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Leadership in Times of Constant Workplace Changes

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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“Leadership” is now one of the most important verbs in the enterprise lexicon. Leaders were navigating the change and disruption brought about by digital transformation when the pandemic struck. There has been a state of constant flux in the enterprise narrative thereafter as we witness the rise of hybrid work along with trends like Great Resignation, silent quitting, and mass layovers across the world. 

Let’s take a look at a few of these trends:

Hybrid workplace – Ushering us into the Future of Work is the rise of the hybrid workplace. Organizational leaders have had to implement a hybrid work model strategically while balancing technology investments with cultural changes. Along with ensuring an enabling, collaborative, and uniform work environment, leaders have had to ensure that equity and opportunity remain uncompromised.

Great resignation – This trend saw a mass exodus of people from the workforce starting in the spring of 2021. According to reports more than 48 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, compelling leaders to take a close look at the influencers of employee loyalty, and changing demands of the workforce. 

Quiet Quitting – Quiet quitting is a trend that has been at work since 2020 and has been a major cause of concern for leaders globally. Quiet quitters continue to fulfill their primary responsibilities but are not engaged at work. They put no effort into their jobs than what’s absolutely necessary. The quiet quitters make up almost 50% of the workforce signaling the need to pay closer attention to employee needs and how managers and leaders are engaging with them. 

Mass layoffs – While 2022 marked the end of COVID restrictions, the ghost of the pandemic could be seen in the form of economic recession and mass layoffs. 2022 witnessed an avalanche of layoffs across the technology, retail, and finance sectors. 

Some of the reasons attributed to this were the war in Ukraine, the recession, and a general economic situation that compelled tech giants to move in this direction. However, with this move comes greater employee distrust and anxiety which automatically demands leaders to work on creating better psychological safety in the workplace. 

Battling the leadership challenge

The pace and complexity of change have been on the incline signaling changing expectations in the workplace. The pandemic, constant digital disruption, and economic upheaval have created the perfect storm that demands a paradigm shift in leadership strategies. As uncertainty becomes constant in the face of VUCA, leaders today must engage and motivate a hybrid workforce.

Most industries, even the traditional ones such as automotive, manufacturing, or pharmaceutical, are undergoing transformational change. Tighter regulatory enforcements, supply chain complexities, the push for new innovations, etc. are demanding organizations to become more change-agile. This puts immense pressure on the leadership and demands them to adopt new strategies to lead confidently and successfully. 

Leadership is seen as a position. It is, however, an action. And the time to show action in motion has never been more important than before. Some of the things that leaders need to focus on to drive influence in the workplace and lead to high performance and better business outcomes can be:

Building psychological safety in the workplace

This is by far the most important job of leaders across organizations, across the world, and across industries. Identifying the influencers of safety, whether it is providing a non-judgmental, empathetic, and enabling workplace, or creating skill and career development policies and strategies that show intentional organizational investment into employee success.

Leaders need to ensure that people can communicate freely without fear. Leaders as such, must be more connected to the minutiae of activities, create robust channels of feedback and provide non-judgmental and empathetic guidance when needed. 

Building authentic leadership

Leaders cannot build psychological safety in the workplace unless they engage authentically with their workforce. Leaders are in positions of influence and have a greater opportunity than ever before to create an ethos that promotes psychological safety and consequently, greater engagement. 

Leaders who display curiosity can be vulnerable and are open to seeking feedback, those who admit mistakes and listen actively will invariably generate greater trust. Leaders have to now set the standard by walking the talk, promoting a culture of inclusion and self-care, and challenging practices that minimize an employee’s sense of belonging and well-being in the workplace. 

Taking a behavioral approach to drive change 

Leaders have to lead their organizations through continuous and overlapping changes and develop change agility throughout the organization. They have to achieve this in a world where most strategic change initiatives fail to achieve their business objectives. The reason this occurs is that change agility demands a disciplined approach to changing behavior.

Leaders have to thus focus on creating and providing the right avenues to the employees, managers, and themselves to bring about the right behavioral focus needed to drive change. Context and relevance become important parameters here as without these, it is impossible to bring in the discretionary effort needed to drive a change in action. Leveraging data-backed strategies to identify skill gaps, especially in critical skills such as communication, EI, empathy, etc. becomes crucial to help people and leaders change and adapt to change. 

Build a connected leadership framework to drive influence 

Building influence in an increasingly connected world of work with a disparate and hybrid workforce is a tall order. Leaders have to influence without being authoritative. They have to guide without being overbearing. They must enable collaboration and innovation and drive organizational outcomes through positive influence. They must lead but must ensure that they can inspire trust more.

In these arduous times, they have to be the captain of their organization across stormy seas. Leaders have to now work towards developing authentic, connected leadership to successfully lead organizations and build high-performing teams that can drive organizational resilience. 

For this, organizations have to create a connected leadership framework that allows them to build leaders who are highly self-aware and emotionally intelligent. They can identify the challenges inhibiting teamwork and impeding team performance and develop essential skills of conflict management, building trust, and even change management to successfully lead hybrid teams. The framework helps leaders develop the skills needed to lead others effectively, empathetically, and contextually and build their inner resilience to augment and further organizational resilience. 

In a world of constant change, leadership now needs to inspire through purpose. Identifying and creating shared purpose, creating a culture of continuous learning, and building an inclusive and equitable workplace are key leadership priorities. 

As the rules of engagement and that of the workplace keep shifting constantly, leadership has no option but to get better at playing this game. What better than helping those in these roles with a connected leadership framework than creating an enabling, psychologically safe, inclusive, and equitable workplace where people grow and realize their full potential? Connect with us to see how we can help. 

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