might not be the best approach. The feedback gathered in such uncertain environments may not accurately reflect the executive's performance under normal circumstances.
Before using a 360-degree feedback tool, executive coaches should carefully assess the readiness of the organization, the executive, and the team members involved. Open communication about the purpose and benefits of the assessment, along with a commitment to act on the feedback, is crucial to ensuring the success and effectiveness of the 360-degree feedback process. In some cases, alternative coaching methods may be more appropriate to address the specific needs and challenges of the executive.
For our next article for your “Coach’s Toolkit” I will do a deep-dive into the Best Practices when using a 360-survey. Until then, Happy Coaching!
At most organizations, employees are urged to be team players. But this raises an essential question: What kind of a team are they on? It might seem like a silly thing to ask. “It’s the kind of team that helps fulfill the mission of our organization,” you might say.
While this is certainly true, or it should be, teams actually tend to fall into one of four common types. Identifying precisely what type of team you’re running can help you better set objectives, communicate more clearly, build on strengths and shore up weaknesses.
The 4 Team Types
Determining a team's category is based on the degree of need for specialization and coordination.
Type 1: Swim TeamSwim teams typically have a lot of specialization. For example, one team member specializes in the crawl stroke and backstroke while another specializes in the butterfly stroke and breaststroke. As a result, their need for coordination in order to be a high-performing team is low.
In a work team, there can also be several specialties. An information technology team might have members whose individual skill sets—like website, operations, user support, software and hardware—support each other. However, they don't need to synchronize all their tasks to succeed.
Type 2: Football TeamA football team has a high need for both specialization and coordination. It needs regular huddles so every team member knows what they're doing and how they'll interact with each other. A football team usually has a head coach and then assistant coaches with special skills.
In workplaces, this type of team could be an emergency veterinary hospital staff or a software product development team. Most executive leadership teams are football teams as well.
Type 3: Bowling TeamMembers of bowling teams share the same technical skills. But their success requires minimal need to work directly together or coordinate their work. Law firms and accounting firms are great examples of bowling teams.
Type 4: Volleyball TeamVolleyball teams have the same universal skills, like bowling teams, but members must coordinate with each other to be effective. These teams are cross-trained to perform all tasks or jobs. In the workplace, examples include manufacturing assembly teams, staff at animal shelters and retail sales teams.
Of course, not every team will fit perfectly into one of these types. Some might be hybrids, depending on the work they perform and the strategic objectives of the organization. Nonetheless, these categories can be helpful guidance as leaders seek to properly distribute the work, define roles and responsibilities, train team members and manage their performance.
How To Best Support Your Team Type's Performance
The goal of any leader is to produce a high-performing team. While these productive and efficient teams share certain characteristics—mutual accountability, well-defined authority around decision-making and shared performance goals—there are important distinctions that leaders must recognize. If you take a one-size-fits-all approach to developing your team, it can lead to problems like poor performance, an inability to work together productively and disillusionment. Identifying your group's team type won't automatically turn your members into high performers, but it can help you provide the right level of care and support.
For example, if you have a football team, it usually makes sense to have short, daily meetings to communicate objectives and coordinate the day’s activities. But for a bowling team, that kind of regular meeting would be overkill; they may need only a short weekly meeting to make announcements, discuss issues and maintain esprit de corps. Leaders of swim teams should focus more on clear roles and creating "swim lanes" and handoffs for the work people are performing. Volleyball team leaders, on the other hand, must ensure everyone has the same skill set and can perform tasks equally well so responsibilities can rotate fluidly.
No matter what type of team you’re running, don't expect it to quickly reach the highest level of performance right away. Your team will likely need to undergo a multi-stage development process. In my next article, I'll discuss four stages—forming, storming, norming, and performing—that were introduced by psychologist Bruce Tuckman in 1965 and still hold true today.
The past couple of years have been challenging and have required every organization to quickly shift to remote work, shift again to hybrid, and most recently bring people back to the physical workplace. While we all accept that these measures are necessary for survival, the added stress on rank-and-file employees and their managers has been extremely painful.
Just when we thought we were making progress, the newest Gallup report shows we took a step backward in 2022. Their study shows the number of engaged workers held steady at 32% but the number of actively disengaged employees rose to 18%.
