Looking into 2024’s crystal ball two words emerge – change and uncertainty. Fierce political partisanship, escalating wars, continued supply chain disruptions, prolonged tensions between employees and employers, and persistent low employee engagement numbers will shake most leaders’ confidence. Navigating these dynamics will require leaders to continually evolve and grow. As esteemed executive coach Marshal Goldsmith famously stated,
“What got you here, won’t get you there.“
These Four Leadership Capabilities Follow a Trusted Performance Pathway
1) Embrace a Growth Mindset – Effective leaders believe that effort, focus, and candid feedback lead to strengthening existing capabilities. These leaders are continually developing new, critical skills, and create learning cultures that foster resiliency amongst their teams; enabling the organization to adapt, pivot, and create opportunity out of disruptions.
Build This Habit: Conduct regular after-action-reviews (AAR) with your teams. The AAR was developed by the US Army to help soldiers learn both from their failures and their achievements. To ensure these don’t become boring “post-mortems” it’s important to instill good process. A starting point is using a variation of these four basic questions to generate positive and constructive dialogue.
- What was our goal, strategy, or desired outcome?
- What did we do?
- What happened? (The gap between strategy and execution)
- What will we do to adapt our strategy or refine our execution for a better outcome OR how do we repeat our success?
Well conducted AAR’s create generative dialogue, considered the most constructive form of a high quality and insight producing conversation.
2) Exhibit High Emotional Intelligence (EI) – Studies show 85% of workplace success is the result of effective EI skills. Leaders who are aware of their emotions, and can self-regulate, model composure under stress that helps facilitate trust and a psychological safety environment. And when people feel safe, they are more likely to speak up, take ownership, and solve problems.
Build This Habit: Be curious and listen to learn. Develop a habit of asking sincere, open questions, and practice active listening before delivering your opinion. Leaders committed to creating continuous improvement environments are driven to empower their people, deeply believing that the truth is in the trenches. Genuine listening is an EI skill that fosters collaboration, ownership, and ultimately increased value to the customer.
3) Grow Your People – Top talent is attracted to leaders who support their development and career aspirations. When effectively leveraged, coaching is a high-performance tool. An organization’s ability to adapt and be agile is proportional to the aggregate development of its people and processes. Today’s leaders must be excellent coaches.
Build This Habit: Maintain regular structured one-on-one meetings. Co-create individual development plans (IDPs) that include initiatives, leadership projects, and stretch assignments designed to challenge and grow team members.
Build This Supporting Habit: Regularly recognize and reward your people’s accomplishments, contributions, and efforts. Recognition boosts individual employee engagement. According to Gallup, it also increases productivity and loyalty to the company. In the competition for talent, this low cost, high impact practice should be central to a leader’s people building efforts.
4) Develop an Inclusive, Collaborative, and Problem-Solving Culture – Organizations that successfully adapt the fastest to internal and external disruptions will be best positioned to identify and execute on new opportunities. When an organization engages their people in problem solving as part of their daily work employees feel more motivated to do their jobs better, the organization’s performance improves, and a virtuous cycle starts to turn (McKinsey).
Build These Habits:
- Establish daily (start with weekly, then slowly migrate towards daily) “make work better” team huddles.
- Create a visual management board where team members identify and list current issues or problems needing improvement.
- During each huddle the manager-coach, in dialogue with the team, prioritizes the tasks and establishes a visual who-is-doing-what-by-when accountability timeline.
- Drive collective learning by using a continuous improvement tool such as PDCA (plan-do-check-act).
These four leadership capabilities, while not an exhaustive list, provide a stable foundation for managing the uncertain and volatile year ahead. Implementing a simple problem-solving approach will create a culture of proactive, we-oriented employees who take ownership of creating customer value. Employees who know that their ideas are actively solicited and valued are naturally more engaged and motivated. People-first leaders who strongly believe that their “people have the answers,” can weather whatever storms 2024 throws at them.
Steve works with growth-minded leaders and their teams to have meaningful conversations with their people to Make Work Better.