Leading people into the new era!
How learning can provide an anchor for leaders in uncertainty
Our working practices have been irreversibly changed as a result of the pandemic. At a structural level, more organisations have announced that they're moving towards hybrid and flexible models of working than ever before. Psychologically, the changing world has and will continue to impact many of us due to the constant change and uncertainty. Our behaviours and organisational cultures have had to change and adapt to new ways of working and many employees do not want to return to the traditional ways of working.
Leaders play a key role in anchoring and supporting organisations, their teams, and their people to navigate, thrive, and deliver results as they adapt to their new ways of working.
The skills, mindset, and behaviours that they require can be organised at three levels:
- Self-awareness - Leaders need to continue to build and develop this skill through reflection and feedback to strengthen their perception of how they emotionally react to the world around them, which will strengthen their relationships with others and how they perform in their role, which is crucial during periods of change and uncertainty. Leaders should design and build their own feedback loops within their teams but ensure that their teams are actively involved in their process to improve the transparency and lines of communication across the entire team.
- Practicing self-care – For emotional, mental, and physical health to alleviate stressors; everyone should build their positive wellbeing practices into their working week, where that’s keeping up with a hobby, going to the gym or for regular walks, or caring for a pet. What’s more, leaders should encourage their teams to build their practices into working days to increase their satisfaction and stability. Leaders can also take ownership of their own development and needs as a leader through working with a coach to improve their practice, insight, resilience, and empathy.
- Role modeling and vulnerability – Leaders need to foster more cohesion, stability and give security to their immediate teams to support them to succeed, encouraging and motivating teams that may experience apathy. Simultaneously, leaders should share their personal reflections and challenges showing their emotions. Many leaders resist revealing any vulnerability, as it’s a risk that exposes them but it’s only a risk if you don’t have a relationship built on trust and respect within your team.
- Mobilisation – The ability to mobilise to a team to act and to deliver results consistently, and fulfill the vision and strategy of the organisation are key. Many leaders are supporting teams across locations and boundaries, having to communicate virtually, so it’s crucial that leaders are about to tell and sell a consistent vision to their team. Storytelling by outlining that WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor; as well as creating transparency and sharing the golden thread (connecting team and business goals to measure of success) in an accessible way are all key leadership skills to develop. Leaders should collaborate with subject matter experts, their internal communications, and regularly with their peers to build a narrative and transformative vision for success that they can share consistently and in unison with their teams.
- Interpersonal skills - In spite of the changing working climate, leaders will have to employ even more critical relationship-building skills to build and maintain key relationships. Leaders can do this in two ways, practically by identifying regular time in their busy schedules and actively committing to communicate with their teams and key stakeholders. Leaders will also need to practice the right skills such as developing and honing their ability to build rapport, trust. empathy, listening and volunteering information first in some communications, whilst observing the personal boundaries and level of comfort of others.
- Operational flexibility – leaders support their teams to "keep the wheels on the bus" and in our era of flexible and hybrid working, where the frequency and spatial proximity to our teams will vary, means that team accountability and effective resource allocation need to be in place. This consistency needs to cross boundaries and locations, as a failure to uphold this can impact their team morale and effectiveness.
- Team Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality – In this context, this includes leaders reflecting any blindspots, diversity halo effects, conscious and unconscious bias to name a few. It further includes those subtle overlooked elements of failing to reflect regularly on how inclusive and involved every member of your team is; how you encourage others to shine and use their strengths and talents, as well as how you can ensure that everyone is treated equally, fairly and consistently. For many leaders, this doesn’t have to be arduous; often consulting and creating a team plan or charter that the entire team works towards can create a quick win.
- Networking naturally – Leaders should continuously allocate time to expand their network especially as many due to differing working patterns and working remotely may not come in contact with many of their peers and colleagues regularly. Building relationships outside of their immediate teams will create insight, inspiration, knowledge, expertise through meeting others, communicating, and listening through the organisational grapevine and of course, all the official channels.
- Outside In – As well as communicating well internally, leaders should stay informed and abreast of the latest news, economic and business trends, and events externally. We are more connected globally, and impacted by events externally; so leaders need to be aware of and bring the outside-in to positively impact the organisations that they work in.
- Embracing change and agility working – Through “Networking Naturally” and bringing the “Outside In” leaders should and can support their team to realise their organisation’s vision and strategy. They can do this by building a web of connections and knowledge from their line of sight. As the world changes, and people and customer behaviours evolve; leaders can support their teams to embrace change to build and tweak a new and effective customer experience and to continuously improve their customer journey.
Leadership development in the new era
Many internal learning practitioners will continue to focus on creating learning programs and offering leaders various badges such as accreditations and an elevated status as a result of participating in those programs. Those programs will still have a place for new and emerging leaders and those who want to revisit the underpinning leadership knowledge areas, behaviours, and skills.
Some learning and leadership development initiatives in the new era will mirror changing working patterns and organisational change, leading to increased flexibility. So, there will be increased diversity in learning formats, organisational and self-curated content, designed using rapid and agility design methods, informal and formal learning as well as using asynchronous and synchronous learning. These changes may appear immense to many but they can all occur within the parameter of the learning team.
Similar to leaders working with their teams, learning practitioners can embed this change by communicating and sharing a practical vision for leadership learning as a result of the changes due to the recent pandemic. Learning practitioners should sell their vision for success (WHY) and how leaders consistently using learning “tools” to support change and deliver outcomes will positively impact their personal, professional development in service to themselves, their teams, and their organisations (HOW).
Working in partnership to deliver change
Leaders should be able to and actively encouraged to work with learning practitioners to assess their personal development needs, as well as those of their teams by having regular and ongoing dialogues with their team. When focusing on their personal development, they should be able to select a suite or basket of learning initiatives and methods that they can apply throughout the year.
Many learning practitioners may argue that implementing these changes is impossible largely due to the perception of their roles within their organisations. And equally similar to leaders, practitioners need to role-model the skills, behaviours, mindset, and knowledge areas described in this article.
So, networking naturally to identify advocates and share their transformational message of success; building the linkages from the outside-in to build their awareness of the external environment; practicing operational flexibility within their teams to manage and develop their teams to strategically improve their ways of working to move toward the vision to name a few.
Evidently, we're currently in a constant state of change but learning practitioners can seize this opportunity to truly diversify the learning that's delivered in their organisations to build in more flexibility and to ultimately meet the varied needs of their wider internal client base.
By Claudine Charles – Founder and Director - Blended Learning Studio