Thankfully most businesses have gotten past the pandemic-related challenges of the early 2020s, but now is the time to return the focus to employee engagement and address the structural, operational, and cultural issues that create disengagement in your organization. It’s good for your talent and your bottom line.
The difference between engaged and disengaged employees may seem to be a matter of style or personality, but the distinction is based on decisions rooted in loyalty and commitment to one or more levels of the organization. Disengaged employees not only negatively impact the bottom line, but also misrepresent an organization and its culture.
When you take active steps to listen to employees and address problems, positive business outcomes follow.
Here are some ideas to address engagement and motivate your employees to be more involved and passionate about their daily work and the long-term goals of the organization.
3 levels of engagement
There are three different levels that represent “locations of engagement” in the workplace:
1. Organizational engagement. Improving employee engagement at the organizational level is about defining the mission, core values and overall strategy of your organization and then communicating them to everyone involved. This obviously requires a serious commitment on senior staff to execute some deep soul searching: Whittle it all down to what matters and then act in the best way to bring in everyone else.
Take inventory of your engagement by conducting an Engagement Survey or Employee listening sessions to assess and evaluate the level of engagement and pinpoint where the gaps are. Surveys are great but ACTION will speak volumes to your people. You must be prepared to show simple, actionable plans to increase engagement by connecting people to your mission-critical plans, core values, leadership, and norms that align with the vision and strategy of your organization. All of this adds up to your organizational culture.
Simply put, engagement at the organizational level can drive your success forward and give you a competitive edge.
2. Managerial engagement and enablement. A healthy manager and employee relationship is essential for any business. A good manager takes the time to understand the needs and motivations of their direct reports as well as form connections and communication that bring out the best in their teams. But what happens when the leader/managers aren’t engaged?
Ever heard the phrase, “people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers?” A manager who’s burned out is a problem for any business because an underperforming manager impacts critical business metrics, including engagement, retention, and revenue.
And when a manager isn’t engaged, this creates a disruptive situation that Gallup calls the cascade effect — where a disengaged manager creates a disengaged employee, impacting the business even further. Thus, it’s worth it to pay attention to how bad managers affect employees.
Another research report from Gallup found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, and only 35% of managers are engaged with their job.
So how do you solve the problem of unengaged managers, manager burnout, and falling levels of employee engagement? Focus on manager enablement.
Even managers need direction and development. But don’t just plug them through the same tired tracks. Focus on developing skills like delivering feedback, setting clear expectations, delegation, and more business-focused skills such as interview techniques or financial planning to help keep managers engaged with their role.
Our clients have been providing manager enablement to their leader/managers through the comprehensive LEAP-Leadership Acceleration Program. Giving their managers a Fortune 500 development, which includes assessments, 360-degree feedback, 1:1 Coaching from a certified Executive Coach, and customized learning & tools they learn to develop the habits of leadership over 12-months with other leaders/managers.
By upskilling managers, you create a culture of continuous learning and improvement and allow managers to expand their competencies and skill-sets. Not only does this give managers an opportunity to advance their professional and personal development, but upskilling improves engagement and performance which impact the success of your business.
3. Employee engagement. A basic premise for increased engagement at the employee level is to make sure people are in positions they enjoy and have the opportunity to excel as much as they want. Doing so will result in greater productivity and commitment to the organization. This is where the work done at the organizational and managerial level pays off because now you know what success means in terms of what each individual employee should bring to the table and what the organization needs to provide for them.
You should be able to identify “target employees.” A target employee is one who is a good fit for their current job, is fully engaged in the job and whose performance exceeds your expectations. The target employee not only achieves goals, but also has the ability to elevate the performance of other employees, team members, departments and divisions.
You also need to be able to think differently about challenging your employees. Research shows that managers are up to four times more engaged than front-line employees. This is often because of the additional challenges managers face.
Provide your employees with stretch goals, avoid micromanaging and let them learn from their mistakes. In order for workers to remain engaged, they need to be continuously stimulated. Every new experience you create for your staff members is an opportunity for professional growth and enhanced engagement.
Hit the road with us
It’s impossible to create a culture of engagement without knowing the personality and characteristics of your organization, your managers, and your employees. Leaders must be aware of the engagement levels of their workers, whether each staff member fits the company culture, and how to take effective action to address any discrepancies.
