What executives can do better in 2022
Many people find themselves pondering ways of self-improvement at the turn of the year: giving up smoking, getting fitter, or cutting down on sweets are often found on people’s lists. And for a good reason: a fresh new year comes with a surge of motivation to make a change for the better and get rid of old habits. Also managers will benefit from riding this wave of the first days of a new year to make resolutions for upping their leadership practice. Prof. Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, has compiled her personal best-of list of leadership resolutions for all those still in need of inspiration and out-of-the-box ideas.
Promoting your team members’ skills counts among the key responsibilities of managers. Next time you catch yourself trying to solve somebody else’s problem, pause and then consciously turn the situation into a learning opportunity: clearly define your expectations and everyone’s responsibilities and give your team the tools it will need to solve the problem itself. Ask specific questions to support your staff to come up with a creative solution. This way, they will continue to develop instead of leaning back and waiting for somebody to hand them ready-made solutions. After all, it’s your job to build a team that is also able to work without your input.
Flexibility might mean different things for different people. As a rule, hybrid work is not so much about defining the number of days per week that an employee must spend at the office but about giving them the freedom to decide for themselves when and where they can do their work best. A good way to achieve this is by jointly deciding on a set of basic rules and leaving the details to your team members. You could, for instance, jointly draw up a list of tasks that are most effectively completed at the office and another one for the assignments that are particularly suitable for telework. To ensure that the organization really benefits from granting employees this kind of autonomy, all staff members must be furnished with all the equipment they need to work effectively from wherever they are.
The world is no longer just changing. Today’s evolution is best described as VUCADD: things are volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, dynamic, and diverse – all at the same time. The resulting challenge for companies is to prevail and succeed in a constantly evolving environment. And as a manager, it’s your job to make this possible. To live up to this responsibility, you must offer a different view of things to your staff: a perspective from which any change, good or bad, small or big, is an opportunity for growth and improvement. You must also, together with your team, take a look at what kinds of changes are most strongly affecting your business. In doing so, always keep an eye on things that have worked well despite volatile circumstances and why that has been the case. Another prudent thing to do is to appoint a person in your company to do the cross-functional job of making the whole organization fit for a future marked by uncertainty and change.
Many managers still believe that there is such a thing as the perfect candidate for a given job. This might be the case in some situations but not in others. Particularly, when you seek to build a heterogeneous team, you will be well advised to consider applicants with unconventional backgrounds. Keep your eyes peeled for such applications when you are looking to staff a position and focus on the overall impression instead of zooming in on particular skills, degrees, or professional experience. In interviews, find out about candidates’ skills rather than their past achievements. Don’t be awestruck by an impressive CV but also consider items unrelated to work, such as volunteer work or a wide array of hobbies. Often, such things reveal more about a person than their CV.
How does your team work? Do they constantly approach you with rather insignificant questions? If so, this would be a strong indication that they feel unprepared to make decisions themselves. But you don’t have to accept that: in your next meeting with your team, remind them that an open-door policy does not mean that they can interrupt you whenever they wish. Agree on a way that clearly communicates that you don’t want to be disturbed. And, most importantly, encourage your employees to do the same. Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and which kinds of decisions they can – and are expected to – make themselves. In this connection, it’s also important to remind everyone that it’s okay to make mistakes. When something goes wrong, analyze the situation together with your team members to figure out the lesson to be learned. Also motivate them to be more courageous in their decision-making. This will strengthen their autonomy.
In times as unpredictable as today, it can be tough to stay focused and motivated. The following rules will make it easier for you: Firstly, be an optimist. Believe that everything will turn out fine in the end even if you can’t see how at the moment. Such a mindset will help you stay motivated even after suffering setbacks. Secondly, remind yourself of the purpose of your actions and take the time to reflect on why you are pursuing your goals in the first place. And thirdly, be transparent and honest when you communicate with your team. Have a daily conversation with them on what works well and what doesn’t. Such exchanges are incredibly important to get the whole team through difficult phases.
We’re probably all guilty as charged: putting things off when we know we shouldn’t. Even though we know it won’t save us time in the end, it sometimes takes us ages to get started on an (often important and very complex) project. The following strategies will help you procrastinate less when pursuing your goals: For one thing, get a coach or mentor. Having somebody by your side to advise and cheer you on can make all the difference. For another, set concrete deadlines that are not too ambitious. Small goals that are achievable in the medium term will help you create and maintain a positive dynamic. And finally, don’t tie your goals to a select number of happenings occurring only annually, such as a successful transformation to digital business models or a presentation at an important international conference. A more sustainable way is to look for opportunities to apply skills and positive habits you have adopted over the course of time as daily rituals that are part of your work routines.
It’s probably a shared feeling: it feels fantastic to do truly creative work – but this high often also comes with fear, doubt, and frustration. How can we deal with these (perfectly normal) feelings to ensure they don’t hamper our creativity? Don’t be afraid of tackling tasks head-on. Implementing creative ideas always comes with a certain risk. Get over your doubts by talking to people who you trust and admire for their competences. This will also boost your confidence regarding your own skills. Try to see setbacks as transient events that in most cases will open up new opportunities to do things better the next time around. And, last but not least, burn for what you do. As with most things in life, the right balance will do the trick: too much passion can stand in the way of critical thinking. Take regular breaks and get feedback from people around you to help you gauge whether you’re on the right track.
How you can become even better as a manager and how important good leadership is for navigating through times of crisis, you can learn in the Management and Leadership Programs of the WU Executive Academy.