Make Virtual Coaching Better

Of all the jobs a manager/leader has, one that we often feel we could do better, is coaching.

Experience shows that it is the part of the role we often feel gets ignored or isn’t done as well as we’d like. Your employees, especially those who work remotely, most likely agree with you.

So, what can we do about it?

Here are some things you can do to make your coaching more effective when you can’t be face-to-face.

Decide to have a real coaching conversation.

A coaching call is not a “check-in.” Good coaching requires focus on both ends of the line, planning, and attention to detail. Look at it this way: if you were going to coach someone in the office, you’d take them somewhere private. You’d sit down, maybe have a moment of casual conversation and demonstrate relaxed, positive body language.

When coaching virtually, the same things apply.  Be somewhere you both can relax and not be distracted. Take enough time that you’re able to engage in some social conversation before you dive in. Any conversation that starts with, “Let’s not waste time, let’s get down to business,” is probably going to restrict real conversation and the chance to explore what’s going on with the other person.

Read How Silence Is Critical To Good Conversations

Make coaching conversations as rich as possible.

Coaching can be an emotional experience. When we are face to face, we can hear the tone of the person’s response as well as their facial expressions and body language. The best results happen when you’re having rich, real-time conversations. For that reason, you want to have as “rich” a conversation as possible.

You want to make sure you are communicating effectively, and are understood, and any unspoken objections or questions get surfaced. This is almost impossible to do over the telephone alone, so use your webcams. Get both parties used to the idea of being on camera when the stakes are low and the conversations casual, so you’ll both be less self-conscious when your discussions get deeper and more important.

Read How Coaching Is More About the Person Than The Problem

Have a list—but not a checkbox.

A rich, constructive coaching conversation has a lot going on. You need to know what you’re going to discuss, have supporting evidence or questions you need to ask, and there’s a process to a well-run coaching call. Most of us can’t keep everything clear in our head and wind up hanging up and then thinking of all the things we forgot about or could have said or done differently.

So having a list of topics and reminders is a good thing. On the other hand, if we treat it like a checklist, with the goal just to tick off boxes, we often focus on that, rather than listening to the other person for clues that we should probe deeper, or some things aren’t being said. It’s a fine line, but an important one.

Open the call to possibilities.

Coaching means you must actively listen to the other person. One of the challenges for a lot of us is that people will answer the questions they’re asked. Many of us start with well-meaning requests for information that prematurely focus the discussion and don’t always open the door to more productive conversations. For example, there is a difference between “What’s going on with the Jackson account?” and “What are you spending most of your time on?” 

Get Our 27 Open-ended Questions

Here are some open-ended questions to kickstart coaching conversations:

What’s up?

How’s it going?

What’s working?

Where are you stuck?

How can I help?

Notice that you’re leaving the responses up to the other person.

You may want to get to the problem at hand, but if there are other priorities, or challenges or the person has something they need to discuss first, you’ll have a better talk when you get to it.

 

For more information on coaching at a distance, consider our Coaching Services.

Better Coaching is a critical skill development that we offer to help you become a Better Leader!

 

 

5 Steps To Calming The Waters When A New Boss Enters The Pool

… of all the things that can cause ripples in our ‘pond,’ changing leaders should be considered the equivalent of doing a cannonball dive into the water …

A quick note from Steve:

This article focuses on the new manager or leader, but the discussion can apply to anyone taking on the role of ‘New Boss.’

Enjoy.

 

As leaders, we often consider organizational changes that impact our culture or progress toward successfully achieving our goals.

The change could be a location change, IT changes, new strategic plans, economic downturns or a myriad of organizational changes that can cause ripples in our corporate waters.

In my experience, one of the least managed organizational changes is a leadership change.

And of all the things that can cause ripples in our ‘pond,’ changing leaders or managers should be considered the equivalent of doing a cannonball dive into the water.

An additional complication is that boards of directors increasingly seek leaders from outside their organization. 

In 2017, 44% of US companies & organizations searching for new leadership hire from outside the organization.