Think of it like planning a long road trip. You need a map that will show you where you are and where you want to go. You must plan your route, pick an appropriate vehicle, stock up on supplies, identify stops and assign tasks to your fellow travelers with the appropriate skill sets to complete them. You need to keep everyone focused and encourage good morale. You must plan for contingencies and, yes, even disasters. You’re on a journey with a purpose. Maybe even an adventure.
If you’re looking for a guide to help you on the road-trip, we have a large toolkit, 25 years’ experience and effective methods to help our clients strengthen and improve engagement, leadership, and organizational effectiveness. Or if you’d like to talk about how your journey is going, pull into a rest stop, grab your phone out of the glove compartment and give us a call.
“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” Simon Sinek
I’m a fan of Simon Sinek (and I know I’m not alone) because he’s an optimist, he’s authentic, and he inspires. His book “Start with Why” really got me thinking about ‘my why’ – Why did I do what I did for so many years at Nordstrom? Why did I start my own consulting/coaching business 24 years ago? Why did I create the LEAP program?
What is my WHY? I want a world where people love the work they do and the organization they do it for – they feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
I worked for Nordstrom for 17 years and had some great opportunities. Early in my career the focus was on myself and how much fulfillment my own work provided in my life. Later as I stepped into the responsibilities of leading other people, it became important to me that the people on my team were there for more than a ‘job’ and were excited to come to work every day. I worked hard to learn the skills to lead and manage effectively – and learn from my mistakes along the way. It was fulfilling to see my team accomplish great things, feel that they were part of something greater than themselves, to love coming to work every day. “Extend Yourself” is a leadership motto I learned from my time at Nordstrom. Leading my team in this way was the very extension of my ‘why’.
In 1999 I made the leap into starting my own business as an independent consultant. It was exciting, scary, and a little bit lonely to be honest but my “why” propelled me to a place where I could have greater impact by working with more than one organization, one leader, or one team at a time. The first few years were amazing. I had clients say things like “I don’t know exactly what you did or how you did it, but our workplace is so much more fun and effective because of working with you.” I could have continued that path, but I wasn’t content. I saw a gaping hole in leadership development programs that were affordable and accessible for SMB organizations who were desperately in need of developing their manager-leaders. I went on a quest to find something I could recommend or provide to my clients but nothing that I found had all the necessary elements that would help managers make leadership truly a habit.
In 2003 I launched the first LEAP cohort group – a peer-group of 8-10 people who are learning together for 12 months, facilitated by an expert coach/consultant. These leaders developed best-in-class leadership skills and as their skills increased so did their confidence! The impact on creating great places to work was multiplied 10-fold by making them better leaders and managers. There was also a multiplier effect on my consulting business. By working with the emerging leaders for 12 months, their sponsor organization got to see lasting results and reached out to us for additional consulting and coaching engagements. My ‘why’ was extended even further through others and it felt amazing.
I wondered if we could have an even greater impact than what I alone could do with LEAP. Was the ‘secret sauce’ me? Or is LEAP something that other consultants/coaches can do and get the same great outcomes? Between 2008-2010, I found a couple of colleagues who were eager to provide world-class leadership development to their clients and we agreed to ‘beta test’ it. The results were as good as any cohort I ever did myself. Best of all the independent consultants told me how much more fun they were having in their work and their business grew without much effort at all.
In 2012 I took the plunge to further our reach in creating a world where people love the work they do and the organization they do it for by licensing LEAP as a turnkey program to independent coaches + consultants nationwide. Together we can realize our mission of Saving the work-world, one leader-manager at a time. I love seeing independent consultants have a thriving business, doing the work they love and being well-paid for it. It’s great to have a ‘community of practice’ with other like-minded professionals who want to help create great places to work for all the people in them.
As I look back, I can see that my ‘why’ has stayed constant while the “what” and the “how” have changed and evolved. Want to join us in ‘saving the work world’? I’d love to hear your ‘why!'
:“Are we there yet?”
Most people have uttered this phrase, either in earnest as a child or in jest as an adult. Leaders in today’s organizations are saying or thinking it, too, when pondering whether we’ve truly reached the post-pandemic working world we’ve all been wondering about for several years.
