With uncertainty around the future of work, in this article for CMO Australia, Michelle outlines how as a leader you are able to rebuild a culture of confidence.
Every day, there are new predictions and studies on the future of work, the state of the economy and the unfolding global pandemic. All of which creates uncertainty and heightens the imperative of effective leadership.
During such times, leaders are at the epicentre of the action, playing a critical role in problem-solving, managing stakeholders, balancing competing demands and inspiring confidence for their team members.
Psychologist and decision-making expert, Daniel Kahneman, found a strong expectation that leaders will be decisive and act quickly. He said, “We deeply want to be led by people who know what they’re doing and who don’t have to think about it too much.”
Build the foundation
Leaders should strive to establish a psychologically safe environment where team members can share what works for them and how they feel. As part of this process, ask questions, listen, gather input and facilitate open discussions with your team.
In such an environment, team members can be encouraged to embrace the uncertainty and see it as a challenge to solve, not a barrier to avoid. They can be supported to engage in spirited conversations. Spirited conversations create energy, spark new ideas, help people think more clearly about their position, and open the room to different solutions.
Over time, this creates team norms where ideas are shared and challenged to secure more robust decisions and effective outcomes.
Go for clarity
As the leader, set clear goals, responsibilities and ways of working with your team and have realistic expectations about workload and deadlines. Challenge yourself and consider: How are you creating clarity rather than confusion about work, deadlines, dependencies and challenges?
Leaders should strive to frame the work and ensure everyone in the team is on the same page. You want to establish common goals, clarity on challenges and expectations on dealing with failure and setbacks.
Reflect rather than ruminate
There are always times when things don’t go to plan. It might be a project behind schedule, a missed client deal or a calculation error in a report. The key is for you and your team to focus on reflecting rather than ruminating.
When we ruminate, we aren’t productive with our thoughts because our thinking process doesn’t reach a conclusion. When you reflect, you think about the situation, focus on uncovering what you have learned, how you were feeling and identifying what you and your team will do differently next time.
Build their capability
As the world changes, so too do the needs of your workforce. Across your team, identify the strengths and gaps against the required future capabilities and how those elements will either hinder or enable your progress.
Once you’ve identified those gaps, you can develop the capability program to close those gaps. The work program may include short courses, online discussion forums, leadership programs and other development activities for your team.
As part of this process, create opportunities for your team members to practice and embed their learning. For example, through on-the-job practice, volunteering, online demonstrations, or practising with a colleague. All of this increases their skills and builds their confidence.
Confidence isn’t hubris
Mark Twain wrote: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence and then success is sure.”
It’s critical to recognise there is a difference between confidence and hubris. A confident leader is open to debate and challenge and accepts it’s impossible to have all the answers. A leader with hubris digs in, doesn’t listen and lets their over-confidence negatively impact outcomes.
Consequently, leaders need to be clear on when to make decisions alone or when to collaborate. Never-ending collaboration and consultation can heighten uncertainty and confusion.
Making decisions alone doesn’t mean you don’t seek expert advice. It means you are clear on who has the accountability and authority to make the decision, and you know when to consult and engage and when to decide.