Being a great leader or manager has become more challenging than ever before. Thanks to modern technology, things are moving at an incredibly fast pace, which makes competent leaders an essential part of every organization.
Having skilled employees and all the latest tech available is great, but it’s up to great leaders to get all those moving parts in order and make something truly outstanding. And the most challenging thing about being a leader is not the tech part, but the human element. How so?
Well, technology will perform the way it was built to perform, for the most part, but when it comes to people, the difference between a happy, productive, and engaged employees and the one that shows up for work and does the bare minimum required might be their manager. Even the numbers tell the same story.
According to research, employees who are led by highly engaged leadership teams are 39% more likely to be engaged themselves.
Another reason why leadership is so crucial is that it’s one of the main reasons employees quit and find a job somewhere else. As much as 79% of employees have quit because of a lack of appreciation for the work they do. And this doesn’t even mean that weren’t paid enough for their contributions.
In most cases, it was due to a lack of employee empowerment and simply noticing all of the efforts they have put in on a particular project.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a list of tips you can adopt in 2020 to become a more effective leader in 2020, and which will help you build a better relationship with your employees.
1. Making the Right Decisions
Taking action makes up the very core of good leadership. While it may seem that it’s easy to tell others what to do, being a great manager is about so much more. Sure, when everything is running smoothly, being a leader is a pretty sweet gig, but it’s also your job to make sure to create that smooth path for everyone else.
Being a good decision-maker requires not only vision and competence but also courage and the ability to thrive in stressful situations. But, things can get even more complicated in case your organization is facing some tough times. In such situations, you will be required not just to choose between right and wrong, but also to pick the lesser of two evils, which will not be without its consequences. This means standing by your decision, even if it means not being the most popular person in the company.
2. Resolving Conflicts
Having a diverse and capable team of employees is a dream come true for every leader. But, where there is diversity, there are also differences, which often lead to conflicts.
According to EEOC research, there were 76,418 workplace discrimination charges in the US, which have resulted in over $50 million in damages paid to employees. Needless to say, those damages, as well as employees becoming victims in the workplace, could have been avoided by smart leadership.
And in 2020, being a capable manager doesn’t equal being distant or extremely strict with your employees, but developing your emotional intelligence. This will enable you to view the argument from both angles, and then come up with the fairest resolution that both conflicted parties can accept.
Even the best leaders will have team members conflicting with each other as some point, and that’s OK, because being a great leader is not about not having conflicts on your team, but resolving them and rising above them to achieve the desired company goals.
3. Focusing on Teamwork
In this day and age, it’s pretty much impossible for a single individual, or employees working on their own to achieve the same kind of results as a team that is functioning well.
First of all, teamwork harbours diversity. This allows for different views and perspectives, which can often lead to clever and unusual solutions. Regular meetings and brainstorming sessions are just some of the methods you can utilize as a leader to make the most out of your team’s collective brainpower.
Second, it creates a competitive edge among team members, which is not a bad thing. It provides an opportunity for every team member to turn in their best ideas and performance. That way, goals, and milestones can be achieved faster since everyone is more engaged and productive.
Third, teamwork allows you and your employees to gather valuable feedback on ideas, workflows, and processes. Not only will you be able to improve them, but you will also teach your team members to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
4. Clue Your Employees in on the Strategic Goals
Even though they work in different teams or even different departments inside a company, your employees are all working toward the same goal. The tricky thing is that, especially in large companies, it is easy to forget what those goals are.
In some cases, employees will spend years working for a company, without even knowing what those strategic goals are. While this doesn’t necessarily deter your employees and team members from doing their jobs and achieving milestones, it will rob them of seeing a bigger picture.
If employees are clued in on the company’s vision, development, goals, as well as company culture, not only will it create a stronger sense of commitment, but it will also boost employee morale, engagement, and productivity. Goals, even if those which are years away, provide workers with a sense of purpose.
Knowing that your work is not only fairly compensated and valued, but that it also has a purpose and is part of a greater plan, can serve as motivation in the long run.
5. Keep the Communication Channels Open
Regardless of the size of your team or company, communication should be at the top of leadership skills and actions which will be essential in 2020. While communicating goals, tasks, and feedback has always been important, it is even more crucial now.
Why? Well, the percentage of the millennials in the workforce is growing every year, and one of the things they look out for in the workplace is the overall working experience and company culture, which should include good communication.
And when it comes to communication itself, you should open multiple channels. Meeting with your team members should be mandatory. This not only enables you to hear and provide feedback, but also to determine deadlines, workload, and expectations.
Make sure to keep a log of those meetings, as well as to utilize other communication channels, such as email, project management software, and chat applications, so that everyone is aware of what they should do and when to do it. In other words, you should nurture both verbal and written communication methods.
6. Come up With an Effective Content Strategy
Having an active online presence through social media and great content is a must for any company since it not only increases the visibility of the company but also improves its ranking through SEO. That’s content that is created with the audience in mind. However, good leaders should also be thinking about content which is meant for internal use. In other words, it will be seen and consumed by your employees.
