It’s fairly easy to be seen as a good leader in the times of economic spring and summer. Yet, when the inevitable economic winter comes, like the pandemic we are experiencing in 2020, good leadership skills become crucial and the bad ones can be critical for the business existence.
Research by Zenger Folkman has identified 5 skills that have differentiated appreciated leaders from the rest this year.
1. Balancing team results and the needs of your employees
Pre-pandemic, a good focus balance was 60-40, and this year it has turned around to 40-60. Paying attention to your employees’ life situation and being open to adjusting your leadership to address their needs is more important for success than a focus on achieving set goals.
2. Cross-functional collaboration
Conflicts have increased this year due to fewer real-time interactions and the lack of possibilities to discuss things and solve issues spontaneously in the corridors or over lunch. You as a leader can help your employees by creating a “virtual water cooler”, for example, a coffee break at 1 PM every workday where anyone can drop in for a chat.
3. Keeping high-level energy and positive spirit
In a crisis, it is essential to show confidence in getting through the tough season, set stretch yet realistic goals, help others develop, and inspire them to learn. You as a leader are seen as an example, and your attitude will set the tone for the whole organization on how to deal with the challenges.
4. Help your employees to understand the company’s vision
The pandemic required shifts in strategy for most organizations. You might be sitting hours thinking through those shifts and discussing them with your leadership team, a board of directors, or investors, but your employees are not involved in the process just as much. They are hugely affected by the changes, though, and it is your role to bridge the gap and make sure everyone understands the shifts and is committed to implementing them.
5. Recognize where the change is needed
You need to realize which adjustments your business has to go through and take decisions quickly. To me, this behaviour is interrelated with the third and fourth skills – by your keeping the vision clear, being agile in the ways towards the vision, and maintaining high energy and confidence in the meantime, you can create a sense of calm and determination in your employees, and help them focus on getting through this tumble-rumble that 2020 has thrown us in.
You might have read till this point and thought “It all makes sense, but how can I get better at these skills?” I deeply believe in leading by example, as people do what we do – not what we say.
With the first skill, keep the balance right by prioritizing your well-being and family. I know how tough that can be for you as a founder – I am struggling with that myself. You have salaries to pay, investors to report to, and after all, this business is your passion and baby! Remember, research shows that lack of sleep, movement, dehydration, and improper nutrition cause fatigue which costs companies billions in sick leave, loss of productivity, and employee turnover.
Now imagine that your working late each night sets a standard for your employees, creates pressure to keep working – even if you say to them you care for their health and ask them to check out on time. This behaviour might help you push through one sprint, maybe even a couple. But several months later, you will be facing an exhausted, pessimistic, irritated, and maybe even sick team, with you leading that tired bunch, barely dragging your feet. How easy, do you think, will it be to find creative ways for cross-collaboration, to bring the high energy into the team, to communicate the company vision, and to quickly identify the adjustments that have to be made?
Good leadership starts with you. You cannot lead the way successfully if you have brain fog, lack energy, and can’t see anything positive in the situation. In that state of mind and body, you get in the way instead of leading. So this post is a reminder to you (and me) that one of the biggest investments we can make for our businesses’ success is our health. Not by killing it, but by investing in keeping it at the top level. My business coach says “Taking care of myself mentally and physically is my number one growth strategy for my business”. She has grown her team from 3 people to 40, and revenues from 7 to multiple 8 figures in a year, showing that it’s possible while (and thanks to) keeping her health a priority.
I want you to take 5 minutes now to reflect on what do you need to stay on top of your game.
* Where have you been making yourself disfavour this year?
* Is it finding time for physical activity?
* Getting your daily walk into your day?
* Planning your food so that Domino’s doesn’t become a quick saviour too often?
* Getting to bed on time and ready to sleep?
* Or doing something for your mental health, like meditation or journaling?
As Tony Robbins says, “Never leave the scene of a decision without first taking a specific action toward its realization”. Identify what you need to invest in to succeed, and put it on your calendar. Do it now.