Don't Forget to Lead
Pressed to create a company culture in which each team member is encouraged, supported and motivated to further the company and carry the company brand, leaders often find themselves lost in their leadership, unable to truly lead. Their daily to-do lists read like a coach’s board, a confused mix of virtual moves and notes with no discernible real advancement. And in an age of constant disruption coming from rapidly changing digital tools, a lack of time to truly anticipate, envision and lead can spell the difference between success and company failure.
Occasionally we find answers to dilemmas like this by viewing them through a dual lens. In this case, looking at them with an attempt to anticipate change and future issues at one point, but also with an historic bent, keen on things that worked well in the past.
Consider the balance between these four leadership tensions:
Using your best practices to devise and develop your next practices
Best practices alone no longer catapult a leader to the top. Instead it creates stagnation and room for disruption when trying to utilize a one-size-fits-all mentality. So leaders have watched best practices shift from known processes to a new concept that can flex with the changing culture. These ‘next practices’ seek to define the complex changes and technology that shapes our economy today. It’s about re-writing the manual on how to get things done and defining what exactly those ‘new’ things are.
A fair amount of chaos is found in the attempts to anticipate and define what hasn’t happened yet and then create a process that best achieves the end goal in such an environment. And make that process repeatable. A tricky gap for sure. But what if leaders used their known best practices to develop their next practices? Whether that’s through delegation or visionary leading, utilizing the freedom in known processes can provide a leader time to create their next, best practice.
Develop a purpose through planning
Engaged employees motivated through purpose produce undeniable results. They stick around, keeping turnover and training rates down and they motivate those around them to work at higher potentials. Developing an engaging company purpose produces results, but when a leader fails to balance purpose development with strategic planning, results falter.
Strategic planning provides direction for a variety of factors (specific to the industry involved, but may include price, safety, quality...) that deliver value to the organization’s key stakeholders and meet the objectives of the organization. (https://hbr.org/2018/04/your-strategic-plans-probably-arent-strategic-or-even-plans) Leaders struggle when they confuse purpose, their company’s primary intent, with needed strategic planning, their company’s active directional movement. However, it cannot be denied that direction without purpose in our current culture will no sooner succeed. Living in the tension may provide the answer. Allowing purpose to have an avenue in planning can provide both the direction and motivational engagement a leader needs for their team.
Create a culture which rewards contribution and potential
Today’s leader is encouraged to reward their team members for their input, innovation, and achievements toward the company’s profit goal...essentially their tangible benefit to the company. Rewarding a team member based on their potential is discouraged, whether based on bias-concerns, favoritism or difficult to measure obstacles, the choice is understandable. Employees labelled as ‘high-potentials’ can become difficult to deal with, entitled and destructive to the collaborative and team mentality. On the other hand, high-potential employees add to the bottom line and raise the expected standard, so to remove that edge could remove an invaluable element from a leader’s toolkit.
Once again, the leader who will succeed will be the one who can balance the two. To effectively reward with an authentic and integrous manner both the potential of the employee and their contribution.
Consider your B-list team. It would be impossible to run a company without them and to assume you could create a team with only A-listers would not only be fool-hardy, but destructive (that’s a lot of opinion and drive for one company). B-listers are necessary. To reward based solely on contribution may marginalize the B-team. Rewarding their potential in addition to their contribution may balance the scales a bit. (https://hbr.org/2018/09/how-to-retain-and-engage-your-b-players)
Balancing training with development.
A multitude of articles can be found on a leaders role in developing their team, motivating them, giving honest feedback, creating mentoring/coaching opportunities and looking for ways to encourage their career aspirations. Training has become an antiquated concept thought to belong to bygone era. However, successful leaders encourage their teams to include training in their development programs. Companies are stretching their departments to include satellite offices or “hot desking” to relocate key personnel closer to talent clusters where they can develop their skills and passions, but also discover the inner-workings of such industries and get training in them.
The individual development growth comes through intensive, talent-cluster training, where team members can become mega-players in their field. Human resources who can then anticipate and create disruption rather then react to it. (https://hbr.org/ideacast/2018/10/how-companies-can-tap-into-talent-clusters)
We are rapidly moving to the post-digital age which is encouraging the move away from traditions in leadership that are ingrained and comfortable. In doing so, successful leaders must learn to navigate the tension between the old, ingrained and comfortable format to the ever-changing new one. Once they do, their companies and their employees will be the better for it.