These are challenging times for any manager with disruption and uncertainty. In some cases even a question mark over the viability of the company going forward. This uncertainty is going to continue in the short to medium term and managers at every level will be challenged to develop contingency plans, rethink objectives, and adapt to the new circumstances while providing direction and support for their teams.
These are testing times for the organizational culture. You will find out how robust it is and how well embedded the espoused the values and behaviours are. Management research and literature advises that a leadership coaching culture is the most appropriate for creating engaged employees who can take responsibility and adapt to the need for sudden change.
How prevalent are coaching leadership cultures?
Recent surveys would suggest that there is still significant work to do. Here are some findings from Gallup:
• State of the Global Workplace - 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job. (Gallup 2017)
• Leaders need to understand and improve the manager experience at their company. (Gallup 2019)
• Managers report being less clear about expectations and experiencing more stress than those they manage. (Gallup 2019)
• The 21st century workforce expects to have a manager who coaches them based on their strengths (Gallup 2019)
• Considering managers have high influence on their teams -- they account for at least 70% of the variance in team engagement -- their own experiences with your company can affect your entire workforce. (Gallup 2019)
First line and middle level leaders have a critical role to play in facilitating and sustaining engagement and performance and leading their teams through change and disruption.
What is needed to provide clarity to leaders throughout the organization?
These are the steps which are needed to provide clarity. It can be used as a template to ask yourself is your organization doing them and how well are they doing them?
- Define the behaviour and culture we consider is needed to maintain and expand our business success. This is the starting point. Have we a clear understanding of what we want our culture to be? Most companies have this. A follow up question is how well is it lived in practice? Have we tested or researched that? There are many tools we can use such as the Barrett Model™ to do so. An important additional question, generated by the covid19 pandemic, does our definition provide the culture we need to face disruption and rapid change?
- We develop and consistently communicate a clear message of the desired culture and behaviour. A key question is are we communicating enough?
- Senior management works as a team to role model, champion and coach the appropriate leadership behaviour with their direct reports and their organisations. Does our senior team do this consistently?
- Leaders at all levels are developed to be equipped to apply the desired behaviours and create the desired culture throughout the organization. And as we have seen middle level and first line leaders have a key role in ensuring the employee experience is consistent with the behaviours and culture. Have we equipped our first line and middle leaders?
How do we equip our first line and middle level leaders?
We have a significant experience in doing this with global and international companies. There are two key elements:
• What content?
• How is it best deployed to facilitate learning for the target leaders?
Yes of course a key element of the content is the leadership model or behaviour that encapsulates the desired culture. Then fundamental skills are important – communication, feedback, delegation, etc. Managing change and leading people through change has also become standard.
An underlying theme and constant message going through all learning experiences is the importance of self-awareness and self-development. If the skill sets are to be transferred effectively into practice then each individual requires to gain an objective view of their current strengths and areas for development. They also have to maintain a mindset of personal growth and development.
In addition two additional skill sets that are now critically important and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future are resilience and being able to adapt to change.
How best to deploy?
In order to determine this the participants and their context needs to be considered. There are multiplicity of options and the program leader needs to determine what will work given the unique circumstances of the specific target group. The options include:
• The traditional face to face classroom environment where one can work with people out of their work context.
• On line workshops where the individual may or may not be out of their normal work context.
• E learning or digital learning where the participant is following a self-paced or potentially group paced self-study process.
• Micro learning where the participant is exposed to 10 minute burst of learning on a specific issue, skill or topic.
Each of these have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the objectives of the learning. Some resistance to on line learning has been challenged by the covid 19 pandemic reality and people have discovered some unexpected advantages. Cost and budget also plays a role in determining what is feasible to do. The ideal is a blend that leverages the advantages of each means of deployment and creates a learning experience which delivers on the objectives.