Effective leadership: the answer in times of disruption and ambiguity

Today’s managers face many challenges amidst times of unprecedented employee resignation. While their roles have become 10x more difficult than before COVID-19, a lack of proper training and resources makes it exceedingly challenging to lead effectively in a employee-driven market. Managers have a big impact on turnover and retention as nearly 50% of employees have quit jobs because of a bad manager, with almost 66% believing their manager lacked proper expertise to guide them. Yet research shows that if an employee feels that their manager cares about them, they will be more motivated to stay. Care can take many forms, but if a manager truly and transparently engages with an employee on their individual career progress and difficulties, it can help the employee to feel valued, connected and motivated. In fact,  employees who find purpose at work get more done than those who don’t. Purpose-driven employees may also be stronger, healthier, and happier, plus more likely to recommend the organization to others. 

The Great Resignation is not going away, making it more important than ever to train managers on becoming leaders. After all, people leave managers, not organizations.

What is the difference between a manager and a leader in 2022?

 

While every organization has managers, organizations that are able to transform managers into leaders are the ones that thrive. Yet there are key differences between the two. A manager’s role includes making decisions and problem-solving. They organize workflow, set goals and guide their team towards achieving them. They also manage administrative tasks and delegate. In this day and age, they’re the ones who lead Zoom calls and set the agenda for every meeting. Leaders, by contrast, do a lot of the same work as managers, but they use interpersonal influence to inspire, train and coach others. In reality, this means they provide recognition, support, guidance and also serve as a role model. Experts argue that for organizations to meet the challenges of the post-COVID workplace, where wellbeing and employee motivation are key, managers need to develop their interpersonal skills and use them to be more expansive, accepting, and entrepreneurial in all that they do. Today, managers need to be approachable, open to discussion and equipped with ideas on how to inspire a team to greatness – by leading in ways they’ve never done before.

 

How does the new hybrid workplace pose a challenge to management?

One of the biggest issues facing management today is the prevalence of remote work, and the transition to this mode of work without proper training or tools to make it successful. In up to 70% of manager/employee relationships, one of the two parties will now be working remotely at least some of the time. With less visibility in the workplace, employers and managers are less likely to be working on tasks in parallel, largely influencing how they interact with one another. In fact, 40% of the managers questioned admitted to having low self-confidence in their own ability to manage workers remotely, while more than 50% of those surveyed admitted to wondering whether their own employees could remain motivated over time if remote work continues into the future.

Research shows that managers who cannot physically see their direct hires can develop trust issues about remote work. A side effect of this doubt is that managers can develop unreasonable expectations about availability. In the long-term, expecting team members to be online or at least reachable at all times, can disrupt work-life balance and cause avoidable work-related stress. While an increase in video calls and the use of messaging apps can be super useful for quick communication, virtual interaction means managers can’t rely on what they see in real life to inform their decisions. And while remotely micromanaging employees destroys morale and leads employees to resign, understanding what motivates and excites team members can really help managers to get results. These trends have led us into a new era of management where it’s just as important for managers to understand how team members feel, as it is to trust them. Now that we know that the new world of work will require flexibility all around, new ways of thinking must pave the way forward.

 

How can companies react to these new challenges?

Companies should invest in empathy – they need to help managers develop better verbal and listening skills, and place emphasis on holistic understanding, such as mindset development and flexibility. With more and more communication between employees taking place virtually, managers need to be able to offer an understanding ear – whether it’s on Zoom, over email, etc. It’s also vital to keep reporting lines open and help create a new network of support for team members.

Investment and training are key. Top-quality managers with leadership skills will engage team members more effectively, making them harder to tempt away, while new hires will find themselves onboarded into engaged teams  – something which will make them more likely to stay long-term. Excellent managers reduce turnover more effectively than any other job function within an organization. Investing in leadership development across an organization is an effective method for cultivating psychological safety within employees.

Employees who say that their companies put resources into leadership development are more likely to also state that their managers are open-minded, supportive and collaborative. And they are 64% more likely to rate employers as inclusive. Yet getting to this point requires companies to analyze internal processes and commit to a long-term investment in leadership. Some of the key skills to focus on include attention, fairness and coaching to inspire managers and help them shift their mindsets from old ways of working to new ways. Discover how to give them practical tools to allow them to use their new skills; investing in ongoing feedback will ensure that lasting change in management style is made. This type of manager development works because it’s not just instructive, it’s transformative. It allows mindsets and skillsets to evolve, allowing managers to become the leader that your organization needs them to be.

Organizations also need to train managers to be resilient. Deloitte found that leaders with staying power stay focused on the long game – they see the horizon even when dealing with the minutiae of daily office life. They are excellent at triage and can stabilize their teams in times of crisis; a skill that would have been extremely useful during the COVID-19 pandemic and will prove useful beyond. Resilient leaders are decisive and transparent, remaining realistic about current challenges and honest about what this means for their teams. Guiding your management towards a resilient leadership style will better equip them to inspire their teams during this unparalleled time in our collective history.

 

The benefits of investing in effective leadership

While the role of the manager is changing in today’s hybrid workplace, the importance of inspirational management cannot be underestimated. Although in times of uncertainty, other business objectives might seem more urgent, the truth is that investing in leadership could be the key to retaining talent and strengthening company culture. Poor managers attract poor candidates, while on the flip side, great managers attract great candidates. Inspirational managers drive engagement and retention, not to mention feelings of connectedness and motivation from employees. Research also shows that a positive team climate – one where people feel valued, nurtured and safe to share their feelings, thoughts and new ideas – can hugely affect a company’s success.

While re-framing workplace practices and culture isn’t always easy, there are huge benefits to be gained from helping managers to develop their own leadership skills and transition into great leaders. With warm, empathetic, and charismatic people at the helm of an organization, companies will be able to retain top talent, moving forward. And the value of having a motivated workforce that is inspired by its management is priceless.

 

When it comes down to it, winning the Great Resignation starts with having great leadership in place. Learn how Montara’s holistic people insights and real-time analysis can make leadership development a part of the day-to-day.