Are your leaders holding your organization back?
Over the course of your career, you’ve likely worked with many different types of leaders, widely ranging in their effectiveness. In fact, studies show “Ineffective managers make up half of the organizational management pool.” Perhaps your leadership style was shaped by your experiences with those leaders, emulating their positive aspects and purposefully avoiding those characteristics you considered negative.
Now, as a Learning and Development professional, you’re responsible for designing leadership development programs that shape the leaders at your organization. Whether you’re focusing on developing high-potential employees for people management roles or nurturing the leadership skills of your senior managers, ensuring that your L&D program is successfully teaching effective leadership has a cascading effect across your entire organization.
While effective management in your organization can motivate and inspire employees, and leadership that is ineffective or unsupportive can demotivate employees, the impact of poor leadership can stretch even further than the manager-employee relationship. According to Gallup, “Managers are your front line against high employee turnover – and employee turnover costs.” When one employee leaves, the impact can ripple through your organization and:
- Increase likelihood of other employees leaving
- Increase risk of losing clients/customers
- Increase loss of relied upon institutional knowledge and experience
Managers who are unprepared or lack the skills necessary to lead a team are common, as KC George, a partner at Bain & Co. points out.
“This is a chronic issue where people are promoted into management roles but there is insufficient investment in training them to play the role well. George continues, “the teams underneath these ill prepared managers suffer the lack of people development and seek out alternative paths with better career development, either within the company or often outside,” she says.
Ensuring your leaders are effective people managers makes a big difference across your organization. Focus on:
Leaders Must Practice Empathy
Along with problem solving, empathy is one of the most important traits employees look for in a manager. According to one survey, “Employees whose manager is always willing to listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out. In other words, listening matters to employee retention.”
Empathy in the workplace is the ability to relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others, and it is a key trait that transformational leaders need to demonstrate with their team. Showing empathy comes naturally for some people, but for those it does not, studies show empathy can be learned if given enough time, support, coaching, and training.
As you consider the design of your leadership development program, ensure it incorporates opportunities to practice active listening and chances for team members to learn from others perspectives.
Vulnerability Sets Great Leaders Apart
As a leader, being vulnerable with your team can help earn their trust and buy-in. However, for many leaders, admitting challenges or a knowledge gap can be rather difficult. Research has shown that vulnerability is the root of social connection, and leaders have much to gain when they lead with it. Understanding what that means in a professional environment can help skeptical leaders overcome their aversion.
Vulnerability should not be confused with being weak or submissive. It is, in fact, the very opposite – it takes courage and strength. As researcher and vulnerability expert Brené Brown explains, being vulnerable in the workplace means “Replacing professional distance and cool with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” She goes on to provide some examples that include “Calling an employee or colleague whose child is not well, reaching out to someone who has just had a loss in their family, asking someone for help, or taking responsibility for something that went wrong at work.”
One key idea leaders need to understand about showing vulnerability with their teams is “Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability.” As your leaders are learning to flex their vulnerability muscles, they can practice ways to be vulnerable without disclosing very personal information or pieces of themselves they are not comfortable sharing.
Employees Appreciate Authenticity From Their Leaders
When high-potential employees transition to leadership roles, the ways in which they typically interact with their team members must shift. Despite some changes they may have to make, one thing that should not change is the ability to be their authentic self.
Data suggests that when a leader is thought to be projecting an image, their lack of authenticity is registered by those with whom they are interacting and can create an uncomfortable or unsettled feeling. Being an authentic leader has been proven to “yield more positive and constructive behavior in employees and greater feelings of hope and trust in both the leaders and the organization.”
Coaching Leaders To Be Effective Managers
Designing a leadership development program to help your leaders become more effective managers will have a significant impact on employees and your organization as a whole. In the 2022 Workplace Learning Report, employees cited internal mobility and career pathing as top motivators to learn.
While research supports the need for empathetic, vulnerable, authentic leaders, so too do the lessons learned from The Great Resignation. During this massive workplace shift, employees have not only placed a high value on their leaders exhibiting these traits, but also their organization championing a culture and environment that fosters them. Employees want to feel a connection with their leaders now more than ever, so creating learning opportunities for high-potential and senior leaders to build their people management skill sets should be at the top of every Learning & Development priority list.