Kerry Jarred, co-founder and partner at Ignium, leadership development and change experts, shares her thoughts on how businesses can evolve their leadership strategies.
One thing is for certain, change is everywhere. Today’s volatile economic, political, and technological environment makes workplaces especially challenging and unpredictable. This means that today’s leaders, whether individually or collectively within organisations, are under greater pressure to adapt to these challenges and continually consider how best to operate to stay ahead in their particular market.
Having the right leadership skills within any business, no matter the size, is absolutely critical to take the business to the next level to manage change and grow the business. What will align leaders is their joint belief in what they stand for, where they want to take the business, and on what terms.
The most successful organisations are led by people who bring out the best in their people during times of extreme uncertainty, and ensuring that they have the right HR processes, systems and frameworks to support them in their future state.
Plan, plan and plan
It is important to think about what might lie ahead. This may sound simple, but it is a step which is never given enough time and commitment by leaders as they’re understandably working at an intense pace and therefore end up simply reacting to what is in-front of them. By stepping back and considering what potential challenges and opportunities may arise, business leaders will be better placed to identify what kind of skills, capabilities and mind-sets will be required to manage and cope with any changes ahead – planned or not.
Having a clearer line of sight around where the gaps may be, in terms of resource, systems, processes, frameworks and capabilities will enable the business to quickly address any problems and fill in the gaps for maximum success.
Clarity is critical
When business leaders are clear about their purpose, they can build their strategy. Once that’s done, it’s much easier to create a culture where the best people want to work for the company. In this way the culture is then doing the recruiting and retention.
It is important to keep purpose front, and centre so that employees stay on track. There may be distractions along the way, criticisms even, but by focussing on their purpose and the kind of culture they want to build, great business leaders stand the best chance to galvanise their people’s hearts and minds, and they will in turn deliver the business strategy and drive value and greater business performance.
Aligning capabilities to the business strategy
This is true not only for business leaders and the company’s leadership team but also for their employees too.
Being clear about what skills, capabilities and behaviours are needed to deliver the business strategy will inform the leadership team on how best to structure the business over the next five years or more, helping to ensure that long-term plans aren’t left on the shelf. Successful leaders want their strategy to become a daily reality, with the right numbers of people in the right roles doing the right things, to the best of their ability.
There will be tough decisions along the way. Perhaps some people will leave the organisation, but that’s ok, because if there is a well-defined plan and it has been clearly communicated, they will leave for the right reasons.
Importantly, the leadership team must be honest with one another around what it is they really want, and what that requires of each and every one of them. This can be a sensitive time, and leadership teams often benefit from working with independent facilitators, coaches and organisational development professionals to help them navigate the complexities and dynamics they face.
Trust and engage people
Bringing people together to plan and execute change is critical. Including employees in decision-making early on, strengthens their commitment to change. This should be a holistic and inclusive approach, working across boundaries (geographically, functionally and culturally), to encourage people to break out of their silos and collaborate with one another. In turn this helps to develop a better understanding of differing circumstances and perspectives, and fuses them together as a team, bought into the overall purpose of the business.
Businesses also need to remember to communicate. Unsuccessful leaders often focus only on the “what” behind the change. Successful leaders communicate both the “what” and the “why.” Leaders who explain the purpose of the change and connect it to their organisation’s values, or explain the benefits create much stronger buy-in.
Invest in people
As a leader, the most important people are those that are expected to carry out the agreed vision and head into the trenches to make sure that the transition, through whatever change the organisation is going through, is a success.
Depending on the size of the company, leaders should look to invest in their people as much as possible. The organisations that are passionate about developing and building capability in their people are the same organisations that come out on top.
Whether it’s incorporating team-building exercises, bringing in experts in a certain field or enhancing skill sets in different ways, the opportunities are endless for business leaders to invest in their people (and indeed in themselves as a leader). This will not only help the business through change but will also demonstrate to employees how much the company’s leaders care about developing them to become better.
Today’s most successful business leaders ensure their own beliefs and behaviours support change. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiate it successfully are resilient and persistent, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. They also devote more of their own time to the change effort and keep the big picture at the front of their mind, and that of others.