No doubt 2020 was a turbulent year, but leaders who keep focused on a brighter future with a flexible, measurable plan to get there will thrive. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The future depends on what you do today”. As the world continues to evolve rapidly, impactful leaders accept the change is constant, and one must be willing to pivot. Legitimate leaders are risk-takers. They make sacrifices for the greater good, volunteer to venture into the unknown and endure hardship before others.
Uncertainty is no justification for fear and complacency. It is quite the opposite. When change accelerates, courage, bravery, and creativity are your strongest allies. Business prosperities depend on human ingenuity. Companies have an opportunity to use their resourceful thinking to reinvent the employee experience, to attract, engage and retain talented people. Companies must champion diversity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging to help people achieve happiness and success.
For leaders and business to succeed in a transformed world of work, they must be equipped with an adaptable mindset, an open heart, and flexible working practices to navigate the new normal. Here’s how to get started.
Successful leaders prioritize their values and goals. Their daily behaviours mirror their priorities in life, reflect what they value and what they aspire. If you say that investing in your future is vital, you spend most of your time distracted on social media, then you are lying to yourself. Life and business warrant an honest assessment of your priorities. Explore these questions:
- What matters to you more than anything in your life?
- What do you stand for?
- What inspires you to be better as a leader?
- How would you know you had embodied that value?
- What would it look, hear, and feel like?
Asking these questions illuminates the path forward with clarity, confidence, and inspiration to move toward the future you desire.
Lead your emotions.
Emotional flexibility requires leaders to regulate their emotions in challenging circumstances, make the best decisions and build relationships amid constant change, uncertainty, and instability. In that case, they require a strong understanding of their own and other people’s emotions and successfully manage them.
To be more emotionally available and flexible demands practice. To regularly expose yourself directly to what you fear and avoid. Breaking through the unknown, regardless of how you feel in the moment, creates momentum to move forward. Acknowledging your emotions as a fundamental factor allows them to be part of your experience, shatter unhealthy emotional patterns and proactively design your future.
Successful leaders and business embody human connection. Leadership approaches feel human and authentic. One of the positives that have come out of the pandemic is a leader’s ability to step into bravery, being unafraid to show vulnerability, and sharing their feelings and concerns.
Leaders must build hope and aspiration within the business as prolonged uncertainty, trauma, and instability rear their head. Superficial pep talks and artificial celebration will not work, requiring leaders to plan, develop strategies and processes that create hope carefully. Transparent and authentic communication will do more magic than a tokenistic pep talk. People need real and transparent conversations about uncertainties and spaces to voice their concerns, fear, and challenges. Earnout CEO wrote a letter in Quartz stepping down from his position due to prioritizing his mental health.
Your character speaks volumes.
Integrity means doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Leaders are constantly being observed, tested, and judged whether they are consistent in their character and how they manage their relationships. Leaders who lead with integrity uphold the values and beliefs of their company, despite the challenge or resistance, acknowledge mistakes with openness and humility and prioritize the wellbeing of their people, clients, and partners.
Put your people first.
The health and wellbeing of you and your people are paramount. When people come first, they can take care of the business more effectively. According to SHRM, in 2019 one in five Americans left a job due to poor company culture. Nurturing your culture is challenging, especially in a virtual world. Leaders must identify the elements of their culture that create a sense of community and then find ways to re-create them online. Whether it be a virtual coffee shop, meet-ups, or group yoga sessions, simulating moments that celebrate connection will be the business’s competitive edge.
Inclusion starts with you.
Companies that create a workplace where people experience a deep sense of belonging and commitment will deliver better clients’ outcomes. The 2020 McKinsey report identified that half of the survey respondents do not feel very included in their organizations. Leaders build workplaces that nurture a sense of psychological safety where all people can do their best work. One of the critical questions as a leader is to explore individually and as a team “How do you help enable people first to feel a deep sense of inclusion and belonging?”
Open channels of communication.
COVID-19 reshaped how we work and interact with each other. When information is clear and there is transparency on what to expect, people tend to feel calmer and more comfortable with the path forward during uncertain times. Today, employees are eager to share their concerns and have a platform where people can be transparent and contribute to the wellbeing of themselves, their colleagues, and the company. Some companies are engaging services such as Ginger, an on-demand mental health service so their people can access licensed support within hours online.
Lead development conversations
Adopting a learning mindset to support people thrive sets the individual and the business for success regardless of workplace disruptors. Ongoing development conversations, embracing continuous feedback through regular check-ins rather than the one-off punch in the face end of year review can foster communication and drive engagement even in a virtual world.
Increased development and training opportunities, accessible content require a variety of on-demand platforms for real-time development. Cornerstone has adopted TikTok-like content that presents quality learning through punchy and powerful videos.
Heartfelt appreciation provides sustenance for another day.
From shipping gifts to well-deserving employees, handwritten notes of gratitude, sharing a “success of the week”, and asking people what they are most proud of in the last six months, allows leaders to learn what matters most to each person quickly.
Leaders can celebrate accomplishments when employees have met team or company goals by awarding employees with a full day off that they can use later, create a section on the company website to highlight employees who are doing extraordinary in their role, or develop a “thank you” video for your team members. Another option is to invite a caricature artist to come into the workplace to compose funny drawings. By showing your people appreciation, you can foster an environment of connection and community.