Do your managers have the skills needed for fast-paced business world?
IT’S interesting how spring brings with it the urge to clean and refresh the environment around us. Some people eagerly look out at their garden and count the days until they can sift the soil between their fingers. Still others start pondering how soon they will need to take their old lawnmower apart and ensure it is up to this year’s work tasks. In the workplace, some folks use this time of year to clean out their desks and storage rooms and/or reorganize nearby shelving.
As well, with the start of the typical new business calendar year, some organizations also determine it’s time to review their organizational structure and clean up any areas of duplication and/ or redundancy through strategies often referred to as right sizing. However, shifting responsibility around through structural changes won’t address the question of whether the right people are in the right place at the right time. After all, with so many changes to our business work world, the skills and competencies needed to manage today and in the future are so different than in earlier times.
Unfortunately, to be honest, many managers have failed to keep up with the environmental work-related changes around them. They continue to operate in an outdated management style, their information technology skills are weak and they can’t relate to employees in a collaborative team approach. In addition, they can’t seem to envision a global perspective, but rather continue to stay in their narrow comfort zone.
Organizations, on the other hand, are just as guilty as they frequently fail to assess the capabilities of their managers as compared to the needs of a fast-paced global world. What’s the result? Those managers who don’t have the skills for today’s work challenges are dying an insidiously slow death and are dragging the organization down with them. When the situation is finally confronted, most often it is too late. Competitors will have taken over the market. Services or products will have become outdated and no longer relevant. Then, as you might expect, no customers or no clients mean no business and no organization.
So, what are the skills a strong leader requires in today’s competitive world? While there are multiple competencies to be developed, I believe the following four skills are absolutely critical.
Managing challenge, change and innovation — Today’s leaders need to have the capability and the stamina to continually challenge their vision, mission, goals and objectives and ensure that these meet their external environmental challenges. They also need to put strategies in place to continually challenge the way they do things and to make process improvement their operational mantra.
Dealing with ambiguity — Leading and managing in a fluid environment is difficult, especially when people prefer structure and stability. Today’s leader must be resourceful and be able to motivate their team to continue being productive while ambiguity is all around them. Keeping employees focused and committed to a powerful vision is key.
Coaching leadership style — Leadership has changed from a “top down, do as I say” approach to a coaching and collaborative relationship with employees. This style takes longer, but achieves more employee support and engagement. Leaders need to have excellent communication and relationship building skills to apply a coaching leadership style.
Technological competency — Let’s face it, there is no turning back. Our world relies on information technology. We love instant access and instant answers. We want to be in the know. Thus, leaders need to be extremely competent, not only at their own personal use of technology, but also at being able to envision how technology can take their organization to the leading edge. Then they must be decisive and act.
Yet, if these skills and competencies aren’t typically assessed through normal annual performance reviews, how can they be addressed? Thankfully, information technology provides a range of methods and tools that can be used to assess your current leadership. These assessment tools provide insight into the effectiveness of the leadership team and provide recommendations to support and to develop individuals. Several assessment tools also have the capability to provide comparisons between your leaders and regional or even global organizations.
However, once you are aware of the reality of your leadership deficits and gaps, what can you do? Bridging the leadership gaps requires both tactical and strategic approaches.
If time is on your side, a strong training and leadership development approach can be effective. This will require a five-to 10-year development strategy. Training should be focused on developing skills in strategic planning, coaching, mentoring and motivating staff. Depending on the size of your organization, consider developing a pool of employees for a variety of leadership roles. Rotate high performers into different roles within your organization. Consider “seconding” an employee to another organization to learn a specific skill. Financially support employees to develop their skills through external training programs focused on specific skills. Finally, develop a mentoring relationship throughout the workplace so that organizational history is effectively passed on to new and upcoming leaders.
However, in many cases, once a business situation becomes critical, time will not be on your side. The only solution here is to make a major change to your senior leadership team. This means bringing in a new leader and moving an unskilled senior leader or leaders out of the organization. Transitions such as this require careful planning that includes emotional support for remaining employees.
Keep in mind that while an individual may have been unskilled with respect to moving your organization forward, they still had relationships in the workplace and these must be addressed. Be sure to communicate to staff the rationale for the changes and give them hope for a future. Communicate with your vendors, customers or clients and assure them your organization is taking the reins of change and charging forward.
Spring is indeed a good time to explore how to refresh your organization, but this task is not as simple as making a quick structural change. Instead, all of your “cleaning” strategies and refreshment tactics must focus on aligning your goals and objectives for the future with building your employee capacity to move forward.