As a leader, creating the circumstances for your team to thrive is one of the most important aspects of your job description. This is particularly important in today’s business environment where innovation and adaptability to ever-changing customer demands and competitive threats is the key to survival and success. But what if you’re managing a team in a business that is everything but agile? How can you influence behaviours, improve communication, increase accountability, transform mindsets? The secret is that it all starts with you, the manager.
Get a coach
You may think that you are great at something, but perhaps nobody does to tell you otherwise, because you are the boss. When was the last time you asked for honest feedback about your leadership? Do you have people in your inner circle who see you clearly, who want the best for you and who are willing to be honest? You make yourself approachable to really listen and engage with that feedback without getting defensive?
Working with a coach will help you achieve a clearer, more balanced awareness of yourself: who you are, how you come across, and how others perceive you, especially your team members. This enables you to better understand and develop your strengths and to grow in the areas where you need to improve. And it matters, because self-awareness is highly correlated to organisational effectiveness. In Eric Harter’s CEO study, it was directly correlated to financial performance.
Coach your team
The experience of being coached is a good primer to enable you to coach your team members. Coaching your team starts with your interest in who they are, what they think, what they are doing and what ideas they have. Learn about each members strengths and weaknesses, what drives them, what demotivates them, what challenges them to greater heights. You can only find this out by listening, asking questions, inviting feedback and making time for them.
As their leader, you have the most impactful influence on their career and development opportunities and your behaviour and actions set the tone of the culture you want to cultivate.
You may find that your coaching approach will be emulated by those in your team, setting a precedent for greater transparency, accountability, performance and long-term success.
Invest in development
It goes without saying that ongoing learning and training is essential for individuals and teams to keep up with fast-paced technology and market developments. But the training budget is often amongst the first things to be cut when times are rough. Such short-term decisions have a long-term implications, that far outweigh the immediate savings. The impact on employee engagement, retention, productivity, proactive initiative, customer service may be difficult to quantify, but is is nevertheless substantial. Using online learning platforms and digital technologies are one way to overcome budget restraints, but if you facilitate opportunities for team members to mentor and teach each other, even more learning can be achieved. The additional impact on team cohesion, collaboration and communication is a secondary benefit that can’t be underestimated.
But budget cuts are not the only reason development programmes don’t happen. The other major factor is time. Giving permission and creating opportunities for your team members to take time off to take advantage of development and training is your leadership responsibility as well.
If you are a seasoned leader, acknowledging that you need to change or improve what has been working for you for so many years is not easy. You will feel embarrassed, exposed and vulnerable. You will want to resist, and probably will in the beginning.
But when you are ready, you will find that the discomfort of shedding your old skin is the only way you will be able to grow as a human being and as a leader.
Are you ready?