People desire a “leadership refresh” in their organizations. Employees want leaders that are likeable, understand their needs, can authentically motivate people and know how to energize a workplace culture to generate the best results for the organization. Just because you are a great sales person doesn’t mean you will be an effective leader. The traditional leader still employs the old school ways of doing things that make it difficult to engage a workforce that is more diverse and multigenerational than ever before.
Today’s short-term, rapid-paced, limited-resource workplace requires more trust amongst employees and their intentions, transparency in communication and requirements and cross-departmental collaboration to fuel more desired outcomes – where people feel valued and respected.
Employees want an awakened, dynamic spirit to come alive at work. They are tired of excuses and just want people to be real about how they feel and honest about what needs to be accomplished. Employees are fed up with the office politics and corporate rat-race and are ready to start having fun again. They want a workplace that is challenging, encourages trial and error and makes them feel that they matter.
I recently keynoted an event where a senior executive was asked to share a few words about her leadership experience with the organization. At first, she said all of the right things (which is exactly what people didn’t want to hear). Then, she shocked the room by expressing dissatisfaction with her lack of leadership. She went on to say that even though she knew that people were unhappy with the organization’s leadership protocols, style and approach – that she regretted not saying or doing anything about. She concluded by talking about “courageous leadership” and why the workplace demands it now more than ever before.
To become an effective leader in the 21st century workplace, you must do six things to make the workplace exciting again. Along the way, you will earn trust and respect throughout the organization as a courageous leader.
1. Allow People to Fail; Encourage Employees to Test Their Ideas
Empower your people to be entrepreneurial and to test their ideas and ideals. Encourage your employees to be their best by discovering how they best fit within the team and throughout the organization. Don’t always feel like you need to be in charge. Effective leadership is about delegating and being able to trust yourself enough to let go and allow others to establish their own footing without being so dependent upon you. Give your employees the room to explore and unleash their passion.
A recent study by Deloitte made it clear that employee engagement isn’t enough. It’s about allowing employees to be passionate about their work and not so confined to their immediate roles and responsibilities.
The passionate worker is always looking to provide and create impact through long-term sustainable growth. Great leaders are the ones that allow their employees to discover their passion.
2. Build Teams That Last; Allow Them to Be Think-Tanks
Great teams require great leadership. Today’s workplace must remove silos and operate without boundaries – putting a premium on collaborative thinking and holding each member of the team responsible to contribute. The days of depending upon one or two superstars are over. Leaders must now play the role of “think tank” facilitators – guiding clusters of strategic topics that roll-up to specific organizational goals and objectives. Leaders need to influence but not control the dialogue. In the 21st century workplace, their responsibility is to find interconnection points that exist between each cluster to guide and direct the focus and the thinking.
Leaders must allow team building to become more organic, less instructional and more enabled by the members of the team themselves. They must measure effectiveness by how well each member is contributing to the overall impact, dialogue, thinking and outcomes of the group.
In a fast-changing marketplace, engaging employees and discovering their passions are best achieved when people feel valued and empowered to think, act and innovate in ways that come most naturally to them.
3. Be a Great Communicator; Hold No Secrets
Never stop communicating your vision, goals and objectives. Be a great communicator who uses all available methods to define your expectations and set the tone for your department or organization. Never be vague and run the risk of losing trust from others. No secrets allowed.
The workplace is becoming more fragile and employees want to know what they are ultimately being held accountable for and what they can or cannot do. Stop being so structured about how you communicate. Be human and be approachable.
For example, when I was in the c-suite, I often held informal (at times impromptu) employee town hall forums. The goal was not to deliver a “state of the company” address or some other important announcement – it was to address questions directly from employees. The objective was to communicate the truth about growing tension points and/or concerns that people had about the direction of the organization. I learned that people simply wanted to know what was going on.
You also learn quickly which employees want to be part of the solution – and which ones put up roadblocks. Though I was there to communicate and be transparent, these meetings also served as forums to identify the real leaders and the lifters versus the loafers and the leeches (those that would enable the confusion and disruption). Great communication is most effective when it is two-way and everyone is held accountable.
4. Don’t Hide Behind the Title; Be The Real You
Leadership effectiveness is more than just the influence a “job title” gives you. The real impact of leadership is when you can reveal the person that is behind the title. People are more curious now than ever before and they want to know who their boss is as a person.
People want leaders they can relate to and respect as people. Be real in who you are and what you represent as an individual. Reflect your true intentions as a leader and don’t hide behind a title as this limits your ability to build relationships with employees.
People want leaders who are humble enough to be approachable, yet whose executive presence is impactful and dynamic enough that they never cross the line of respect. People will naturally gravitate toward you if you allow your likeability and approachability to flourish.
5. Awaken the Organization; Keep People On Their Toes
Keep the organization alive by enabling a culture that embraces new perspectives and keeps people on their toes. Electrify the organization with hope and opportunity that can create endless possibilities. Never allow your employees to get complacent. Help them stretch their thinking and ability. Make the workplace an environment where people are continuously growing and thinking big!
Don’t just be a provider, but rather focus on being an enabler of opportunities. Make it easier for people to contribute and feel more valued – yet demand enough from your employees that they are continually challenged and hungry for more.
6. Keep it Simple; Make it Fun
Establish standards and best practices that everyone can enjoy, learn from and improve along the way. The new workplace is less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business.
When my father came to America – on his way to earning a degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1936 – he took the time to understand the United States and its customs, culture and people. He was a keen observer of people and always curious to understand what made leaders effective, trustworthy and reliable. Early in my career he would often remind me that people complicate things to make themselves feel more important. In other words, leaders purposely make things more difficult for others to make themselves appear smarter and more capable than their peers. Oftentimes they seek relevancy when they begin to feel more vulnerable. Have you had a boss or known anyone else like this?
My father would tell me that the more simple you make things, the more believable, trustworthy and effective you will be with people. Perhaps we are beginning to understand why most leaders need a refresh. They need to simplify their approach and make it more fun and enjoyable for employees as this will increase productively, engagement and desired outcomes.
My father often encouraged me to read books and watch movies from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s – to understand what he meant by simplicity. Read the Declaration of Independence. There is a reason it transcends centuries and generations because its principals are easy to understand. Simplicity always prevails. Just ask Apple!
If you step back, you will see that simplicity is becoming the new normal. The workplace and the world are changing fast and it’s important to embrace the basics that serve as the foundation for how we think, act and innovate new products, services and the technological advancements that support them.
Make employees feel that they can relate to you and what you expect from them and encourage their voices to be heard and amplified. Don’t intimidate, make the journey simple and fun and watch them flourish.
By Glenn Llopis