Today’s leaders face a landscape like never before. Thanks to the events of the last few years, we are now working in a more flexible environment where remote working is common, teams are often distributed across geographies and the diverse make up of the workforce is more complex than it has ever been.
Managing teams in this environment is tough for even the most seasoned leader. However, quite often new managers are promoted into these positions with little training. Now more than ever, leaders need a development plan to ensure they are equipped with everything they need to lead in this complex environment.
But what skills do managers need today?
1. Flexibility and Adaptability
Being flexible is critical in the current climate. But it’s not just the ability to adapt to wider macro-economic trends that matters for managers today; flexing to suit new and emerging needs of the workforce is also key.
Staff turnover rates have been high since the Great Resignation began post-pandemic. And with skills shortages rife across the UK – and indeed the globe – leaders are going to face constantly shifting workforces. With this brings new challenges. Every time someone leaves a team or a new hire joins, the dynamic of the group and culture shifts.
Managers need to be able to not only adapt their leadership style to suit these changing requirements, but also need to be equipped with the tools to prevent such evolution from negatively impacting productivity, team cohesion and staff attrition rates.
2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence – or EQ – has grown in value for management teams for a few years now, and there’s a wealth of research into why this attribute is so important. The topic itself is extensive and I couldn’t do it full justice in a few sentences, but it forms a critical part of our leadership training programmes.
What I would say, though, is that EQ starts with first understanding yourself, your drivers and your motivators. Until leaders can develop this particular skill, they will find it difficult to build the other key attributes that managers need.
3. Consistent Communication
Being an effective communicator is perhaps one of the more widely recognised and long-standing attributes of a good manager. However, in today’s environment, leaders need to be able to communicate in different styles, through a range of platforms, virtually and in person. Engaging and motivating staff in a remote landscape is a completely different skill and requires a new style of communicating than you would expect in person.
Aside from the need for different styles, though, consistency is also crucial. Trust is a critical part of morale and engagement with teams, but if they see leaders changing their approach or message regularly, then they will start to lose some of this sentiment. Shifting from a distanced approach to the team to suddenly increasing how often you speak to them doesn’t provide the consistency that people need and can prove disruptive. It’s important then to be able to recognise how often teams prefer to be engaged with, as much as it is to identify the best methods of communication.
4. Change Management
The leaders of today will need to also be able to manage their teams through constant change. Much of the dust may have settled since the pandemic, but we are in a constantly evolving landscape. While some managers may have the experience to be able to adapt corporate strategies in response to change, doing so from a people management perspective is a completely different ball game.
Success will be largely driven by a leader’s ability to influence staff (see the next top skill below), but it first requires a recognition that people manage change differently – and they will look to their leaders for guidance.
Finally, being able to positively influence those around you is a key attribute. I hasten to add that this is not about telling people what to do, but rather empowering them to be more accountable for their own skills and work. Leaders need to coach people, not dictate. The mentoring approach to managing people is more popular today, largely driven by the changing world of work.
However, it’s important to add that influence is about more than just being able to guide the team, but also positively impacting attraction and retention of talent. There’s a misnomer that salary is the most important aspect for employees today, but the issue is far more complex than this. The effect that leaders have in this element of their role shouldn’t be underestimated.
Those with the above-mentioned skills and diverse leadership teams will better command loyalty, increase motivation and create team cohesion that helps attract and retain staff. In comparison, a senior team that lacks these attributes will likely see lower success rates of hiring and increases in attrition, leading to a loss in productivity and, ultimately, revenue.