There’s no question we’ve been hearing a lot about the new normal lately, the definition of which varies by company and, frankly, by day. It’s easy to understand why a leader might be craving a return to the way things were prior to the Covid pandemic. However, for many organizations, that’s no longer possible, due to myriad changes in customer behavior, workplace requirements, and employee expectations. Other companies, having discovered they were able to make seismic changes within a handful of weeks – are re-assessing how they evaluate and implement organizational change.
An article this week from Raconteur, “Transforming into a new style of leader,” posits leadership styles for “business as usual” are no longer fit for purpose, and instead challenges leaders to be transparent and decisive, while also emphasizing the necessity of strong communications and empathy for employees.
While there is plenty of uncertainty to go around, one thing is clear: leaders need to lead with agility. The good news is that even if agility isn’t second nature to you, you can improve your leadership agility fairly easily. Here are three ways:
Identifiable leaders are those who are known by and present for their employees and relate to them in a human way. They are not hidden away in the proverbial ivory tower. Being identifiable to your employees is an important aspect of agility, as it’s a key aspect of building the trust that inspires the team to follow your lead. The easiest way to increase your visibility within your organization, especially in a moment in which so many people are working remotely, is to up your communication game.
- Use Zoom or other video conferencing to be visibly present for meetings, rather than relying upon conference calls. Don’t limit the use of video to group meetings. Using video for 1:1 meetings helps both parties be more present for each other.
- If you hadn’t done so already, set a cadence for regular communication with your team. A simple update on the business, highlighting wins, and giving the team information as it becomes available, will be appreciated. Set a schedule and stick to it: your message will be anticipated, talked about, and be more impactful.
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Brave leaders show their courage in a variety of ways: they seek the truth, value feedback, confront problems head-on, and aren’t afraid of change. Transparency is a hallmark of a brave leader. Employee voices are heard, and they understand why decisions are taken. You can practice bravery by:
- Seeking your employees’ feedback about the business. What do they believe is working well? What opportunities do they see? Their insights will always enlighten you and may even surprise you.
- Once you have the feedback, act thoughtfully. Pursue more information if clarity is needed. Use the data and insight you receive to inform your planning. (Pro tip: be sure to share the feedback and communicate how you’re using it!)
Caring leaders take a genuine interest in employees’ well-being and are engaged in what they want to achieve personally, not just professionally. They recognize that aligning employees’ personal goals with business goals is the path to the greatest mutual benefit.
- The coronavirus crisis has forced businesses to focus on employee health and wellbeing related to infection control. Continue to demonstrate your caring by ensuring employees returning to work have ready access to cleaning supplies and sanitizer and adhere to recommendations for workplace safety as it relates to your business.
- Lead with empathy by helping employees solve issues such as child care, especially if there is still uncertainty in your area regarding schools opening or challenges around eldercare. If working from home has been working, consider making it part of your SOP. Flexible schedules can also take the pressure off parents and caregivers.
Where these three traits intersect we find true leadership agility. An agile leader, who is bravely enacting change, but doing so with care and empathy for his or her employees, and communicating clearly to them, will win their confidence and gain better results than a leader missing one of these pillars. Think about it – without bravery comes stagnation, without communication comes confusion, and without caring comes dis-engagement. Focusing on these three elements of agile leadership will help you navigate our changing world and succeed in the New Normal.