You might be forgiven for looking around and thinking that leadership is broken. Or maybe you’re finding the struggle to recruit, retain and reward the best people more challenging than ever.
Uncertainty is a key word right now.
Morale is dropping: whether because of underperformance, or managers putting up with low expectations, when decisions are made to cut costs which directly compete with peoples’ needs.
As quickly as the HR department issues policies to create more flexible workplaces, another department imposes rules that reduce choice.
Caught in the middle are leaders and managers trying to do a good job; to make others’ lives better, when promotion or pay rises are just not available to reward them.
Call me a wide-eyed optimist, but I do see hope on the horizon.
It starts with our own leadership.
Running our Communication Intelligence programme inside a large organisation last week, people were saying “I can do this, because it takes the weight off me”.
They were talking about shifting attitudes: from their own need to tell people what to do and how to do it, towards a bigger sense of responsibility in the whole team, through more intelligent conversations.
But it does mean looking at what we do leaders, as much as what others are doing or not doing.
Some managers are stuck in ‘parent/child’ relationships which create dependency; the boss feels the need to have all the answers; to tell people ‘how to do their job properly’. They like people coming to them for solutions.
You can see why. It provides a sense of power and the illusion of control.
The irony is that those same managers don’t like being told they’re not doing their job properly, when they’re prepared to say that to others.
Leaders tell me that the desire to retain control is their darkest secret, and one that they’re reluctant own up to.
There is good news, and it’s a leadership revolution.
In my experience, it’s that people simply need a wider range of conversations skills, and to improve their Communication Intelligence.
It’s more apparent at the moment because it’s the year-end, where those performance reviews need to happen quickly.
The leadership revolution simply shifts away from telling and controlling, towards trust and autonomy, through better, more intelligent, conversations.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean drop all controls. This is about adding a new tool to leadership toolkits, not throwing useful tools away.
Controls have their place, and so does this coach-like approach to leadership.
The Ignite programme we run for clients (part one of the Communication Intelligence Programme) has practical follow-up sessions, so that participants can share what works and where this approach can fit into their role.
So that performance conversations aren’t just an annual one-off, they’re part of a supportive, ongoing developmental style of leadership.
If you’d like to experience a bit of leadership positivity for yourself or a colleague, our next open programme is the 6th & 7th of March, simply contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.