Often, outsiders are chosen to deliver strategic course corrections, restructures, mergers, culture change, or digital transformation, and under short timelines, incoming leaders or managers need to have a deep understanding of their leadership competencies and effectiveness. 

 

The new leaders or managers as an organizational change challenge.

Most incoming leaders or managers, internal or external, get off to a rocky start. 

Society for Human Resource Management research shows that 58% of senior leadership hires struggle in their new positions after 18 months. 

18 months!

Therefore, carefully planning a new chief executive’s integration is crucial. 

 

What is the key to success? 

Your success must be gained by building momentum across the whole organization.

Not by acting frenetically but by thoughtfully choosing the speed to help the organization mobilize, execute, and transform effectively. 

The incoming leader or manager must need to:

  • gain knowledge of board expectations,
  • understand the bench strength of the leadership team, and,
  • appreciate the organization’s culture.

This will help leaders or managers understand when to gather insights when to make fact-based decisions, and when to execute quickly.

 

Five steps to speed up new leaders or managers’ integration

In my experience, new leaders or managers who take the following five steps have the best chance at successful acceleration.

 

  1. What are your unique strengths?

The characteristics that have served you well so far may not lead to success in a new role as a leader or manager. 

Success in your new role depends on navigating the organization’s current cultural context and quickly understanding the roadblocks to performance. 

Self-awareness is crucial. The ability to reflect upon and assess one’s strengths, weaknesses, and leadership style will enable proper planning on how to change the culture and increase performance.

Consider the following questions to help align your and the organization’s unique strengths: 

  • Why was I hired for this role; what is my differentiation?
  • What is my vision for this organization? 
  • What distinctive strengths can I leverage in this context? 
  • What might derail me within this organization?
  • How do I become more self-aware and plan for my blind spots? 
  • What do I hope my legacy will be?

 Read the seven career-saving questions you should ask before starting a new project.

  1. Build an adequate influence base.

External leaders or managers are typically brought in to drive transformational change.

Everyone expects change, so every move of the new leader or manager is evaluated and scrutinized for meaning. 

Understanding the formal and informal sources of influence within an organization takes time.

You need to talk to your people to get a clear view of what they love and hate, what they see as most broken, and what excites them. 

As a new leader or manager, you will be under a lot of pressure—from the board, your leadership team, and the culture itself—to show up and make change happen quickly. 

Don’t fall into the trap of making big decisions too quickly—you don’t know enough to know whether they are the right decisions. 

Getting to know the key stakeholders will help new leaders or managers develop a plan to build relationships that can quickly transform influencers into advocates.

Addressing the following questions is a significant next step: 

  • How do I identify the key influencers? 
  • Where are the real influencers within the organization below my leadership team?
  • What questions should I ask key constituents to build my knowledge base?
  • How do I effectively structure a listening tour?
  • How will I structure my story and share my vision for the organization?

Want To Explore This Topic Further?

Join the Better Leader Inner Circle On Thursday, May 23 at 11:00MT/1:00ET

Click Here To Register And Get A Recording If You Can’t Attend 

  1. Define success and priorities.

Incoming leaders or managers typically align highly with the board and other senior executives regarding what constitutes success and what the priorities are. 

The new leaders or managers need a detailed definition of success and what needs to be addressed first. 

It is essential to take the time to define the high-impact opportunities that will impact customers, products, systems, and people. 

Careful management of the first 100 days is critical to the success of the new leaders or managers. 

This is the time when the stakes are high for both the organization and the reputation of the incoming leaders or managers. 

Ideally, the 100-day playbook will accelerate the integration of new executives into their new environment while prioritizing quick wins and longer-term strategic capabilities.

Addressing the following questions will get leaders or managers started on this step: 

  • What are the performance indicators for this role?
  • How will my performance be evaluated in six months and a year? 
  • How (and from whom) will I receive feedback?
  • How will I get oriented to our markets, customers, and organization?
  • How will I get clarity on and manage board expectations? 

Read more about managing competing priorities.

  1. Mobilize the top team quickly.

Most often, a new leader or manager makes changes to the senior team. 

