As we near the end of a very trying 2020, I wonder what leaders, genuine leaders, within business, volunteer, social and many other sectors will be looking to focus upon knowing that we now have a stronger need than ever before to galvanise our people.
If 2020 has taught us anything at all, it has demonstrated more than ever that we need to show support to those around us. Businesses are struggling just as much as the individuals within those businesses but the fundamental observation I would make here is that unless business leaders show the key elements required towards their people then their businesses will continue to suffer and possibly even fall off the face of the earth due to failings. Failings none the less that may or may not be of their own doing.
What are those key elements required as we head into 2021?
Well, we may already be doing a lot of what needs to be done. Some leaders may be great at it and may indeed be getting he balance right. Others may be extremely poor at it and in turn are potentially pushing their people away.
As a Leader my focus would be on the following areas:
1 – Provide CLARITY around the WHAT and the WHO –
Provide clear expectations of what you are expecting people to do in this time of crisis as well as who you are expecting to do it. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But you would be amazed at how many leaders/managers get this wrong. They often think that they know their people well enough and that their people also know the business well enough to just pick up the ball and provide what is needed and at the right time. That Is very seldom the case. In fact, most people within organisations need direction and more so during a time of crisis. Objectives need to be set, often these are a moving target at a time like this and it is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page no matter how many times focus is re-imagined. Alongside the objectives, there needs to be a clear communication on strategy. A strategy which needs to come from the top down so that, again all those involved are on target. There is no point in everyone running at a hundred mile an hour heading North if the target is situated in the South. You would be better with everyone walking at a snail’s pace in a Southerly direction because at least then you will eventually hit what you need to rather than rushing away in the opposite direction. That serves no purpose at all!
2 – Ensure you are EMPATHETIC towards those around you –
No matter what position you are in within the business, empathy must be demonstrated by all. People will not always remember what you said but they will never forget the way they were treated. Ensure you put yourself in the shoes of another person, so you can connect with them. Your people may not have the same level of financial security as you, they may not have the same mass of network of people with which to turn to you as you. All of this means that those around you may find it more difficult to reach out, more difficult to come to terms with reality, at a time when there needs to be realism in our circumstance. Granted, it is not your responsibility to take on someone else’s problems, issues and concerns, that is not what I am stating, if I was, I would be talking about sympathy, not empathy. Your people may need to stay outside of the hole they are in and help them get out of it, not jump in feet first with them and find you are both now stuck in the hole together with no way out. That does not help anyone. However, what you can do is look at things form their perspective, “learn to stand in someone else’s shoes, to see through their eyes” as Barack Obama was once quoted.
3 – Enable your team to have EMPOWERMENT –
You cannot always have all the answers. In fact, if you think you do have all the answers then you are not a leader, you are in fact an idiot. Providing your team, your peers the ability to feel and to be empowered is one of life’s greatest luxuries and those leaders who get this right go on to be great people. And their people too, go on to be great people through learned behaviours. Having the ability to operate in a diverse approach around decision making and thought processing is invaluable. I am not for one minute suggesting that as business owners, managers and the like you should step away and just let the messes get on with it, that will potentially just lead to rapid failure. But, remain involved, give others accountability for their input, offer direction where you feel it is required to ensure that focus remains on track and as has been proven in some many cases in the past within teams led by the greatest leaders such as Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson. Even Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying “It does not make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.
If you have not done so before then I urge you to start seeing your people as true business partners and not just an employee whom you pay to do a job.
4 – Have the ability to be RESPONSIVE –
The ability to be responsive or agile is required now more so than ever before. As we head into a potential lock-down 3.0 (I am writing this the day after our illustrious PM has cancelled everyone’s Christmas festivities) business must be poised, at the ready to shift direction within days of the landscape changing. By being ready, I mean able to think quick, make decisions that enable the business to continue operating not just internally but also externally, customer facing to prevent disruption to you and your clients. There still needs to be a plan or indeed several plans in place, but the plans MUST include resilience, contingency. Key stakeholders need to ensure that their department plans feed in to and support the wider contingencies. One of my all time favourite sayings, taught to me very early on in my career, whilst making mistakes during eh finding of my feet is “Prior Preparation Prevents P&SS Poor Performance”.
I am sure there are many more key elements that are required from a leadership perspective heading into 2021. And who knows, at this rate we may well need them towards the end of 2021. Let us hope not though eh?! You may well have some of your own thoughts and direction as to survey the weeks and months ahead commencing Jan 1 and I would love to hear them. Please feel free to drop me a line.