Published for the International Institute of Directors and Managers, in this article Michelle explains why, during the pandemic, leaders and bosses need to innovate and manage a complex environment, making leadership more essential than ever.
With the current economic and pandemic challenges, leaders and bosses are needing to innovate and manage previously unseen complexities and uncertainties, making leadership more essential than ever.
A critical part of leadership is the relationship dynamic between employee and boss. Regardless of where you sit in the organisational hierarchy, you are likely to report to someone – be it the CEO or the Board – and that relationship impacts your productivity, satisfaction levels, wellbeing and career prospects either positively or negatively. It also affects the organisation’s culture, productivity and success.
Leading well isn’t easy; requiring a unique blend of skills, competencies and high self-awareness. Perhaps it is sadly not surprising then that the leadership scorecard has mixed results.
The Leadership Deficit
A Gallup report found that 82 percent of employees see their leaders as uninspiring, only 15 percent of employees are engaged at work, while another study found only one in three employees strongly agree that they trust the leadership of their organisation.
Research in Australia by the University of Wollongong found half of all employees will experience workplace bullying (including verbal abuse, humiliation, social isolation, withholding information and spreading rumours) during their careers.
It’s in everyone’s best interests for relationships at work to, well, work.
The employee-boss dynamic impacts workplace productivity and culture, and ultimately organisational outcomes. The Great Places to Work Institute found that trust between managers and employees is a defining characteristic of organisations listed in their annual ‘100 Best Companies to Work for’ list. Similarly, a study by Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at the London Business School, found that the top companies to work for increased their share value by 50 percent.
When employees are stressed, when leaders are leading badly, and when workplace cultures are toxic, everyone suffers.
The leader’s bad day at the office (even the home office) usually follows them home, impacting their home life, along with relationships and wellbeing. When the pressure gets too much, people become alienated and numb; they search for crutches, drinking too much, eating poorly, turning to substance abuse or other unhealthy behaviours to get them through.
People spend up to a third of their waking hours at work, so if they are working in an environment that impacts their health and wellbeing, this has flow-on effects for the wider community. Today, we face huge problems of social isolation and dislocation, which are sadly evidenced by the growing rise of mental health issues and suicide. While toxic workplaces aren’t the sole cause, there’s no doubt they are a contributory factor.
Bring out your best
In a nutshell, better bosses = happier and more engaged employees = happier and healthier workplaces = better performance (individually and collectively).
An exercise that helps to improve team dynamics is getting employees and staff to reflect on a time when they worked in a high-performing team. Whether it was from our professional or personal life, we all know what it feels like to work in a great environment.
When you are at your best, it feels good. You likely achieved something tremendous or felt valued for your contribution. When you respect your team, you work well together and achieve more than you could alone.
It’s simple. When you are happy at work, you get more done. You’re more focused and committed, which means fewer mistakes and better outcomes. The work environment is more stable. There’s less turnover and sick leave, less conflict and fewer behavioural challenges. When you’re happy, you are more creative and effective at solving problems. You are more resilient, more able to bounce back and deal with setbacks and conflict, even when what you are working on is challenging and complex.
As a leader, life is more comfortable and more enjoyable because you spend less time cleaning up messes, creating space for you to spend time working with people to help them achieve their goals and progress.
That’s when the real magic at work happens. When people are supported and able to bring their best self to work each day.