In 2017, 91% of S&P 500 companies indicated that changes in leaders or managers would accompany changes at the director or senior executive levels.

Given the change agenda, new external leaders or managers need to develop an understanding of the senior team’s performance and quickly make decisions on how to bolster the team’s effectiveness.

Addressing the following questions will help new leaders or managers shape and mobilize their top teams: 

  • How will I assess my team’s baseline level of performance?
  • What are the business goals or outcomes for which my team members are mutually accountable?
  • How will I determine membership on my top team?
  • What operating norms do I think are needed on this team?
  • Who will support me in developing my team to accelerate performance?

 

  1. Shape the culture

Organizational culture is a crucial driver of change and a barrier to execution. 

In my experience, everyday cultural strengths and liabilities have become so ingrained and automatic that they are not questioned. 

If the cultural fit between the new leaders or managers and the organization is off, execution can feel like pushing a rope.

This challenge has been defined as the Culture Eating Strategy’s lunch because dysfunctional cultural habits can chew up any improvement the new leaders or managers try to make. 

A major study shows that 70% of all change efforts fail to achieve their objectives. 

The new leaders or managers must quickly become familiar with the cultural values, unwritten rules, and practices of their new organization. 

Addressing the following questions will give new leaders or managers a cultural grounding:

  • What are the strengths and liabilities of the current culture?
  • How do I shape the culture to align with our new strategic direction?
  • How do I improve high-performing behaviours such as accountability and collaboration?
  • How can I better understand the shadow of my leadership team?
  • What is the execution effectiveness of my organization?

 Read more about culture.

Conclusion

Newly appointed leaders risk failure unless they address the obstacles to their organizational and personal success. 

If poorly made, a new leader or manager’s initial set of decisions and actions will create unintended consequences that will be difficult to reverse. 

Therefore, initial actions and decisions must be carefully planned.

An acceleration requires new leaders or managers to:

  • assess and develop themselves to be most effective in the new context; 
  • understand their organization’s influencers and culture, 
  • how to leverage both for success; 
  • develop a detailed and shared understanding of success and priorities, and 
  • mobilize their top team. 

Those who take the time to do so put themselves on the best path toward lasting success.

Want To Explore This Topic Further?

Join the Better Leader Inner Circle On Thursday, May 23 at 11:00MT/1:00ET

Click Here To Register And Get A Recording If You Can’t Attend 

3 Steps To Building Trust So It’s Ready When Your Team Needs It

We often think of trust as a fixed, static idea, such as “We trust the Union” or “The Operations Team doesn’t trust us.”

However, trust is more complex than that, and oversimplifying our understanding of it prevents us from applying the proper techniques to improve it. Instead, leaders should consider the three fundamental raw materials on which trust is built: competence, benevolence, and reliability.

How these materials mix will depend on context. However, effective leaders need to assess which of these trust components is lacking within their teams and follow steps tailored to that specific component of trust.

It’s time to abandon generalized, generic models for building trust. Below, we share the three steps you can follow to build trust. First, identify which of the raw materials of trust your teams lack and then use the proper methods to increase them.

 

Step 1: Make Sure Everyone Knows What They’re Doing (Competence)

 

What It Is: Competence is the ability to do something efficiently and successfully. It includes hard skills, such as technical knowledge (the ability to create and deliver a product or service), and soft skills, such as social knowledge (understanding people and team environments). In short, competent people are “good at their job.”

How You Know It’s Missing: In many ways, competence is often the easiest to assess, as people either possess the necessary skills to execute their jobs or don’t. However, poor performance is not always a direct result of incompetence, as other factors may be at play. Someone may know how to get the job done but lack the capacity due to many factors, such as having too many tasks, personal stress, or not being given the proper tools to succeed. Determining which factor may be at play as a leader prevents acting on faulty assumptions.

What To Do About It

Provide targeted feedback. To give effective feedback, you must first clarify what “good” looks like. This might be a job description or a conversation at the beginning of a project to clarify expectations for each team member. Establishing that benchmark first allows you to provide targeted feedback by comparing actual performance to already agreed-upon expectations. Once you understand the gap between performance and expectations, you can work with your team members to develop an improvement plan.

