How can your leaders drive business transformation in 2020?

2020 leadership direction vector

How can your leaders drive business transformation in 2020?


“If you could move your entire organisation forward on just one thing, what would it be?”

This is a question we pose to our clients very early on. And for good reason. Organisations have more data than ever before, often managers are being swamped with stats, KPIs and benchmarks. So, asking this question is our way of cutting to the chase, of asking organisations about their business transformation strategy or the real strategic priority they need to be focusing on.

The answer, most commonly, tends to be stuff like “shifting our culture, developing our leaders, improving performance or reducing our churn.”

And, we think there’s a common thread linking these things… it’s us, it’s what we do and it’s how we behave.

Think about your leaders’ behaviour

We need to encourage leaders – at all levels – to hold a mirror up. What you’ll find is that almost all the common organisational and team challenges and strategic priorities are about behaviour or can at least be traced back to behaviour. How we behave, interact with and treat one another.

Improving self-awareness (and emotional intelligence) is a critical component and this must be the starting point. So far, so obvious – right? Well, it’s true that none of this is rocket science… But because it’s not revolutionary, it can get overlooked.

So, when we’re talking about EI, what do we mean?

1. Recognising your emotions and being able to label them
2. Being able to manage your emotions in the moment
3. Recognising emotions in others e.g. empathising with others
4. Being able to adapt based on what you’re seeing to manage a situation

Leaders must get to know… themselves

Knowing yourself really well and being able to adapt and flex your behaviour is a fundamental part of leading people. And the truth is, there are no finished articles – this isn’t something we ever stop developing. Keep in mind too that 50% of this is about you and how well you know yourself! The focus around EI can often be placed on your ability to interact with others, which is naturally important. But you must first spend some time understanding YOU.

Start by considering what your triggers are; what throws or de-rails you? For some it might be dealing with ambiguity, for others it might be receiving one-line emails, this isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ thing and our triggers are often deep-rooted and aligned to our core values. This is where your emotional brain can take over the rational brain and recognising the signs when they crop up will help you manage or avoid troublesome situations.

Developing self-awareness

We work in leadership development to help lots of leaders develop the self-awareness side of EI. Here we’ve distilled some of the key exercises or stages we’d run through as part of this.

Which of the following profiles do you most identify with as being characteristic of you?

4 box grid showing typical characteristics of different social styles

Now, this isn’t pop psychology, it’s not scientific and it isn’t about pigeon-holing anyone. But rather it’s about getting you to think about who you are and your preferences and style, and what that might all mean for you.

The following four social styles can help leaders to recognise how their prevailing traits and preferences can manifest in their behaviour and interactions with others.

Grid showing different social styles and typical behaviours

How can this help your leaders?

Being more self-aware in general and knowing our dominant social style/s can help people become more confident, authentic and effective people leaders. It’s important to note too that diversity is good; you ideally want a good mixture of social styles and to recognise the different strengths and perspectives each brings to a team.

Business leaders today are having to tackle organisational issues from a variety of angles, and some are more challenging than others. They need to be properly equipped and mentally prepared for these things. Providing the tools and support to enable leaders to be vulnerable in service of really holding the mirror up is a critical element to self-development as a leader.

So, perhaps encourage your leaders to pause and reflect on their self-development. Ask how much emphasis they’re putting on understanding themselves and what impact being more self-aware might have on that one thing you really need to achieve next year as an organisation…