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Become the Leader of the Future By Doing These 6 Things

In our last blog we looked at how the worker of the future will need to grow and adapt to succeed in the new world of work. But what about their leaders? Doesn’t it make sense that their managers will need to grow and adapt right along with them and become leaders?

Yet in my experience managers, who all should be leaders of one sort or another, are often the slowest to respond to changes in employee behavior and culture! That’s why so much of my work is focused on helping the generations connect in the workplace – because many of the older generations still don’t “get” their millennial and Gen Z coworkers and employees!

But the younger generation isn’t going away and taking their new ideas about work with them – in fact, more than 35% and even closer to 50% of Americans in the workplace are millennials! So if you are a manager or boss with millennial and Gen Z employees, it is critical that you get this right with your team! You must master the following new leadership traits and immediately start putting them into practice so you can continue to crush the competition in the years to come:

 

Create Trust and Eradicate Mistrust

Bill Simmons, formerly of ESPN, famously remarked, “Leaders thrive when they feel creatively empowered, when they trust the people around them, when their confidence is swelling. Leaders make mistakes when they lose that same confidence, when they’re fretting about their power base, when they’re reacting instead of acting.” And while Simmons was talking about basketball, the point remains: great teams are built on trust. Period.

While trust is a two-way street, as a manager and leader it’s up to you to set the tone in the company. You need to consciously work to create trust so you can build authentic relationships with your people. If they don’t trust you, you’re going to have a hard time connecting. And if you can’t connect with them, you’re going to have a hard time trusting them in turn!

Employees, and especially younger employees, want to work where they feel valued and where they can trust the leadership of the people in charge. And leaders in turn want to feel like they have a solid team backing them up. Just as Bill Simmons has a great team of writers backing him up at the Bill Simmons Media Group, including many who followed him from ESPN.

Are you unknowingly breeding a culture of mistrust among your direct reports? Check out this list of The 25 Behaviors That Contribute to Mistrust and eradicate any that you’re guilty of. TODAY.

 

Give Real-Time, Real Deal Feedback

Your employees want to know you care. So ditch the annual review and make time to invest in them right in the moment and give them the feedback they crave. They want to know they’re doing a good job, but they also want to know if something needs to change.

Just be cautious of putting too much emphasis on the negative. Instead take a page from Tony Nicely, former CEO of Geico’s book: focus on your employee’s strengths and help build them up. In a 1992 article about Nicely, William Snyder, then the chairman and chief executive of Geico Corp, commented that, “He has a marvelous talent for dealing with people…he’s empathetic and he builds on people’s strengths rather than picking out their weaknesses.”

Always assume positive intent (API) when interacting with your people and help them be the best they can be! They have all have a story to share and they all want to connect, they just need you to show them how – remember there’s no school for becoming the worker of the future! And if you do need to have a tough conversation with them, use these tips:

  • Identify the problem
  • Attack the problem, not each other
  • Listen to, and acknowledge, others’ points of view
  • Focus on organizational goals and objectives
  • Listen as an ally to strategize for success

Focus on the Right Things

In the old world of work, an employee would be at their desk at 8:30am and stay until it was time to go home at 5pm. It didn’t matter if they finished all their work in an hour or it took them all day to do it. It also didn’t matter if the employee did their best work after 3pm. The work day was the work day and employees were expecting to be at their desk and “working”.

But as technology has evolved and allowed us to be increasingly connected, the idea that employees need to sit at their desk for a specified period of time has become less and less practical. So as managers, we need to shift our thinking to focus on the right things. Instead of worry about “how” things get done, we need to be looking at “what” is getting done. After all, an employee can sit down at their desk at 8:30am, turn in a mediocre report, and spend the rest of the day playing solitaire. Or they can spend all day doing the things they’re passionate about and turn in a rockstar report at 11pm when their creativity is at its peak.

In a memo to his team at Slack shortly before the preview release of the product, Stewart Butterfield said, “Life is too short to do mediocre work and it is definitely too short to build shitty things.” Don’t allow your employees and your company to fall into mediocrity by focusing on the wrong things. Make sure that what you’re measuring actually MATTERS!

 

Foster Open and Transparent Communication

Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, has often talked about the importance of communication in the workplace. She believes you “cannot over-invest in communication skills.” And of her own communication style, she had said, “I’m brutally honest. I always look at things from their point of view as well as mine.” But Nooyi’s not all talk: during her twelve-year tenure at Pepsi, the company’s sales grew by 80%!

The worker of the future needs you to communicate with them openly and authentically. To be brutally honest! The days of org charts and companies saying one thing to their customers and another thing to their employees is over. We are now too connected to ever treat our employees with anything other than radical honesty and to force them to follow a hierarchical structure of communication. And with our increased access to knowledge and learning through the Internet, we are ALL capable of coming up with and presenting new ideas that can change the direction of the company for the better.

 

Encourage Learning and Experimentation

Which brings me to my next point: as a manager in the new world of work you need to encourage your employees to learn and experiment and actually lead. ABL: Always Be Learning! With as much access as we have to information, if you as a manager rely only on your individual knowledge to make decisions for the team and company, you will be crushed by your competition.

You need to encourage your employees to learn and grow so that they can bring their ideas back to the company. We’ve previously written about Google, but it bears repeating again: Google has famously allowed its employees to devote 20% of their work time to passion projects related to the company. Whether or not 20% time is still practiced is up for debate, but what can’t be ignored is that 20% time brought two of Google’s best-loved products to life: Gmail and Adsense.