Ask questions and coach. The best way to change someone’s behaviours is not to tell them the answers but to ask questions that help them find the answers themselves. Try asking a struggling team member: “I saw x and y this week, and I am concerned; can you tell me what’s going on?” and “What do you think should happen next, and how can I support you?” Asking – rather than simply directing – empowers your people to act and builds a relationship of mutual respect.

The Six Questions You Must Ask To Be A Better Coach

Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and openly share that information with others. Demonstrating self-awareness regarding your skills will give others confidence that you understand your limitations and the value you can add to the team. Then, proactively take steps to mitigate those limitations, either through personal development (training, mentoring, practice) or procuring the support of others who can ensure no balls are dropped.

 

Step 2: Build your Team into a Community (Benevolence)

 

What It Is: Benevolence is the quality of being well-meaning and the degree to which you have others’ interests at heart. Benevolent people care about others. The more a teammate can demonstrate the motivation to serve others or the team, the greater trust is built.

How You Know It’s Missing: A lack of benevolence can show up as siloes, where people consistently choose themselves and their team over others. Other subtle ways include team meetings where people may respond to others with what seems like agreement before following up with “but,” interrupting speakers or ignoring requests for help.

Read more about how one word can impact your culture 

What To Do About It: Avoid judgment when you notice a lack of benevolence. Every person believes they’re doing the right thing under the circumstances. So, leaders should understand why they took a particular action that appeared self-serving. Techniques to improve benevolence include:

Active listening helps demonstrate that you’re paying attention, wish to understand someone else, and care about their answers and, by extension, them as a person. Active listening can be broken into three subskills, all of which you can start implementing today to understand your people better:

    • Paraphrasing- Restate what the person said in your own words.
      “Let me say that back to you to make sure I understand…”
    • Labelling- Identify the emotion being shown by your team member
      “Seems like that is frustrating.” or “Sounds like that made you angry.”
    • Mirroring- Ask someone to explain what they mean by certain words or phrases: “I just don’t understand what they think they’re doing. It’s so confusing.” Or, “What do you mean by confusing?”

Get your copy of the 27 open-ended questions ‘cheat sheet’

Ask for help when you need it. As a leader, your willingness to share and request assistance sets an example for others to follow and signals to everyone that this is where we help each other. First, start with small tasks that may not take much time but might make a considerable difference in freeing up your capacity. Be sure to recognize and thank those who step up to help.

Step 3: Build Consistency Into People and Processes (Reliability)

What It Is: Reliability is the ability to be dependable and behave consistently. Reliable people do what they say they will.

How You Know It’s Missing: The easiest way to know reliability is lacking is when timelines are not respected. However, a lack of reliability can also manifest in other ways, including treating others inconsistently (showing favouritism or being particularly hard on someone) or being hypocritical in asking people to do something they wouldn’t do themselves.

What To Do About It: Reliability begins with accountability and transparency.

    • If someone is not delivering what they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to, explicitly have that conversation about expectations and consequences. By mutually agreeing on objectives, responsibilities, and expectations and putting them down in writing, you now have a vehicle to hold people accountable for something they decide to own. If they need more support, create frequent check-ins, but lessen the oversight as they develop a proven track record of delivering.
    • Create transparency in what decisions are being made and why. Any time a request is made, it includes an explanation of the ultimate objective to help people understand why they are being asked to do something. That deeper understanding lets individuals know where/how to deviate from the project should circumstances change. People like having reasons, so give them the ‘because’ behind a request so they can figure out what the team needs without being asked.

Learn more about better results through communications

Unfortunately, these actions will only change your teams’ trust after some time.

Trust is hard to build and happens slowly, so it is essential to start now.

And even if the returns of these actions are down the line, there are slow, smooth actions that you can implement today that build the capacity for fast action when needed most.

 

The 7 Hidden Reasons Your Employees Leave You

In The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, employee-retention expert Leigh Branham discusses how companies can tackle employee disengagement and retain their best and brightest people.