Unfortunately, the majority of internal content gets ignored, which is why you should create a well-thought-out content strategy.
One of the things that can help you here is creating content that is more specific and personalized. That means using both your creativity and technology to produce content that will be relevant for the team you are trying to address.
Also, using tools like Trello, Slack, or Teams, enables you to easily categorize your employees into different groups, and reach them using content which is relevant to them, instead of sending it to everybody.
7. Learn Something New Every Day
By this, we mean expanding your skillset and knowledge, as well as becoming familiar with all the latest trends, developments, and technologies in your industry.
All of the methods which have been laid out in previous paragraphs require leaders to use new technologies, as well as approaches that can improve communication, especially with younger members of the workforce, whose expectation might be a bit different than those of their predecessors.
Keeping tabs on what’s new in your industry also enables you to come up with accurate forecasts when it comes to your company’s position on the market, as well as the kind of employees and skills you will need heading in the future.
And the same goes for your employees. They should work on adopting new skills and knowledge, but it’s up to you to lead by example. That way, they will remain an asset to the company.
As a manager, you are also in a position to provide your employees with an opportunity to improve themselves. There are plenty of ways in which you can do that. For example, you can set up employee training in your company, or invest in courses, seminars, and learning materials.
8. Empower Others
While you should be someone others look up to and who makes all the crucial decisions, that doesn’t mean that you should exclude everyone else from the process.
One of the best things you can do as a leader is to start trusting your employees and teams, as well as empower them to make decisions on their own. Sure, you can micromanage everything that goes on inside a company, but not only is that a waste of your time and resources, but it’s also counterproductive since your employees will dislike having someone looking over shoulder all the time.
A more clever way would be to delegate some of the responsibilities to your employees, showing that you trust their knowledge and judgment. And despite what you may have read, showing your employees that they have more expertise than you is not a weakness.
Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to learn and encourage working together toward a common goal. Since they no longer no need to seek your input on every little decision they make, they will feel more empowered, and they will trust you more, which can be a good thing since they won’t be afraid to come to you in case problems arise.
9. Lead with Empathy
The goal of every business out there is to make money, there is no question about that. If it’s profitable, you are probably doing a good job as a businessman. But, that doesn’t automatically make you a great leader. Sure, it’s your job to make sure your employees are productive so that your company can function like a well-oiled machine, but viewing themselves strictly as a business asset is counterproductive.
Instead, you should view them as people, with their own needs, desires, and problems, and try to empathize with them. While it may seem counterintuitive at first, focusing on them as people, as opposed to just means of production, will make them more productive.
Once you take the time to get to know them better, they will come to trust you more and their work engagement will improve since they will develop a more personal relationship with you and the company. Why wouldn’t they want to be more invested in their work if they are working for a company that doesn’t treat them as just labour?
10. Learn about Your Shortcomings
One of the most difficult things for any leader is learning about their shortcomings. It’s especially difficult to hear feedback that is brutally honest, and almost impossible if you have employees who fear you or don’t trust you. That is why it’s so important to implement all of the actions we have already described, as they will help you create an environment in which you will be able to gather feedback and become a better leader.
Single out a handful of your employees and colleagues you trust, and then ask them to provide you with honest and direct feedback.
This shouldn’t just include your professional competence, but also the way you treat others inside the company.
Listen to their opinions and take note of what you could do better. Also, you can always create an anonymous survey and distribute it to your employees and ask for their input, without fear of retribution. There should be none if you have done all of the above.
You can ask some of the people from your company’s HR department to come up with the most effective question. And don’t just include questions about yourself. You should also ask about how your employees are feeling inside the company, and what can be done to make their stay better.
11. Hire a Coach
This one ties in with our previous point. Once you have gathered all the information you need through interviews and surveys, you can hire a professional coach to help you analyze it.
Furthermore, they could attend meetings along with you to pick up on your verbal and non-verbal behaviour toward your employees and zero in on potential issues. Once they have done that, they can also help you determine the underlying cause of problematic behaviour.
Also, even if you are already a capable leader that is respected by its employees, there is always room for improvement. Sometimes, you need an outsider’s perspective to see things better.
Some leaders are comfortable hearing about things they don’t do well from strangers, as opposed to people they work with every day. They will take it less personally. If you fall into that group, then hiring a coach should be at the top of your list. Just keep an open mind and be willing to hear others out, and not consider it a personal attack.
And there you have it, 11 useful actions and tips you can start implementing today and which will be welcomed by your employees with open arms.
Remember, while it’s your primary job to make sure everyone is productive, there are plenty of ways in which you can achieve that. You can bark orders at people and they will obey, at least for a while, before leaving the company for good.
Or you can take the time to work on yourself and make your workplace a welcoming environment for every employee. It’s a better option.