As we head into 2021, many of us are ready to say adiós to 2020 with renewed hope and promise for the new year. This has certainly been one of the strangest times most of us have ever lived through, and we’ve all faced challenges and turmoil few of us ever expected to face. As we look to escape this unbelievable era, many of us are planning resolutions for both our personal and professional development. Given the events and the changes we’ve all experienced, it stands to reason that our growth as individuals and ability to become a better leader has never been more relevant or more significant than it will be this upcoming year.
There’s nothing wrong with the typical “I need to work out more” and “I need to eat better” resolutions, but sometimes we get lost in those personal goals and lose sight of our professional development. Becoming a better leader, for example, should be at the top of every business professional’s to-do list. Improving your ability to lead increases your value to your company, makes you more money, helps you find new success within the role at your company. Your leadership will make you more well-liked and respected, it will lift those around you, and make you a better person.
So, we thought it would be fun to do a top-10 countdown of the most important things you can do to become a better leader…
#10 Take care of yourself first
It may seem counterproductive to take care of yourself before taking care of your employees, but as many have said, you can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself. Just like on an airplane, the flight attendant tells you to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. Leadership is no different. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be in the right position or the right frame of mind to take care of your employees. Plus, employees look up to their leaders, and if they see you practicing good self care, they will be more likely to practice good habits as well.
#9 Be visible
Becoming a leader from behind the curtain is much more difficult than changing hearts and minds of people in the public eye. Constantly communicating with those above and below you in the organization will characterize you as likeable, approachable, and demonstrate a legitimate desire to help people. Increased visibility also comes with the obvious bonus of raising your profile at the same time. All of these are imperative for great leadership.
#8 Seek to understand differences of opinion
Don’t assume you understand someone just because of what they believe. It’s far more important to understand why people believe what they do, and being open to new ideas and alternative points of view can help you become a better leader. There are many emotionally charged topics floating around in today’s workplace. The best way to become a leader is not to win an argument, it’s to understand another person’s perspective and help them understand yours. Approaching conflict with this in mind will help you gain respect and credibility with those you interact with.
#7 Keep your workforce informed
Rather than setting ultimatums for employees, help them reach their own conclusions by providing them with respected, unbiased, non-politicized resources. We will all be faced with some major decisions in the near future. Whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, for example. Instead of mandating that employees get the vaccine, provide them with appropriate resources so they can make an informed decision for themselves. Set company goals (such as having a percentage of your workplace be vaccinated) and help them understand why these goals are important and how they will affect their day to day lives. Informing your employees will always be more effective than setting authoritarian rules that everyone, like it or not, is forced to follow.
#6 Help employees work better from-home
If your workforce is staying with the work-from-home approach for the foreseeable future, there are some steps you can take to support employees, improve their morale, and make them more productive. At home, your employees likely don’t have the same access to equipment, space, and even office decor as they do in the office. Collaboration, in particular, has been a new challenge that many companies have had to address. You need to ensure all of your employees have everything they need to work efficiently and effectively out of the office. If your business is downsizing and saving money on office space, consider reinvesting some of those funds to help your employees work more effectively from home. You can offer work-from-home employees some money to help furnish their home office space so it can work for them.
#5 Zoom out to see the big picture
Whether you are a department manager or the CEO, it’s easy to get lost in the issues that you deal with everyday. Make an effort to constantly zoom out to see things from the 30,000 ft level. You will gain perspective about what’s most important for your company, and it will help you find clarity on how you can be of the more value to your employees — both of which will make you a better leader.
#4 Encourage free and open discussions
Establish ways for your employees to tell you what’s bothering them while remaining professional and respectful. Engaging your employees by using focus groups, one-on-one sessions, and small group meetings can help you gain an understanding of how your employees are doing. These discussions can also be invaluable in gaining feedback on your own leadership efforts.
#3 When it comes to health and safety, lead by example
Show your employees how the workplace should operate when it comes to health and safety. Wear your mask when around others, and make sure it’s public knowledge to your employees when you get the vaccine. Keep your workspace clean, practice appropriate safety measures, and encourage your employees to do the same. When you lead by example, your employees will follow.
#2 Make engagement the norm
You can’t make a difference if you don’t know who needs help. Engaging with employees company-wide through an employee engagement survey can help you focus on issues that are bubbling beneath the surface before they spread out of control. Solving problems in the workforce can be a complex task on it’s own, but identifying the root causes of those problems and understanding what the expectations are can greatly simplify those into very minor issues which are often easily solved.
#1 Be positive
A good attitude is infectious. More people will want to be around you and listen to what you have to say if you are optimistic about what you want to accomplish. Share your excitement about your organization’s achievements on both the professional level and personal level. Share in your employees’ personal wins just as much as their professional wins. Showing positivity and encouragement has always been, and always will be, the biggest way to show support for your workforce, and lead them into whatever’s next.
We know that becoming a better leader and taking all of these steps is easier said than done. If you need some guidance on improving your leadership skills and bettering your workforce in the new year, schedule a consultation or simply ask an HR question! We’re always here to help.
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