Nearly 90% of bosses think their employees quit to make more money.

That means nearly 90% of bosses are wrong.

Studies show these are the seven “real” reasons that retention isn’t better:

Ask HR people about their top issue, which will likely be retention. That’s no surprise. The cost in dollars and disruption of replacing a trained employee is enormous.

What is surprising is how much employers misunderstand why their people leave; author Leigh Branham, SPHR, explains that this misunderstanding is evident in one astonishing statistical comparison:

–Employers who think their people leave for more money: 89%

–Employees who do leave for more money: 12%

The latter result, says Branham, founder of retention consultant KeepingthePeople, Inc., comes from a study of 19,700 post-exit interviews done by the Saratoga Institute, an independent research group. The data identified seven “hidden reasons” employees resign. Here are those reasons, along with Branham’s antidote for each:

1) Job not as expected. This is a prime reason for early departures. Branham’s answer: “Give a realistic job preview to every candidate.”

2) The job doesn’t fit my talents and interests. Branham attributes this to hiring too quickly and advises employers to “hire for fit. Match their talents to your needs.”

3) Little or no feedback/coaching. Today’s employees, especially younger workers, want “feedback whenever I want it, at the touch of a button.” Give it honestly and often, says Branham, and you’ll get job commitment, not just compliance.

Read to get six great coaching questions.

4) No hope for career growth. The antidote: Provide self-management tools and training.

5) Feel devalued and unrecognized. Money issues appear here, says Branham, but the category also includes even more employees who complained that no one ever said ‘thanks’ on the job or listened to what they had to say. Address the compensation issue with a fair and understandable system, says Branham. Then listen – and respond – to employee input. “Also, ask yourself ‘how many of my employees get too much recognition?'” 

Read about Attila The Hun & Recognition

6) Feel overworked and stressed out. Branham says this comes from insufficient respect in the organization for employees’ life/work balance. Recommended: Institute a “culture of giving” that meets employees’ total needs.

7) Lack of trust or confidence in leaders. Leaders have to understand that they’re there to serve employees’ needs, says Branham, not the other way around. Develop leaders who care about and nurture their workers; trust and confidence will also develop.

Read about trust and high performance.

How significant is the payoff for companies that follow these guidelines?

Branham looks to Fortune’s “Great Places to Work” list, where, he says, companies apply these principles: “While the average S&P 500 company grew 25 percent,” he reports, “these companies grew an average of 133 percent. It pays to treat people right.”

Why not join us on March 28th for a fantastic Better Leader session?

We will be joined by a Guest Speaker who is a great friend of StevenArmstrong.ca and a professional leadership recruiter to answer all your questions.

Register Here

Does Your Team Have an Accountability Problem?


“We need to hold people more accountable.”

How many times have you said this in the past year? When things aren’t going well — maybe your numbers are down, you haven’t met your goals, or your pipeline is dry — it’s easy to turn to this familiar mantra.

But when you say it, your team members hear: “You are letting me down,” or, “We are failing.” Instead of lighting an inspired fire under people, you can deflate them.

While there will undoubtedly be times when your team could put in a more focused effort, in my experience, a “lack of accountability” often results from an underlying issue, such as unclear roles and responsibilities, limited resources, a poor strategy, or unrealistic goals. This is why leaders who default to a plea for accountability often hit a wall and feel even more frustrated.

Further, verbalizing that there is “a lack of accountability” on your team can quickly come off as threatening or condescending to people on the receiving end. This is hardly productive when trying to inspire change; more importantly, it doesn’t help you get to the root of the problem.

When you need to push those around you to get better results (that’s what you are looking for), a better approach is to tackle the issue with a leadership mindset. Use the following steps to guide yourself on how to start the conversation, identify the real problem, and execute a plan to help you solve it.

Check in with yourself first. 

Instead of asking, “Why aren’t they doing their part?” ask, “Is there anything I can do differently to help?”

While you should avoid feeling compelled to complete someone else’s work, it is beneficial to consider whether gaps in communication, process or other areas are setting you both back.

