Top Five Leadership Challenges: How to Overcome Them

December 23, 2020 by  

There are many challenges that all managers face. Whilst these challenges can arise at any point in a manager’s career, they can be particularly prevalent for newer or first-time managers. Here is a handy list of these challenges with tips on how to combat them, become the best manager possible, and support your team on their way to success.

1. Adjusting to the role
First-time managers often find it difficult to adapt to taking ownership of their role. It can be particularly difficult managing those who you are used to working closely with and perhaps have personal relationships with. It is important to keep these personal relationships separate from workplace practices. You can do this by positioning yourself as an approachable and supportive manager and ensuring that the tough conversations still take place. Remember that giving constructive feedback shouldn’t be seen negatively, but instead be seen as a way that you can help your team perform at their full potential.

2. Over managing
Whilst it is undeniably important to be there for your team, and coach them to make sure you are getting the best out of them: there is a fine line between managing a team well and not letting people take on their work in their own way. Your role is to support, so make sure your team has the space to complete their assignments and have some autonomy, whilst helping them make progress as individuals and take ownership of their development. Whether the people you are mentoring are older, younger, or no matter how long they have been in the field, if you are able to guide them through hardships, lead them in the right direction and help them progress in their role or career, then you are succeeding as a mentor and as a manager.

3. Not giving enough guidance
Whilst over managing people and not providing the space to work can be an issue, the other end of the spectrum is not giving people enough input or guidance. Much as your team likely know what they are working on, as the manager it is up to you to ensure everyone is fully aware of what is expected of them and how their work aligns and contributes to the wider company goals. If managers are unable to communicate clear guidelines and expectations for their team members, they will, of course, be unable to take ownership of their work and ultimately will be less productive. They will also have less motivation and drive to work towards their goals if they are unaware of the impact their work has on the company.

4. Keep the conversation open
No matter how things are going, it is key to keep communication frequent and open. Providing constructive feedback is not always the easiest task, but it is an essential way to ensure your team can develop and really progress within their role. It is equally important, however, that you also celebrate people’s successes, however big or small. Giving positive feedback to your team when things have gone well or particular team members have shined is key to letting people know they are valued. It will increase engagement; people will know that their work is recognized and that they are appreciated. Introducing or optimizing the use of 360-feedback is also a great practice to really keep communication open and useful for everyone.

5. Embrace upward feedback
Giving feedback aside, it can be difficult, particularly as a newer manager, to receive constructive feedback: it is not always the easiest to handle, particularly when still adjusting to your managerial responsibilities. But it is important to see such feedback as positive; something which will help you develop in your career and become the best, most supportive and efficient manager possible. It is not only key to receive this upward feedback with an open mind, but also to ensure you act upon it appropriately. Following up feedback either by discussing with your team what the next steps are and how they feel things could improve or by taking the next steps based on people’s feedback really shows your team that you value their input. This will build trust and respect for you and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.

What to share?
Transparency is something greatly appreciated by modern workforces. An employee engagement survey from Harvard Business Review actually found that 70% of those asked said they were most engaged when managers shared continuous updates and insights into company strategy. With many organizations adopting a flatter, less hierarchical approach, and employees taking more ownership of their roles, it is not so much a case of management being the only ones in the know. Many employees now value transparency and candidness over more traditional practices. With an increasing amount of companies taking transparency even further, with salaries made public knowledge, and other less traditional information being disclosed to employees, it is clear that people like to be aware of what is happening in the company. To be a manager that people trust and feel comfortable with, don’t close yourself off instead keep your employees in the loop.

Ways to Improve Leadership Development

December 10, 2020 by  

Your company needs effective leaders to not only survive during this crisis, but to thrive in the midst of new challenges. Leadership development was already struggling before this crisis with ineffective classroom experiences, theoretical discussions, and no real way to apply or track the desired leadership behaviors endorsed by the organization. And moving your content online is not proving any more effective than a traditional classroom.
You need a better solution than simply turning leadership training into a video course and using learning data to try and make the case for a return on the investment. You need to actually improve leadership behaviors that happen in the flow of work with real leadership analytics that identify gaps between your leaders, the execution of critical business strategy, and critical metrics of healthy motivation and engagement.

