Three ways to effective leadership
- 17 July 2020
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Leadership has always been important to the success of businesses but 2020 has been a year that has provided even seasoned industry figures with unprecedented challenges. However, even if the challenges are different, the formula for effective leadership remains the same.
Now more than ever, effective leaders must remain calm and maintain a sense of perspective. As Nelson Mandela said: “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when good things occur. You take the front line when there is danger, then people will appreciate your leadership.”
For the foreseeable future, leaders must take that front line, be brave, courageous and reliable. As a leader you set the tone in both good times and bad.
Your people may be feeling vulnerable, lonely, worried about their future, struggling with technology, working with family around, they may even have a relative ill with coronavirus. They need your support and understanding more than ever.
Here are 3 crucial areas to focus on so that you can lead your team through these uncertain times and build the foundations to make yourself a shining example of a great leader for any occasion.
- Clarity of regular communication
Make sure the information you are going to communicate is from a credible source and share it with your whole team, with transparency and honestly. This will reduce stress and, more importantly, get rid of rumours and fictitious stories, which will often be worse than the reality.
This information needs to be reinforced on a regular basis with reviews and updates. Not everyone gets it first time, so it is critical to help them understand and ask questions for clarification if necessary. If you don’t know the answer, don’t reply with BS.
Honesty and transparency means exactly that… so go and find out. If it is confidential information, tell them that too.
Communicate with individuals as well as bringing the team together. This may well be done more frequently online as businesses adapt; there are a plethora of tools at your disposal, personally I love Zoom, but find what works for your team.
Don’t forget that however you are, your team will be. So you must be in charge, be proactive and lead with confidence, calmness, and demonstrate an understanding of their situation.
However, in balancing the twin pressures of communicating with the team as a whole and the individual needs of each members, there should be fundamentals differences in the approach you take to each.
To effectively communicate with individuals, you should:
- Be accessible, so that each team member feels comfortable in contacting you. You must also reach out to each individual and have a conversation about how they are feeling/doing and LISTEN. Listen to understand, not just to hear.
- Don’t be fobbed off with “I’m fine”; they may well not be. The follow up question is always worthwhile, as well as sharing your own anxieties where appropriate to make them feel at ease.
- Make contact at least every other day with each team member. Some may relish it, some may not, but it can keep the team productive and reinforce that, when they do need something, you are there.
For communication with the whole team, you should:
- Bring your team together on video. They need to see you and you need to see them, as well as them seeing each other. Remember, whatever the situation, you will need to face it as a team.
- Talk about working through each situation as a team. Have open discussions about the organisation’s priorities and challenges, then allow the team members to come up with ideas and solutions. This can apply in crisis management as well as the day to day working of the business.
- Dealing with different processes and technology
Where there have been changes, don’t assume that team members “get” some of the new ways of doing things. This is just an added stress for people when they are unsure but don’t have a colleague sitting next to them in the office to ask.
If you are rolling out a new process or asking them to use different technology and it’s essential that it’s done right first time, then make sure they understand EXACTLY what to do and how to do it. Use a platform where you can share your screen, if that’s required. Again, Zoom has this facility.
Use the EDI method, a method used in the forces to ensure the job is done right first time. Otherwise we know what the consequences would be!
E – Explanation: Tell them how it’s done
D – Demonstration: Show them how it’s done
I – Imitation: Let them try it
Support and monitor them to make sure they have it nailed, then just drop in every now and again to make sure they are working to the standard required.
- Motivating through the crisis
As Covid-19 started to impact the world, Harvard Business School (HBS) conducted research that showed people were less motivated when working from home during this crisis, particularly as they are dealing with both emotional and economic pressures.
HBS found most people missed the joy of problem solving with a colleague. They wanted to be reminded of their purpose, and potentially could decline in performance if they couldn’t gain access to colleagues/leaders that teach and develop them.
Clarity of communication, support and development, as mentioned above, are a great source of motivation. The crisis bought on unique challenges, but the need for a motivational leader is not one of them; it is always a fundamental building block for business.
Leaders must adapt their advice and leadership to the times, but the overarching rules remain the same. Here are some top tips to keep teams and individuals motivated, particularly relevant for the uncertain business landscape but just as important in day to day business life:
- Maximise the use of online platforms to allow team members to regularly check in with other team members for problem solving.
- Clearly share the direction of the company. The individual must understand their role and WHY it is so important to the company, especially when dealing with economic anxieties.
- Ongoing training, coaching and general development should not stop just because we are going through this crisis… or shall I say ‘change’.
Being a leader is not an easy job, and in unusual times it’s easy to feel that you don’t have the experience to lead effectively. It’s important to remember that nobody should or will expect you to have all the answers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide support and guidance for your team, who will need it most. Even in strange circumstances, leaders can look at the foundational principles of management and adapt them, emerging from this crisis a better prepared and more capable leader. Ultimately, care for your people, lead from the front and you will come out the other end victorious.
I discuss these guiding principles to great management and more on my Leadership Skills for New Managers training course, which is now available via virtual delivery.
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