Leaders at the helm . . . listen up!

How do you steer an organisation into the 21st century when so much of its operation, methodology and way of thinking is tied to the dock of the 20th century?   How do you inspire staff that entered the workforce in the 21st century when your leaders are grey haired 20th century fossils who should be thinking about driving a Winnebaggo on their way out tomorrow?

It sounds harsh.   It sounds like we are searching for a reason to make the old brigade redundant.   Well, that is not entirely true or correct.   But let’s face it; we need to approach things with our ‘eyes wide open’ and in doing so we need to face the facts.

There is a need for fresh blood at the helm.   And with it, there is a need for new ideas that can take the organisation forward; out into the depths of the blue ocean strategy where our business plans have charted the next big opportunity.   So think about who is steering the ship and whether they have the capacity to navigate the high seas.  If they don’t, replace them or clear a path that allows others to step into their shoes seamlessly and without the loss of momentum.

Business today must quickly adjust to the new paradigm, to a new way of working that has a focus on engagement and collaboration in the workplace.   These two factors must be given priority to maintain a highly engaged and energised workforce.

Simply put, a disengaged employee or one that has some detachment with the organisation due to stress or burn out is a costly asset.   And when staff are your single biggest business expense, you need to make every effort to ensure they are supercharged, engaged and capable of being that succession plan your business is looking to employ for its future longevity.

It is time to urgently review your workplace energy to ensure the strategy, aims and business plans of the business percolate through the ranks of your employees.   Your employees must share the energy that you have bundled into your plans.   Without their firm commitment, you won’t make it happen and the blue ocean will remain a distant GPS co-ordinate left for your competitor’s sole enjoyment.

Maintaining high energy will see ‘positive stress’ flowing throughout your various teams.   And when your employees are your trading stock, then it is a must that they be supercharged and primed on a day-to-day basis.   Their thinking must align with the thinking of the leaders of the business.   For this to occur, they must be heard.   They must have a voice and must feel that they can actively participate in discussions that effect the overall direction and aspirations of the business.

Leadership is now about collaboration across all levels of the business.   Today, business cannot afford to take a closed-door approach on its leadership strategy.   An inclusive approach must be adopted as the preferred model that seeks to empower the voice and commitment of the employee.    The closed boardroom meeting must simply ratify the voice and commitments of your workforce.   A boardroom that dictates dominion over its workforce will not be as successful as the one that actively listens to its staff when setting the business strategy.

Taking an approach that empowers employee engagement should maintain a high-energy flow throughout the organisation.   It will definitely promote high engagement and a greater sense of belonging.   Employees want to belong.   They want to be part of the organisation’s culture via their influence and by having their voice and ideas heard.   Empowering employee engagement along these lines helps to cement their sense of belonging via the organisation’s ability to provide them with emotional stability that contributes to their sense of security.

The important play is to create an environment that encourages people to have a voice.   A work environment that fosters the airing of different views and opinions of all its employees.  This open workplace culture will help take the organisation forward.   It will certainly help to alleviate stress and anxiety amongst your employees, an important fact given the harsh economic conditions that have prevailed across the globe in the last five years.

So what do we want from our leaders in today’s organisation?

  • They need to provide the employee with support by being available, accessible and willing to listen.   To this end, they must be strong mentors who regularly meet with their staff on a one on one basis.   Too many leaders meet on an infrequent basis that only heightens a feeling of loneliness and isolation in the mind of the employee.
  • Leaders need to react to what they are told.   An employee under stress or one who is suffering burn out needs help and support.   They don’t need to be handed more work and they don’t need to be told to work harder.
  • They need good communication skills.
  • Their energy levels must be high and contagious.  They should light up a room with their energy and their first impression on people should be memorable.
  • They need to make decisions quickly.  Those decisions certainly need to align with the strategic direction of the organisation and must take into account the employee’s point of view.
  • Have a strong capacity to deal with stress to alleviate the pressures of those they lead.
  • We want our leaders to be accountable and responsible for their actions.
  • A leader that understands and lives the brand of the organisation.

When assessing the performance on your workforce, the first step is to assess the performance of your leaders.   Do they have the above key competencies required to lead their team?   I think there is a simple test and it is as follows:

Would I, as an employee take a bullet for my leader, for my team and for the brand I represent on a daily basis?

If the answer is no, then that employee, the team they belong to, their team leader and the organisation have a problem that must be rectified expeditiously.   To delay will only serve to cause further disengagement and detachment that will ultimately harm the business and the prospect of it fulfilling its blue ocean strategy!

Who is at the helm steering your ship? Do you need to think again?