Five Trends To Drive Your Leadership Agenda in 2016
This January, as in Januaries past, experts and pundits across nearly every industry and topic predicted the trends that will impact the coming year. Yet the irony in these predictions is that the world is moving so quickly that we no longer measure trends in annual increments. Refresh any Twitter or Yahoo feed and you’ll quickly see that what is trending one minute has disappeared from your web page just 30 seconds later.
While it’s tempting, then, to dismiss trends as fleeting, there are some fundamental changes to the workplace that will not likely drop to the bottom of your feed anytime soon. Frankly, we couldn’t be happier. These trends speak to an evolving workplace based on concepts about which we have been ardent supporters for years—the idea that creating an environment of shared responsibility, one that takes into account individual values and personal differences, is an environment that will not only foster a company’s success but will also create a place where individuals enjoy more great days at work.
Before you hit “refresh” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, here are the five trends we think are worth supporting not only for the next 30 seconds, but, dare we say, for the rest of the year—and beyond!
- Coach, coach, and coach some more. Companies are embracing more boldly what has been known for years—supporting employees as they address business challenges is far more powerful than telling them precisely how to solve those challenges. Regardless of whether a company has maintained a formal performance management process or prefers to take a more informal approach, developing strong employee coaching skills is a critical leadership need. Empowering employees not only pushes them to come up with more innovative ways to solve business needs, it increases the sense of ownership they feel around seeing those ideas succeed. Our research also shows that individuals who are coached regularly have a higher degree of confidence in the fairness of their organization’s performance management process.
While coaching should become part of everyday workplace conversations, it shouldn’t be approached haphazardly. Good coaches pay attention to what’s important to both the individual and to the organization. An outcomes-based approach to coaching helps focus the conversation more thoughtfully on what matters and what will produce results. If you want to leapfrog the competition, you need to build a leadership team and a workforce focused on things that actually produce results. When this focus is lacking, chaos reigns as good people are left to their own devices to sort out how to be successful in an ever-changing and demanding environment.
- Be ready to be coached! Providing feedback to your boss was once an area where employees would either “proceed with caution” or risk damaging their relationships and careers. The shifting demographics and norms of today’s workplace, however, call for a much more egalitarian approach to management. And while there is great opportunity to help employees approach performance conversations constructively, the message for the old guard is clear—you can no longer afford to hand down criticisms or accolades without also being prepared for employees who will find opportunities to gift the same to you! So embrace it, and know that a good coach is also coachable.
Organizations that find a way to create avenues for real time feedback will have an advantage. Ideas such as reverse, micro and anonymous mentoring are quickly gaining traction, as are councils and boards that help facilitate cross team functionality. Leaders who seek and are open to feedback will be better positioned to gain the commitment and enthusiasm of the employees they lead.
- Realize it’s a millennial world. More than 1 in 3 workers today are millennials (Pew Research) and the impact these 18 to 34-year-olds continue to have on the workplace cannot be ignored. Our research shows that millennials want to be challenged and are willing to work hard. They are positive, creative, optimistic and forward-looking. At the same time, they come with some pretty strong ideas about work/life balance, company values and career expectations. They are also a generation for whom a remote work environment and wearable technology are the norm, not the exception.
This is a generation that thrives when they work with leaders who have a collaborative mindset. They want their jobs to be fulfilling and feel as though they are part of a community. In light of the ability to remain connected and work virtually from anywhere, the idea of conventional work hours becomes less critical. Contrary to what has sometimes been written about it, this is also a generation that is personally driven to seek education and professional development. Organizations that can find ways to support these needs through continuing education, conferences, speakers and stretch assignments will win the hearts and minds of this generation.
Leaders who not only understand how to build rapport and trust with their employees, but who also establish strong one-to-one relationships that help engage the individual, will fuel an environment where millennials, boomers, and Xers alike are motivated.
- Embrace and leverage the diversity. For years, organizations have acknowledged (and sometimes appreciated) the importance of diversity and inclusion, but have stopped short of truly integrating it. Diversity was the responsibility of someone in the HR department and while business leaders were mindful of the need, it was treated more like a distraction or obligation than a business necessity. However, as organizations like Catalyst have been able to demonstrate, there is an increased return on equity for businesses with more women and minorities in their executive ranks. In addition, the research also shows that the more included employees feel, the more innovative and productive they are.
Inclusive leadership must become part of the very fabric of an organization. It is no longer about accepting differences, it is about developing leaders in the workplace who will intentionally build and sustain an inclusive workplace where employees representing all dimensions of diversity can thrive. Catalyst’s research identifies four core skills of inclusive leaders—empowerment, accountability, courage and humility. We call this the “EACH Mindset.”
Leaders across all levels must develop and hone these skills so that diversity and inclusion are not discussed but, in fact, modeled in everyday actions. Like with any initiative, roadblocks and challenges will exist as organizations step more boldly into this movement, but they are challenges organizations cannot afford to ignore if they want to lead today and into the future.
- Equip employees to thrive in a dynamic business environment. The fifth and final trend brings us full circle to the fact that the ability for organizations to move quickly is critical in order to respond to shifting customer demands and dynamic competition.But to remain nimble, organizations often adopt changing and increasingly ambiguous organizational structures. New technology is introduced in haste. Employee skills need refreshing more rapidly. All of this adds stress to the teams trying to deliver against aggressive goals, and employees’ career options inside the company become blurry.It is the leadership skills of managers that help create a culture and a work environment in which every employee not only understands how to survive in a dynamic business environment, but also thrives in it.
Creating this culture is not as elusive as it may seem. Leaders play a pivotal role in understanding the unique needs of the business as influenced by their customers. They do well to develop an equal understanding of the needs and wants of their employees. A strong culture of engagement lies in the satisfaction of personal and organizational goals. It is a key enabler to an environment where employees are motivated to move—and move quickly—to address client needs.
The measure of an effective leader, therefore, comes from balancing the needs of the organization (to remain nimble and deliver on strategy) with those of employees (finding satisfaction at work and long term career options,) while also remaining engaged and demonstrating effective self-leadership for themselves. It’s a tall order.
It’s an exciting time to be a leader—the pace of the work, the impact of ever-changing technology and shifting demographics guarantee there is never a dull moment! Good leaders understand these trends and equip themselves with the skills required to embrace them.