The spotlight has never shone more brightly on leaders than right now. The phrase ‘sink or swim’ comes to mind when we think about how leaders have had to navigate through the COVID storm. They have had to blindly steer their organisations, without any precedent on what success looks like. However, we’re now starting to see a blueprint of successful leadership; and the behaviours that differentiate leaders of thriving organisations, compared to those that are being left behind.
Now is a great time to reflect on your own leadership behaviours to ensure you are having maximum impact. Below are three things that you can do to inspire growth during these uncertain times.
Identify your leader super-powers
For leaders to bring their best selves to their jobs, and bring out the best in others, they need to first invest time in themselves. Liken this to the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask first, before assisting others. As Dom Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian, said “you have to unleash your own potential first”. Leaders who have a strong sense of their strengths, and more importantly their weaknesses, can stay focused on what they do best.
To help leaders at Atlassian identify their super-powers, Dom Price took them through the 4Ls Retrospective exercise. He asked them to reflect on four things; what they Loved doing in their jobs that brought them energy, what they Longed to do more of in their roles, what they Loathed doing and that sapped their energy supply, and finally what they had Learnt about themselves as leaders. Dom encouraged the group to focus on doing more of what they loved, while trying to outsource what they loathed, to make more room for the things they longed for.
If you are a leader, try asking yourself these same four questions to identify your leadership super-powers. This will help ensure that others can get the most out of working with you. More importantly, it will encourage you to focus on the things that bring you the most energy and avoid burnout.
Value people over performance
Paul Cobban, Chief Transformation officer at DBS Bank, said “you can only change what a company does, by changing what it’s people do”. And if the people are feeling burnt-out, uncertain, isolated, or overwhelmed, then you can guarantee that this will impact the bottom line.
Currently, employee burnout is one of the biggest threats to a company’s success. Chloe Hamman, Director of People Science at Culture Amp, said that “employee wellbeing is one of the most important drivers of growth right now”, largely due to the fact that we are all feeling worn out. Chloe says that the most successful leaders are not only focusing on employee wellbeing, but the entire employee experience. This means focusing not just on the way employees do their work, but also the environment in which they do it.
Therefore, as a leader, think about developing strategies to build your team’s resilience to avoid burn-out. Chloe suggests helping foster meaningful connections amongst your team and supporting them in their juggle of personal and work-life demands. Identify ways to support your team’s career progression and ensure professional development remains a focus. Most importantly, reconnect your team’s work to a bigger purpose than just the bottom line.
Paint a vivid picture of success
Storytelling is a critical skill of today’s leaders. As Paul Cobban from DBS Bank questioned; “How can you empower people if you don’t paint a vivid picture of what success looks like?”. In a time of high uncertainty, it’s up to the leaders of a business to paint a compelling picture of the future.
Dom Price talks about the importance of an organization’s values as a great place to start. Atlassian even have ‘Values Interviewers’, who help ensure that all new recruits are aligned to the Atlassian values and behaviours. And their values are used by the leaders as a guiding light for employees, to showcase what success looks like.
In your role as a leader, it’s important to paint a clear picture of success, right down to the culture you wish to create. Try to get as specific as the values and behaviours that you wish to foster in the team. And most importantly, embody those behaviours yourself.
One thing is certain; now is the time to step up as a leader. While there is no crystal ball and we have no way of telling what’s ahead, adopting these three strategies will help ensure that you rise to the challenge.