Before even approaching the other person, consider the following:

  • Have I been transparent about my expectations?
  • Have I asked what I can do to help?
  • Have I taken time to brainstorm and review processes?
  • Have I built a plan of action with my team members?

Self-awareness is a leadership superpower, and reflecting this way may help you recognize any unhelpful patterns you can fall into.

Another tip for increasing self-awareness is to pay attention to what’s happening in your body.

Do you feel tense when considering this discussion with your team member? Do you clench your jaw, fidget, pace, bounce your leg, change your facial affect, talk more, or shut down?

Work to shift your mindset from a place of hostility to a place of curiosity about how you can help.

Create a safe environment for the other person. 

Once you’ve set up time to talk, begin the conversation by asking fact-based questions. For example, if your team member is constantly missing deadlines, you could start by saying, “I’ve noticed that you seem to need a little more time to get the work done lately.”

If a team member has failed to reach their quarterly goals, you could say something as simple as, “How do you feel your work has been going this quarter?” and gauge their initial reaction.

Provide specific examples, then ask, “What can we do to help you get back on track?”

Avoid jumping directly into critical feedback or using judgmental language such as, “Why would you…”, “You should have…” or “That’s wrong.” It helps to assume positive intent in the other person. The goal here is to listen and to remain genuinely open to their “take” on things.

By listening, paying attention, and understanding the needs and motivations of the other person, you may discover that they are not “lazy,” “incapable,” or “unreliable,” but rather, that they are unclear on organizational goals. You may discover that they need more feedback to do their best work or that other obstacles are holding them back. While none entirely excuse a lack of initiative or follow-through, understanding the underlying issues can give you a clear idea about how to move forward.

Ensure there is clarity and a mutual agreement on moving forward. 

Now that you have identified any underlying issues, it’s time to clarify that your intention in starting this conversation is to address the core of the problem and agree upon a path forward (considering any new information you have just been given).

Whether your goal is to help a direct report meet deadlines or to collaborate more effectively with a team member on a project, it’s vital to make sure that you both understand what the issue is, how to address it, what success looks like, what needs to be done, by who, and by when to achieve it.

Next, directly own and express your frustration with what you see to be the problem. For example, you might say, “I know you are not intentionally missing deadlines, and now I have a clearer understanding of everything on your plate. But when you do miss deadlines, the result is that I have to take on your unfinished work, which causes me to get behind on my projects. I often feel frustrated by this.”

Finally, ask if the other person would be open to trying new strategies to address the issue. A better approach may be, “Based on our conversation, let’s try to agree to a mutual set of objectives and then brainstorm how we might develop a strategy to achieving those goals. “

In all cases, seek to demonstrate empathy and work towards a mutual commitment around a goal. From there, you can brainstorm and agree on some concrete next steps.

Regularly track and measure progress. 

You’ve heard of the importance of leaving a paper trail. The lesson is the same, but we don’t use paper often. Ensure you get the agreed-upon plan in writing so it can be revisited if there are any questions about what was initially decided. Don’t just set it and forget it. Determine what communication tools you will use to check in on progress.

The above documents will help you identify what’s working and what’s not over some time, as well as course-correct as needed.

Pleading for more accountability isn’t the answer to your problem.

Anyone can express frustration around an issue, but those who harness self-awareness and empathy find practical solutions and build winning teams and colleagues for life. If you want to be a next-level leader or peer, one that people want to work with, shift your mindset and practice these five steps. You’ll drive better results, more impactful change, and reduce frustration.

What Are The 8 Hot Leadership Questions I Have Been Asked In 2023, And How Will They Shake Your Leadership?

According to my consulting, speaking and coaching clients, the coming year will challenge leaders and employees to find balance and a new purpose at work.

Companies everywhere have been struggling to find top talent.  Yet when they do hire quality employees, they often don’t prioritize career growth or flexibility to nurture and retain their talent for the long run.

A lot has changed over the past few years in the face of challenging world events, including the hot leadership topics and workforce trends that companies must stay ahead of to retain top talent.

