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Optimal Leadership Development In Challenging Times
Brian Steinberg, Director, Leadership Development, Kemper
Employees were struggling with the challenges of forced remote work and family disruption. Leaders needed extra support to help their employees remain engaged, successful, and productive. Once the initial emergency of getting people working from home passed, I had conversations and made observations about what support leaders needed. Post-Covid needs were remarkably similar to pre-Covid needs. Three themes emerged. Number three on the list was understanding the business and using that understanding to prioritize the work. Number two on the list was being a strong coach who gives meaningful and actionable feedback. Communicating with employees with a strong sense of empathy and emotional intelligence turned out to be number one.
Leaders need the grace to create an environment where these distractions are accepted and employees feel supported. Building the emotional intelligence required to do this takes practice and is best started by building self-awareness
Next, leaders need help to improve employee skills and drive performance. The key to this is the ability to give actionable feedback and hold strong coaching conversations. This is harder virtually than face-to-face. Helping them understand how to build trusting relationships while learning simple step-by-step processes to give feedback and coach is paramount.
Finally, we focus on prioritization. Leaders need stronger business acumen, an understanding of the drivers and metrics of their department’s function, and the ability to consider the implications of their decisions. Development in these areas will allow them to assist employees in evaluating which tasks are most important. During times of chaos, when employees are struggling to balance work and home lives, getting them to focus on high-value activities is a necessity.
Leaders are being asked to simplify and prioritize the work their employees are doing. You need to simplify the development you provide for those leaders. Focus on enhancing one of these skills at a time. Consider options like micro-learnings, short videos, podcasts, and audio books to build understanding. Leverage virtual classrooms for breakout rooms, discussion, networking, and peer support. With the number of distractions occurring, leaders need us to break their development into smaller, bite-sized, easily consumed segments that are easy to implement on the job.