You must encourage your employees to learn and grow. With the world changing as fast as it is, to not allow space for new ideas to develop and emerge is a mistake. The fact is, your employees are often spending more face time with your customers than you are! They know exactly what your clients want so it’s time you listened to them!

 

Stop Trying to Control Everything and Everyone

Most managers love control. They want to control the company, its projects, and its people. They believe that if they can manage to hang onto everything, they will win in the long run.

But that just isn’t true. One, it’s incredibly exhausting. Two, it’s one of the behaviors that fosters mistrust in a team. And three, it doesn’t do the company any favors to have everything flow through such a narrow channel.

Instead, invest the time to train your people well and then trust them to do the job you’ve hired them to do. Yes, they’ll make mistakes and fall flat on their face occasionally. But you are not perfect either!

Just take a look at this story about Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. In a previous leadership role in the Human Resources department, she dramatically scaled-down the dress code policy to just two words: Dress Appropriately. When she got pushback from a manager, she suggested he talk with his team to work out a solution. And wouldn’t you know it, but the team came up with a great solution that didn’t involve needing to expand the dress code policy.

Trust your people. You hired them, you trained them, now go let them do their job!

 

If you’re struggling with any of the managerial behaviors on this list, please reach out to us at launchbox. Your company needs you to grow and adapt. So invest in yourself and become the manager of the future!

How to Become a True Leader of People

The meme below has been circulating on the internet for a while now and for good reason. In a single image, it illustrates the stark contrast between a boss and a leader.

leader vs. boss meme

The “boss” will look familiar to most people. Like a general in the army, a boss maintains order, doles out instructions, and punishes poor performance. A boss’ relationship with their people is colder; their staff function only out of a sense of duty, following the commands of someone else with more power.

But thanks to Millennials and their need for professional development and authentic relationships, the boss approach to management is slowly dying. In offices around the world, bosses are being replaced by leaders.

Leaders take a my-door-is-always-open to teach, help, guide, and learn approach to management. Being a leader is not about authority, but instead about support, empathy, and maybe even vulnerability. Mistakes and even failure are used as catalysts to teach and learn, staff receive consistent coaching and mentoring ala intentional feedback from their superiors on how they can improve, and workplace relationships are personal and genuine.

The difference between a boss and a leader is crucial. Being a boss may make some feel important, but young talent responds quickly by walking out of the door or giving only the minimal effort required to appease the boss in charge. Both are costly to organizations.

More motivated young talent, greater respect from colleagues, and improved performance for everyone comes with real leadership. I am sure that all sounds great. But how do you actually make the transition from being a boss to a leader?

Making the Transition from Boss to Leader

One of the most important things that we focus on in our workshops at launchbox is teaching people how to become their best self, focused on impacting others, or in other words, an awesome leader that everyone wants to work with. This is an intensive learning process, but there are a few things you can do right now to start making the transition yourself.

Become Self Aware and Realize Authoritarian Management is Temporary

In terms of management style, being an authoritarian hard-ass is the easy way out. It is all emotion, no thought, and it doesn’t require you to come up with any actual solutions or impact.

And that is why the leaders who are most effective, not just with Millennials but as managers in general, present themselves as supportive mentors and coaches to their younger staff instead.

Rather than yell, a leader walks their people through their mistakes, identifies ways they can improve, and helps support others while they try to turn their advice into tools for others’ actions. These are not moments for the leader to exercise power, they are teaching, learning and growing opportunities.

This approach is critical when working with Millennials. Millennials enter the workforce lacking key professional skills, but they are also incredibly eager to learn. The best leaders use that eagerness to their advantage, coaching and mentoring their young talent at every opportunity.

Provide Constant Feedback

The days of solely relying on a yearly performance review are over. In fact, even increasing to quarterly reviews will leave your younger talent feeling forgotten. To truly satisfy their need for feedback, leaders should be providing their Millennials feedback, on average, about once per day/month depending what is needed.  We call it “on-demand.”

That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind, Millennials are also not expecting full-blown official performance review meetings either, they just want I got your back “drive-bys” pardon the politically incorrect reference.

Instead, Millennials want regular, flash-feedback on their performance so they can be sure they are always working towards improving as professionals and are aligned with their leaders. Whether it is a 10-minute exchange on Slack or a cup of coffee on Monday morning, Millennials don’t need an official meeting. They just want to pick the brain of their leader to understand how they can improve and re-establish that both parties are humans trying to do the best job they can. And attain madass skills.

Inspire Through Authenticity

Why are Millennials more interested in what influencers on Instagram are wearing than what massive corporation is pushing via million dollar ad campaigns?

The answer is authenticity.

And authenticity is as critical for effectively leading Millennials as it is for getting them to buy your product.

Authentic leaders create real relationships with their staff. They share their personal story and they listen to the stories of their people. They develop relationships that go beyond the workplace. And they aren’t above letting their people know they appreciate their hard work.

The result is that authentic leaders and their followers begin to understand each other as people with a genuine connection. Their staff wants to do a good job not out of a sense of duty, but because they care about how their actions affect their colleagues and leaders. It becomes about helping people and working together to achieve goals as a team or contribution. And that intrinsic motivation is how you truly get the best out of people.

Becoming a true leader and leaving the boss behind is no easy task: it demands far higher emotional IQ, more depth of thought, learning, vulnerability, other focused disciplines, and more daily effort than being an authoritarian boss. However, those who can achieve the status of a true leader reap benefits that make all the extra effort worth it.