Leading today is complicated. Our teams are global and virtual. Our hierarchies are flatter. Our environments are more collaborative. On top of that, there are so many different models of leadership out there. Should you be compassionate? Should you be a serving leader? What's the difference between the two?
Obviously, it can be overwhelming for many leaders to think about all the different ways they can lead and how to pick the best fit.
Check out their style.
All fantastic leaders are able to assess the different ways their employees work and thrive. They look at their teams' personalities, cultural backgrounds, even gender, to identify what approach will be most effective in engaging, motivating and bringing out the best in an employee.
For example, in the case of differing cultural backgrounds, if a team member is from Mexico or Japan where there's commonly a distinct hierarchy, then a leader should know that this person might need to be asked if they need support or have issues. This is because in these cultures it's often seen as disrespectful to bring up problems to a superior.
Alternatively, if a person is from a country like the U.S. or France, they're most likely used to working in a flatter organizational structure and are accustomed to having autonomy in their work.
Create a feedback loop.
Leaders often cite giving feedback, especially the negative kind, as one of the toughest parts of their jobs. They don't want to make their teams feel uncomfortable, hurt feelings, or impair relationships.
The way around this is to create a culture of feedback where the practice is seen as a positive for both the individual and the organization rather than something to be feared. Give both constructive and positive commentary on a regular basis.
But keep two things in mind--first, make sure you're clear in your intention. Tell the recipient the purpose of your comments, whether it is to grow, improve their image, or protect them. Second, don't talk about hearsay or feelings. Stick to observable facts.
Be a coach.
But one that's different than what you see on the sidelines. Don't simply call the shots. Empower your team to better themselves. Ask questions, listen, and help them re-frame their answers so they can come up with solutions.
I like the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, and Will) coaching model because it helps someone refine their goal, define their current situation, discover the different options of what to try, and then commit to a particular action. The coachee owns the answers and therefore is more engaged and committed to the outcome.
This strategy works especially well in flatter hierarchies and collaborative environments. Coaching is used to empower and serve team members. It allows them to find answers themselves that might even be better than what you would have directed them to do.
While these three competencies are seemingly simple, there are many different approaches and methods along with various workshops and programs.
But what it comes down to is the ability to have those effective and critical conversations in feedback and coaching. If you do those well, then you'll have a strong connection with your team and see them be more productive and successful.