The workplace is changing, from obvious shifts in workforce demographics to technology evolutions. These changes in the workplace are shifting why and how we work. What employees want from their employer, like purpose and greater flexibility, has changed faster than the way we lead organizations. Technology has radically shaped how we communicate and interact, yet companies are struggling to adapt.
How you led in the past won't be enough for the future, and frankly isn't likely enough today. The question is where do you focus your leadership to motivate people to do their best work? How do you remain relevant as a leader in a rapidly changing world?
The following leadership focus areas center on a key theme: unleash your people's potential. How you unlock people's potential positions everyone for greater fulfillment and extraordinary results.
Relationship Builder. With the proliferation of virtual tools that help us connect no matter where we are, we need to find balance. We need to better balance virtual interactions with in-person ones.
Research shows that we deepen our connection with people when we have in-person interactions. Our brain releases oxytocin when we interact in-person with others. It's what helps us bond with others.
Leaders must be adept at creating the conditions that help employees feel a sense of relatedness. Relationships have always been central to business. This includes strong relationships with and amongst employees.
Purpose-Orientation. In recent research from Imperative, 65% of purpose-oriented employees found greater fulfillment in their work compared to those who see work as a means to an end. Helping employees understand their purpose and the organization's purpose is key to greater productivity, loyalty, work progress, and results. You can focus your purpose-orientation through deeper relationships.
Meaning Maker. Employee distrust of large corporations and of management needs an antidote. A key focus for leaders now is meaning-making. Simply stated, meaning making is shaped by your understanding of what's important to employees. Going a step further, it's your intentional action to hold conversations about how each employee's work contributes to the bigger picture. Meaning makers tap into human desire, the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Flexibility. This has less to do with you being flexible and everything to do with giving people choices. People want to be successful. Yet not all of us work best from 9-5. Work flexibility is when you can accommodate employees' needs--family, energy levels, for example--by agreeing to work arrangements that get the best results from each employee.
Empowerment. With employee engagement levels hovering at 30'ish percent, you need to learn what intrinsically motivates your employees. Leverage your knowledge of what motivates each person on your team to empower them. Employees motivated by autonomy are empowered by having the latitude to determine how best to accomplish a goal or do their work. You need to focus more on empowering others and less on controlling them.
Stewardship. Stewardship is the intentional shift away from self-interest. This focus area is about caring for the people whose lives you influence on a daily basis. Your leadership style shapes how people experience the day. Focus on how you impact others to help them find greater significance in their work and greater enjoyment in what they do.
Work-Life Mix. The bottom line is: Americans work too much. There's a disproportionate amount of time spent at work than time pursuing personal interests, like spending uninterrupted time with family. Employees experience burnout, distress, fatigue, and even illness when work dominates their life. You need to be an advocate for your employees spending quality time pursuing non-work related interests.
Other focus areas include making moral decisions that better position the business's interests and intentions. And your awareness of who you are is key. Certainly the latter is an ongoing pursuit that never ends. But your leadership is more impactful when you are more comfortable in your own skin.
If there's a simple summation of these focus areas, it's this: Be more human. You're not a manager; that's a role. You're first a human being. Relate to people as such.
We spend a significant amount of time at work. Make it a positive influence on your life and your employees'.