I was recently asked to talk about Leadership In The New Normal. That phrase in itself is something we wouldn’t have used pre Covid-19, so it suggests that there is an understanding that things have changed forever since the world was hit by a pandemic.
I would argue that in many areas, not just leadership, and probably even more so in things like technology, the world was already changing. In fact it always has changed. Evolved. I believe that Covid-19 simply sped up some of those changes. That said, now we are in this ‘new normal’, what does it mean for our organisations? What does it mean for leadership?
In this post, I want to share 5 thoughts I have around the topic. My hope is that they help you, and more importantly, your teams and the people that make up those teams.
The difference between a leader and a manager
Leaders command respect, not demand it. Think back to your childhood. How many times did you hear words like ‘because I’m your mum, that’s why!’ or ‘you should respect your elders!’
These are phrases given out by managers, not leaders. They get buy in to the extent that people don’t want a ‘clip round the ear’, but that isn’t real buy in. People will go as far as they need to, to avoid pain to them, but not as far as they would go, to provide pleasure to you.
Leaders get far more out of their followers, than managers could ever get from the people they manage. But hears the kicker. It has to be genuine. Leaders are not leaders because they get more. They are leaders because they want to give more.
In the business world, times are rapidly changing. When there were few leaders and many managers, people had to put up with being managed. Now, more and more people will not stand for that anymore. They want to follow a leader and they have plenty of choice.
Aligned goals, not aligning them to your goals
Leaders are very precise in where they want to get to. They have clear goals and direction. They need others to help them get there, but of course, finding people that want to get on, and get off at exactly the same point is near impossible.
The choice is to manipulate people into following your vision, which I would suggest is management rather than leadership. Or, to find out their goals and look for the aligned goals you have.
Where there are no aligned goals, you need to be wise enough to see this, and agree that the match is not a good one for either party.
I remember hearing once, in relation to recruitment, that its better to have a hole, than an ass hole. I thought that sounds harsh! Then I realised, we create the latter when we try to fill vacancies without considering each other’s goals. We make good people look bad, just because we didn’t want a ‘hole’ and needed to fill a vacancy.
Help other to achieve their goals, and if they are aligned to yours, you will achieve your own in doing so.
The coaching mindset
Coaches of any team love to win matches. They want it just like the players, and yet, on the day of the match, they won’t appear on the pitch. They are on the sidelines. When a team is not performing well, we hear so many times that it is down to the coach or the ‘manager’.
It is our role as leaders to set our followers up for success. To give them everything we can to go out and smash it. When we stop looking at ourselves and start focusing on the team we have and what they need, things change.
I remember an Ops Manager coming in to one of my businesses. He interviewed all the staff and came out confused. He said, “every one of them would chop their right arm off for you. I’ve never seen that”. I quickly explained “that’s because they know I would chop mine off for them before they had the chance to”. It was true then, and it is true now with all my teams.
Do whatever you can for your team and they will do everything they can for you, and you can’t ask for more than everything they have.
Know what you really want?
Leaders are focused on outputs not inputs. Managers are all too often spotted by the way they focus on inputs.
I am sure this crazy practice still exists now, but it was probably more common years ago. The clocking in card! What a stupid concept. Why does anyone care how many minutes their team are ‘at’ work? This system was created and used by people that had no real understanding of what they really wanted.
If you spent time with any business, eventually you would get to the point where they saw the ‘output’ they wanted. Not a single business would say that they wanted ‘40 hours of work done by each employee’ for example. It would be ‘we want to produce x products per week. So then why create systems that ‘manage’ the input, when you really want systems (methodologies) that increase the output.
When you empower people to achieve the output you want, your team have ownership and are far more likely to want to exceed your outcome goals. If they don’t want to, then you should first look at whether you are leading or managing.
You are infectious, so be human, but be careful
The last thing your team need is to see the person they are following looking lost or concerned. But at the same time, they don’t need you to appear invincible and without fault. Your team need you to be human.
Whether you realise it or not, your team are watching you and picking up vibes from you all of the time. They can’t help it any more than you can. Put simply, you are infectious!
What this means is that you need to manage yourself, to help them manage their own self. Even the best leaders have fears and doubts. But it is how you respond to these feelings and manage your own mind that will have the biggest impact on those around you.
Be quick to get your own thinking clear, but don’t fake an impossible perfection. Your team will sense it and it won’t inspire them. Knowing that you are not perfect, but somehow stay on top of your own thoughts, allows them to know they can do the same.