For years, leadership development programs failed because they relied on outdated practices, were poorly executed, and did not align with the need for business results. Training has been disconnected from the way work is done, deployed without business context, and has been mashed together with ad hoc curricula. In the end, they may provide leadership tips and approaches, but they fail to impact organizational goals. Worse yet, they typically do not provide a road map for execution — leaving it up to managers to figure out if and how they will apply the leadership theory.
If leadership development doesn’t improve an organization’s bottom line, it is categorically a failed business investment. Today’s investors in leadership development need an integrated approach that provides leadership training in the flow of work. Because leadership happens at every level of an organization, the most active place leadership happens is in the execution of strategy across the organization.

Consider these five principles to create an integrated, goal-aligned leadership development program.
1. One Common Language to Guide Leadership
A common leadership language across the organization is critical to the long-term success of leadership development. While context around execution and specific skill sets is important, the core leadership concepts at the executive level should be similar to the fundamentals of a manager or that of an individual leader. Why? Because leaders in the modern organization speak the same language and have the same mindset in any context of leadership. A common set of practices can leverage terms that are easily understood regardless of context or who is stepping in to lead even if it requires a different set of micro-skills based on the context you are leading in. A common leadership language will help guide the curriculum and create a consistent foundation. Having a common language that everyone understands helps all leadership across an organization get rowing in the same direction.

2. Develop Leaders at Every Level of Your Organization
When leadership development fails, it often does so because it focuses too narrowly on a small set of people such as department managers or upper executives. Often, there are key leaders in an organization without management titles. The reality is that leadership happens at every level of an organization; therefore, you need to train leaders at every level. Leadership development is not a one-size-fits-all event. While some practices are fundamental to great leadership, skills may vary depending on the amount of people you lead and the context of the role you lead them in. Effective leadership development programs have a common set of macro-leadership practices that complement subsets of micro-leadership skills adapted to the context in which your leaders lead. This approach to leadership development ensures that all leaders speak a common language and are held accountable to core leadership attributes, while being most effective while leading in an individual, managerial, team, or organizational context.

3. Develop Leaders in the Flow of Work
Similar to how leadership happens in a variety of contexts, leadership also happens in the moment-to-moment activities of day-to-day business. That means it requires a complex, integrated approach that adapts to context and skills needed in the moment. Every great leadership program is rooted in elevating performance, so why do we take leaders away from the moment-to-moment needs of performance to train them how to lead? Truth is, we can’t afford to now. Make sure your leadership development program develops leaders at every level through the execution of real work and business strategy.

4. Continually Build Complementary Leadership Skills                                                                                                                                                                          We often think about the soft skills that effective leaders should possess to complement core leadership competencies. Given the need for leaders to influence employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and the retention of high-performing employees, we are asking our leaders to execute on a lot of initiatives while juggling their primary function of leading teams and driving results. A really large toolbox is a mandate for today’s leaders. Many learning experts believe we are living in a reskilling or upskilling revolution that is putting soft skills front and center. Considering the varied skills we need from leadership training such as goal-setting, listening, problem-solving, change management, or emotional intelligence we definitely need a layered approach that brings in soft skills development alongside the core competencies. Each of those micro-skills trainings should build upon core leadership skills.

5. Establish Leadership Analytics
Our collective expectations are higher for data, dashboards, and accompanying analytics that report our progress or problem areas. In our daily lives, we get sports analytics, social media analytics, or analytics on how much we have used our phones. In business, we want to evaluate the effectiveness of our investments and want to know if a solution is affecting the bottom line. Ideally, leadership analytics should align with imperatives such as attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent.
But because many organizations lack the expertise or bandwidth to explore analytics, they often lack an analytics strategy. Even when analytics are introduced, they claim “data-driven” approaches even though they fail to align with organizational goals. That is why leadership development, with a common language regardless of complexities, requires more than the typical engagement survey or qualitative data approach. The best leadership development data pinpoints and charts certain leadership behaviours, primarily through performance and collaboration software your organization is already using or should be using. Performance and leadership practices that begin with clear goals are focused on communicating, pivoting, and evaluating not just employee performance, but leadership practices in relation to those organizational goals.

Leaders Keep Organizations Competitive
Using a consistent, practical, and common framework built for any context of leadership within the organization, you can directly correlate your investment in leadership development to critical business indicators. Organizations that are thriving in 2020 are moving boldly into the future of leadership by investing in an integrated approach to leadership and talent development by supporting their people at every level and across every team.

If you adopt and follow the suggestions above your leadership development program will be consistent and effective to help your organization be successful and long lasting.