One thing is relatively clear: Hybrid work is here to stay. Simply defined, a hybrid work model is one in which at least one employee works remotely (i.e., away from the employer's office) either full-time or part of the time while other employees work full- or part-time from an employer’s office or other facility. In many professions, employees are quickly coming to expect this flexibility, and, in a tight job market, employers may have little choice but to offer it.
Hybrid work creates, or shall we say continues, an ongoing challenge for leadership. How can you excel at team building when some of your team members are working from home, others are on-site and still others are going back and forth between the two? It’s not easy, but with careful planning and diligent persistence, you can create high-performing hybrid (HPH) teams.
Perhaps the most important thing a leader should keep in mind is no matter how dispersed your team members may be, you’re still one team. To create and preserve that unity, you need to instill an HPH team with five fundamental traits:
1. Clear Roles: For employees to work harmoniously, they need clarity about their respective roles. Naturally, this all starts with the job descriptions you used to hire them. Were those job descriptions comprehensive and up to date when your organization interviewed and onboarded team members?
Moreover, has the scope or specifics of any team member’s job changed over time? Employees who have been in their positions for years might not even remember what their job description says or said. As a leader, you need to establish or reestablish the parameters within which HPH team members fulfill the responsibilities of their respective roles.
2. Mutual Accountability: Everyone on a hybrid team needs to be accountable. If any member is allowed to “go rogue” or get away with anything, trust will suffer—and the team will likely drift apart and underperform.
Accountability can be established only after you’ve ensured that team members know their roles. Why? Because accountability isn’t the same thing as responsibility. Employees are responsible for the duties and deadlines of their respective positions. Accountability is whether they fulfill those duties, meet those deadlines and are willing to own both the successes and failures of their work. On an HPH team, they must be accountable not only to you, the team leader, but also to each other.
3. Defined Decision Authority And Responsibility: It should be obvious that a team’s leader is the ultimate decision-maker. However, most employees need some level of autonomy when carrying out their work, and strong leaders are great delegators. A best practice in achieving this is to use the five levels of authority:
Level 1: Act when directed.
Level 2: Act after approval.
Level 3: Act after consultation.
Level 4: Act and report.
Level 5: Act completely autonomously.
Often, some or all these levels go undiscussed or unclarified. This can lead to confusion or conflicts among team members. As a leader, you’ve got to make sure employees on your HPH team know at all times when they can act alone (Level 5) and when they should act under the four lower levels of autonomy.
4. Shared Performance And Goals: There are two facets of this trait. First, an HPH team works together. Maybe that sounds like a painfully obvious point, but under the hybrid model, organizations can have employees working independently, miles or even time zones apart. This can result in a kind of “siloing” in which employees engage in little information sharing, collaboration or even contact with coworkers.
Leaders should strive to limit siloing and encourage collaborative work as much as possible. Of course, you don’t want to disrupt a productive team by forcing unnecessary interactions. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for ways employees can work together in positive, productive ways.
The second part of this trait is goal setting, which will drive performance and collaboration. Volumes have been written about this topic but, generally, stick to the SMART approach. That is, make goals:
Specific (and stretching),
Achievable (and agreed to),
Realistic (and relevant) and
Timed (and tracked).
5. Shared Purpose And Interdependent Functions
This final (and most important) trait involves the broader reason a team exists. If team members don’t truly understand and buy into the purpose of the team, they’ll end up either pulling in different directions or simply lacking in engagement.
Just as today’s organizations should ideally have both mission (why we’re here) and vision (where we’re headed) statements, an HPH team should know why it exists and where it’s going in terms of both day-to-day tasks and strategic goals. And, within the context of that crystal-clear direction, the team should be able to execute various functions interdependently—that is, by counting on each other.
Keep On Rolling
If most or all these things sound familiar to you as a leader, that’s because the nature of leadership hasn’t changed all that much. It’s the way in which leaders carry out their responsibilities that’s changed.
How you use technology, which communications medium you choose, the “rhythm” at which you interact with employees (that is, how often and for how long)—these things are different from how they used to be. So assuming you have adjusted your leadership style to the new hybrid reality, now’s the time to double down and keep on rolling in these challenging, ever-changing times.
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.