Key Shifts In Leadership 2021

By People Leaders | People Leaders Podcast

Key Shifts In Leadership 2021

Crazy is the new busy! We’ve been working with leaders in business for well over twenty years and the common mantra to date has always been, “I’m busy, really busy,” or variations on that theme. Since the beginning of last year though, that mantra has changed, “Things are crazy, really crazy!” No points for guessing what’s brought that about...

A lot has changed in leadership in the past year and this has stirred things up a bit, but the fundamentals still remain the same. We thought this episode would be a good time to explore some of the changes that have happened in leadership in the past year, and how you can adjust to those changes.

If you like what’s in this episode, then our next round of Leadership Essentials, starting on April 15th, will be right up your alley. The training covers the fundamentals of leadership and the group coaching helps you integrate those fundamentals into the current circumstances you find yourself in. Applied learning if you like.

Leaders are more tech savvy

Circumstances have forced all of us to adapt to working remotely and video conferencing has become standard for most of us every day. On top of that a lot of us have had to make more use of online project management and communication tools.

For a lot of people, these tools weren’t new. They were already using them, sometimes reluctantly and often in a fairly half-hearted manner. But for many, the use of such tools was completely new, and they were quite disoriented in the process. 

Several organisations actually engaged us to do online workshops to help orient their teams to working remotely. Not the ins and outs of the tools themselves, but the process of adapting their mindset to the new ways of working; managing teams without having a direct overview of them, managing time and task without having teammates at hand, and dealing with isolation after working in such social environments.

The key takeaway for leaders is that mastering the tech is only half the battle. Now that the novelty of remote work has worn off, people expect meeting agendas to be circulated in advance and to be kept tight, that meetings stick to the agenda, that key action items and outcomes are agreed, and that reasonable time is allowed for breaks, a minimum of 10 minutes every hour and a half. 

Funnily enough, these are the same rules that apply for face-to-face meetings but with less ‘tolerance’ for breaking the rules than you might have become used to in the office environment.

As a facilitator, it also takes more effort to engage people in a remote meeting. It’s harder to ‘read the room’ on screen so make sure you invite everyone to contribute regularly throughout the meeting.

Effective leaders are becoming better listeners, better questioners and better at sharing 

Without the benefit of body language, leaders have had to learn how to work harder to glean information from their team members.

It’s easier for someone to stay at a distance if they are literally distanced from you but this also stands in the way of building psychological safety. 

So schedule more regular check-ins and learn to read between the lines. Ask deeper questions then give your team members the time and space to respond. We cover these skills in depth in our Leadership Essentials program.

Smart leaders are continuing with team development

It’s tempting to think that team building or team development efforts should be put on hold until the work environment gets back to ‘normal’, or closer to normal than things have been.

It’s going to be quite some time before a lot of ‘old school’ team building activities are practical again, but team development can and should continue.

The distinction between team building and team development is that, with team development, everyone walks away with something that can enhance their level of effectiveness. There is more meaning and purpose to team development than there is to team building.

We’ve had a lot of clients engage us to continue working with their teams remotely just to ensure that the team continued to evolve and this has proved to be highly effective. If you can do team development face to face then by all means do that, but if that’s not possible, then waiting till it is possible is neither necessary nor desirable. Remote development trumps ‘waiting’ every time.

Trust has become more critical

Trust in the workplace has always been essential but it hasn’t always made the top of the list in terms of things to put effort into. This has changed a lot in the past year.

We’re getting a lot more questions from leaders on how to build trust. Self-aware leaders are regularly questioning themselves. “Am I talking straight? Am I demonstrating respect? Am I creating transparency? Am I righting wrongs and am I admitting it when I’m making mistakes? Am I showing loyalty and am I delivering results?” 

One of the quickest ways to lose trust is to not do what you say you are going to do. Are you confronting what is really going on? Are you clarifying expectations? Practicing accountability? Seeking first to listen then understand? Extending trust to others in your team?

Again, we cover this in more detail on our Leadership Essentials program.

Clarifying expectations is more important than it used to be

With a fragmented workforce it’s much harder to ‘supervise’ team members than it used to be. 

There is an upside to this as it allows leaders to lead rather than to manage. To do that you need to let your people know at the beginning of a project more clearly what is expected of them and to empower them to deliver a result rather than monitor their ‘tasks.’

Questions to answer when setting someone up with a project could include, “What does done look like?  What would prevent the outcome from occurring? How do we keep each other in the loop?”

Switching off the ‘always-on culture’

Without having access to each other in the office to answer brief questions it’s become tempting for people to rely more on email, meetings or other communication tools to close open loops. This has put a lot of pressure on teams and leaders.

This can be changed from the top down. As a leader, be more discriminate about the emails you are sending. When you do send communications be clear and concise about the subject matter. Be clear about expected response times. Scan your communications before you send them and step yourself into the shoes of the recipient and imagine how that would be received. 

Set up communication protocols as a team and then hold each other to account to stick to them.

Show your team that it’s ok to take time out for lunch by taking time out yourself. Get away from your desk and, if you can, get outdoors to give your body and mind the break it needs.

Be a role model and set a standard for your team that allows time for self care instead of having to always be on call or in action mode.

Same, same but different

So while much has changed in the world of leadership in the past year, much has actually stayed the same. The past year has put a focus on what really matters as a leader. 

Our goal in general, and especially through our Leadership Essentials program, is to have your team members talking about you at a barbeque for all the right reasons. We want them to be boasting to their friends and family that they have a boss who understands and cares for them and helps them flourish in their role. We don’t just want you to love your work but we want your team to love their work also.

The training part of the program is self-paced so you can do it in your own time. It includes a workbook and templates for almost every scenario you can imagine. And it includes group coaching to help you workshop the skills learnt in real time. 

We’re closing the program on April 14th ready to start on the 15th and would love to have you join us.