Developing leadership skills to drive business transformation
After a year when leaders have been challenged like never before, there’s now some light at the end of the tunnel. But for leaders, business transformation and organisational change are set to remain top boardroom priorities. How can leaders better equip themselves to lead and successfully deliver such initiatives?
Here we look in detail at three key areas for developing leadership skills, and include expert advice on the training, behaviours or practises on which to focus in order to thrive.
Once derided as a ‘soft skill’, today emotional intelligence (or EI) is a key attribute for leaders. This has coincided with a surge in both the pace of change and disruption of work.
So, when we talk about EI, what do we mean?
- Recognising your emotions and your social style (see below graphic)
- Being able to manage your emotions in the moment
- Recognising emotions in others e.g. empathising with others
- Being able to adapt based on what you’re seeing to manage a situation.
And here’s a breakdown of priority areas to focus on:
In order to become more self-aware, you first need to understand your preeminent social style (see below for more on this). This will help you recognise your preferences and understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you know yourself better, attention turns to helping adapt your social style to best suit a scenario or person. Exercises here will seek to provide you with a deep understanding of yourself and how best to manage your (emotional) triggers.
- Social awareness
Now it is time to look outwards, by being more aware of the environment and people around us. This is all about our empathy – being more empathetic helps us when managing difficult conversations and understanding others. This is particularly important when your peers have a different social style to your own.
- Social management
Being able to manage your impact on others is a key aspect of being able to mediate. And dealing with conflict, business change or other challenging social scenarios is something all people managers need to be able to do well.
- Communication skills
Good communication skills are, of course, fundamental for managers at all levels. But it isn’t just about what you say as a manager but also what’s unsaid, so you should also focus here on your non-verbal communication.
This has admittedly become a bit of a leadership buzzword in recent years. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. On the contrary, in fact. So, what is resilience, and how can we measure it?
“Resilience is made up of a number of different component parts, and each one of those is developable. And that’s great news for all of us! So where should you start? This is often one of the toughest parts of any development effort.”
In this case, it is helpful to first gain a deeper understanding of where you are currently from a resilience perspective. A really intuitive tool to give you this baseline view is the Roffey Park Resilience Capability Index (RCI). Based on robust research, it comprises a short online questionnaire to help you assess your own resilience capabilities across five core domains. The output is a simple report showing where your areas of strength and development are across those domains, with a comparison to a norm group. This could also be supplemented by 360 degree feedback to give you a rounded view of how you and others perceive your resilience. From here, you can then reflect on where you want to focus to build your resilience levels.
When thinking about how to develop personal resilience, here are a couple of practical tips that anyone can use:
- Keep perspective ‘in the moment’
Improving your ability to take a step back and maintain a sense of perspective in times of challenge can be invaluable. One exercise you can do to build this capability uses Covey’s circle of influence model. This focuses on getting into the habit of controlling the ‘controllables’, and not expending energy on things that you can’t influence or control.
- Build a support network
Having a supportive network of ‘connections’ is another important part of building resilience. Draw out a visual map showing who you have in your network and what role they play (i.e. are they a good listener, an ‘ideas person’ or someone who challenges your thinking). This is a simple (but really effective) way of seeing where gaps might be and what you might need to add.
Furthermore, a great deal of building resilience is about self-awareness, and then forming and embedding small, new habits. It is a trait which can be practiced and developed. Watch our video on leadership resilience for a few more tips:
In line with what we already touched on with the extent and pace of organisational change, storytelling has quickly become a key leadership skill. That’s because change is hard! And what’s needed, above all else, is consistency of communication and messaging. This can go a long way towards addressing any resistance to change, cynicism and uncertainty.
What does ‘good’ leadership communication look like? Well, research shows that organisational change is much more successful when senior leaders communicate the story of change clearly and regularly. But they can’t just tell everyone everything… Leaders need to structure their messaging and delivery to tap into how people are feeling and reduce the gap between what people think is happening and what they can see. This is where a good story can help. It can ‘cut through’ and get people to buy into change by winning hearts and minds.
And here’s some pointers to help:
- Context: “Know where you’ve come from”
Appreciate what’s come before. How has change been handled previously? What are people’s experiences of past change? How has this impacted how people perceive change now?
- Rational engagement: “Know where you’re going”
Don’t just focus on what is going wrong. Identify and home in on what is going right too. Avoid sweeping, general statements. Be as specific and concrete as possible when describing what needs to change. And make sure everyone is clear on the end goal – what you are trying to achieve and how you will know when you get there.
- Emotional engagement: “Tap into people’s feelings”
Identify the feelings that motivate people to get involved and help solve bigger and more challenging problems. Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change – you need to make people feel something!
Celebrate small successes to boost momentum and morale. In doing this you break down the change into manageable chunks and provide crucial reassurance to people on progress.
- Behavioural engagement: “Embedding new habits”
Identify the specific habits (auto-pilot behaviours) that will have the biggest impact on achieving the desired change, as well as any habits you wish to stop. These should be easy to embrace and have an award attached to them.
Select and harness ‘change champions’ – those visible people in the business that can role model the change you want to see and tell the story you want communicated. And don’t forget to highlight examples of people demonstrating the desired behaviours!