Put simply, uninspiring leaders can cause damage to their organizations and their workforce.
Ten to fifteen years ago, leaders often focused more on getting staff to follow their rules and complete tasks. However, modern leadership focuses more on how best to engage employees and unite the workforce in purposeful ways.
By focusing on the wellbeing of your staff and ensuring they are great team players who collaborate well with others, they’re more likely to feel motivated and engaged at work – and less likely to leave the business.
As we move forward in 2023, the workforce is expecting their organizations to improve flexibility, diversity and inclusion, mental health awareness, and work-life balance.
So how can leaders use this information to become better managers in 2023?
- Soft skills over hard skills
Your skill set and industry expertise are always going to be a benefit to you and the company. But in today’s world of work, soft skills are just as essential. More than ever, we’ll see leaders focusing more on improving their self-awareness, self-management, and relational skills.
What are soft skills?
Rather than only focusing on your expertise, soft skills are your personal qualities and affect how well you engage and interact with your teams. The most crucial soft skills are effective communication, adaptability, teamwork, problem-solving, and self-awareness.
In fact, according to a 2021 survey from Best Colleges, Americans value soft skills – such as communication and problem-solving – over either technical or “hard” skills because they use them more frequently.
We’ve all heard about how necessary these skills are, but how do you develop them?
One way to kickstart this process would be to ask for feedback. Focusing specifically on your soft skills, ask your senior leadership team how they feel you are doing and how can you improve. It can be challenging to ask but opening up these conversations is a great starting point.
Another (perhaps easier) option is to get to know your team members better. In our world of increased remote work, teams spend less time building connections with each other, with most meetings generally being task or project-oriented. Humanize these relationships by being more of your authentic self. You can share more about who you are and spend some time discovering who they are through conversation. You’re more likely to create more positive relationships with them if you try to connect with them on a more personal level – ask questions about their weekends, hobbies, and perhaps shared interests.
- Modeling work-life balance
More than ever, workers need a break. Microsoft’s recent research found burnout is more prevalent than ever before. They polled 20,000 people in 11 countries around the globe and found almost 50% of employees and 53% of managers said they were feeling burned out at work.
To avoid burnout and focus on driving a productive and engaged workforce, leaders must learn to model the behavior they want their staff to replicate. The idea behind modeling behavior is to lead by example and openly share the characteristics and qualities you’d like others to emulate, which they are likelier to do when they respect their leader.
One way to do this is to model work-life balance. Leaders typically have poor work-life balance because they are incredibly determined to pursue success, often at all costs. Unfortunately, this means long hours, late nights, a blurred line between work and home, and less focus on personal joy. Leaders are competitive and want results. It has long been the tradition that long hours were the way to achieve this.
However, when leaders display this attitude, their staff members are likely to follow. Employees will be concerned that leaving on time, having outside work commitments, or not replying to their emails over the weekend will harm their careers – if their bosses work excessively.
So in 2023, as a leader or CEO, it’s time to set some boundaries. You must protect your time and show your workforce that this is the best way to achieve better wellbeing inside and outside work. Ultimately, people actually perform better when they are not burnt out from overwork.
Showing this to your employees can be done in simple ways: a walk around the office at the end of the day saying you’re off and reminding people to head home; not sending your team emails after hours; a thank-you email at the end of the week for everyone’s hard work; and reminding your team to sign off and enjoy their weekend. You can chat casually with colleagues about plans outside of work you may have on the weekend. When they recognize you enjoy a life outside of work, they will realize they can and should do the same.
- Redefining success
As companies look to engage in “better business” throughout 2023, it may be helpful for leaders to redefine how they measure success. While it is common for business leaders to view success primarily as endless vertical growth and profit, this is not the best gauge.
Business is one of the most significant societal structures that can create real concrete change for the future – and if leaders want to be a part of that, they can explore making meaningful changes to their mindset.
So what change is needed?
What if more money, more business, more clients, and greater profits weren’t the only markers of success? It may be hard to believe you can achieve all that, have balance in your own life, and maintain a happy and engaged workforce, but you can.
Let’s take Marc Randolf, co-founder of Netflix, as an example. He recently shared across his social media platforms that while he has worked hard his entire career, he has also worked hard to maintain his family connections and balance his life. “Tuesday date nights with my wife,” he wrote. “For over thirty years, I had a hard cut-off on Tuesdays. Nothing got in the way of that.”
Whatever was going on at work on Tuesdays, he made sure he left at 5 pm. And those date nights kept him sane, he says. “That’s my definition of success.”
Marc Randolf is a highly successful entrepreneur who recognizes how important family and balance are to his success. He realized that building revenue at the expense of everything else in your life is not what success should look like and committed to being different.
When leaders commit to making changes, they can then assess what is working, what isn’t, what processes need changing, and what makes people unhappy. They may also ask employees what success looks like to them. What do they think the company is doing well, and how could it improve?
As a leader, showing an interest in improving your leadership skills will always serve you well. It’s not always easy to know the direction to take, but constantly learning and evolving puts you in a solid position to truly stand out at the top.
Written by Dr. Samantha Madhosingh.
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