1.  How do I create positive work cultures?

Work culture has taken its biggest hit in decades.  With more employees dispersed than ever, workplaces traditionally in person see their talent drawn to greener pastures.  There’s a risk of toxic “bubbles” building within companies that don’t appear to offer all their people the same flexibility consistently and fairly.

According to the Leaders I work with, workplaces will continue to become more diverse, flexible, dispersed, and challenging.  As a result, leaders will play a more vital role in creating positive and magnetic work cultures for their teams.  More inclusive and empathetic leaders can prevent toxic cultures from emerging and better foster and sustain the positive work connections that help retain key talent.

2.  How do I move to real commitment?

All the changes in the world outside of work have fueled a strong desire from employees to see companies commit to new ways of doing things.  Employees and consumers are voicing a stronger desire to see companies embrace changes to address significant challenges in business and society.

How can companies find the best path to success while growing a talented workforce that wants to stay with them through challenges?

Will more companies come to adopt a 4-day work week?  There are strong signals that a reduced work schedule may better meet the needs of the modern workforce.  However, when companies decide to move forward, they must understand that people want to see real change, not return to the old way of doing things.

3.  Management—the burden fewer want to bear

A growing sense of crisis and change fatigue has been sinking in for leaders, many of whom have been overwhelmed by talent losses amidst rising inflation and hiring costs.  As a result, companies are seeing an increased risk to their most critical talent pool that can’t be satisfied only by increased pay.

Considering how crucial frontline leadership will be to retaining all their other talent, companies must quickly prioritize leadership development and support before they take on critical losses at higher levels.  This may mean extending leave time and other benefits to reduce the growing risk of burnout for leaders, who historically have been rewarded by bonuses alone.

4.  Hybrid and remote teams seek stronger connections.

It’s lonely out there for many workers, especially those who are hybrid and don’t find connections as meaningful as companies might expect.  According to a recent study on work loneliness, building lasting relationships isn’t about how much in-person time people are exposed to but about the closeness, security, and support they get in their interpersonal relationships.  This means that even an in-person or hybrid work environment could fulfill the interpersonal needs of only some and not others.

How employees connect matters more than where they connect, so developing leaders with more effective interpersonal skills will help foster stronger team connections, no matter where they work.

5.  How do I shift from “Great Resignation” to “Great Retention.”

As companies face the reality of operating in leaner, more expensive times, they have a greater need for retaining top talent.  No matter what the buzzword du jour (and there have been a lot of them this year), it’s clear there are immense pressures to find and keep their best people.  For many, this leads to a sharper focus on identifying high-potential talent and finding ways to mobilize and share their skills internally.

6.  Soft skills rise to the forefront of leadership.

Influencers’ mentions of the leadership skills most needed in the workplace this year focused on critical interpersonal skills (e.g., empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, influence, etc.).  Although they have always been important, these skills have gained attention as the workforce has had to confront increasing change and crisis after crisis.

Leaders have had to navigate more human and personal discussions with their teams, which can be challenging if power skills aren’t equipped.  Leaders will need to continue to develop these skills to manage teams well.  Leaders with stronger interpersonal skills will continue to be vital in helping teams manage the changes ahead, especially when building stronger relationships in hybrid and remote teams.

7.  The new employee learning imperative

Accessibility is quickly becoming an imperative in employee learning and development.  Employees want to learn to grow their careers, which is critical to retaining talent.  So, companies must be able to deliver quality learning experiences to employees anywhere—whether they are in person, hybrid, or remote.

Since employee learning starts the moment they onboard a new company, their impressions about what learning quality they will receive can quickly take shape, not to mention their beliefs of what kind of place it will be like to work at.  As companies grow more flexible and dispersed, so must their learning experiences.  To better meet employees’ needs for flexibility, companies must provide great employee experiences that are equally accessible.

These seven questions prove we are not returning to “normal.”

So, we are all faced with the question: “Where do I place my bets?” 

I want you to place your bet On Your People.

There is no better bet at this time.

If you’d like to have a quick conversation with me about how betting on yourself can yield massive returns, here is the link to my schedule.  I look forward to it.

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