Kick Out These Negative Leadership Habits.
Though 2022 has begun with some of the same headlines as early 2021 — an increase in COVID cases and uncertainty surrounding office reopenings and in-person education, as well as the dual reality of anxiety about the pandemic’s most contagious variant for some and an “over it” mentality for others — we should not repeat the leadership mistakes we made in 2021.
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Previously unproblematic business challenges are now at the top of many business leaders’ “fix it” lists. This disarray, combined with the uncertainty in the outside world, is raising stress levels across your organization, from top to bottom and sideways. The natural tendency, or traditional approach, is to instruct everyone to put their heads down and work through the problem at hand. But what if this only serves to aggravate the stress?
A lack of empathy is at the root of many negative leadership behaviours. For example, leaders’ lack of empathy has contributed significantly to the employee dissatisfaction that fueled the Great Resignation. How about reflecting on the past and changing a few behaviours to achieve a more favourable outcome that increases organisational success?
Here are three bad habits to break in 2021 and the new behaviours that will replace them.
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Turn off the cameras.
I’m surprised at how many people still participate in video calls with their cameras turned off. Excuses abound, ranging from “no excuse” to “messy backgrounds or hair” to “legitimate technical issues.” People then complain that they can’t connect with their coworkers as well as they can in person. You can’t, of course. It’s useless if you can’t see the person you’re speaking with. Building rapport and understanding necessitates paying attention to nonverbal cues and what is said.
Please turn on your camera in 2022, and make it mandatory for all participants to do the same. Then notice how much better you can comprehend and be comprehended by your colleagues. And don’t be afraid to show a little mess in the background—it shows that you, too, are human.
Everything is always business.
Those spontaneous moments of connection are what we’ve lost in our work from home reality. Passing by coworkers in the hallway, peering over the cubicle wall to ask a question, and chatting in the kitchen or at the water cooler have all vanished, and Slack, Teams, and Zoom have yet to figure out how to replicate it digitally—at least not yet. In the metaverse, perhaps.
The ability to check in and see how well your team is doing has been lost. When you were there in person, you might have noticed when an employee was stressed out or not giving their all. How do you know this? Your team must also find new ways to connect and build rapport.
Make investing time and effort in your team a new 2022 habit. Rewrite the traditional update meeting script by devoting the first 10 minutes to the following: Ask broad, exploratory questions like, “How are you?” and don’t accept the answer “fine.” “Tell me more about that…” is a great follow-up question that I frequently use to elicit more information from people without leading them or making them feel uncomfortable. Above all, be open and honest about yourself. Allow them access to your personal life as well as your emotions. It’s OK to express concern about the growing pandemic or something that’s happening in your family. Demonstrate to your team what you expect of them.
Discussing Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle
Were you one of the leaders who got slapped on the wrist for wistfully discussing a “return to work”? You and I both understand that you mean resuming work from an office space. Many people, however, took offence at what they perceived to be a slight, primarily since they had worked hard to make work from homework for themselves and their employer. They’ve been working for almost two years, uninterrupted principally, but that phrase implies that work must be done in an office if a company is successful. Despite this, studies show that productivity did not suffer as much as industry leaders had feared. The past is the past, and it is no longer with us. Unlike salmon, which have been swimming upstream for generations to spawn in the same spot, our path to the past is irreversibly blocked. The genie has escaped from the bottle; good luck getting it back in.
According to a longitudinal study that my firm, Ignite 360, has been conducting since the beginning of the pandemic, 72 per cent of U.S. adults want some degree of change in their lives rather than a return to the way things were in 2019. Only 18 per cent wanted to return to the status quo. Who were the people who wanted to return? It tended to be older, white, conservative, and male-dominated. It could be referred to as “the patriarchy” by some. Those people want to return to their previous lives. They even refer to it in that manner. But, as we know, time moves forward, not backward. So, instead of singing like Cher about turning back the clock.
The New 2022 Habit
- Embrace change and collaborate with your employees to find a solution.
- Take the time to figure out what they want.
- Assist them in comprehending their concerns.
- Share if you’re concerned about a lack of team cohesion, collaboration, or coming up with the next brilliant idea. If you have a lease hanging over your head, they might be able to assist you in finding a solution.
The Great Resignation demonstrates just how far this genie has escaped. You won’t be able to reintroduce it. Instead, you can collaborate with the genie to create a new normal that corresponds to where your employees are. Start a conversation with your coworkers, perhaps through a small series of virtual town halls or a contest in which different workgroups brainstorm solutions to the problem, and the team with the best ideas is rewarded. Among my clients grappling with this issue, the happiest employees are those who have been able to contribute to the solution rather than being lectured or dictated to.
So where does that leave you to concentrate your efforts in 2022? Based on the number of cargo ships parked in San Francisco Bay, I feel supply chain and distribution issues aren’t going away anytime soon — but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a renewed emphasis on your employees.
Collaborate with your human resources department to determine what your employees truly want and require at this time. Don’t just conduct a quantitative survey to get a pulse on things. Instead, hold focus groups or one-on-one discussions to uncover the why behind your data. Then, reach out to employees and team members on your own. Make yourself available.
Many businesses are finally recognising that their most valuable asset is their workforce. As a result, treat them as such. If you meet their needs, they will meet yours. After all, it will be an employee who will solve your next problem.
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