In January 2021 we shared our 3 Essential Management Habits for the year ahead. At the time we had just begun a new lockdown and there was a risk of developing a “here we go again” attitude.
However, things weren’t the same as they were in 2020. We had already adapted ourselves and our working practices to the new normal. 2021 was an opportunity to consolidate our learning and refine our management skills, taking a positive step forward into the future.
Now we welcome 2022 with a renewed hope. Full on lockdowns appear to be behind us, but the echoes of the last two years persist. And, of course, many are currently adjusting (again) following the recent end of the ‘work from home’ edict.
Our working practices have changed irrevocably. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We now have greater flexibility in how we work, technology that supports our new ways of working and a renewed focus on wellbeing.
But how do we turn all of this to our advantage in 2022?
What should we expect in 2022?
Remote or hybrid working
It’s generally accepted that, for many roles, remote or hybrid working is here to stay.
Rather than considering this a temporary solution, organisations are now focusing on how to blend office and home working to get the perfect balance of productivity and employee satisfaction.
The emotional toll of a two year pandemic will be a feature of our working lives for some time to come. Employees are feeling battered and bruised by their experiences – even those who have not ostensibly suffered personal loss or hardship.
People need to feel that these emotions are acceptable and understood by their employer.
It isn’t just technology to support remote working which has advanced in recent years. New technological innovations are almost a daily occurrence. Many of these are welcomed as a way to support employees and make their working lives more productive or pleasant.
However, some advances will be seen as a threat, particularly those from the artificial intelligence arena. Many people already fear that a robot could take over their job, make them redundant or force them to take less favourable employment. You may think these fears are unfounded – but that doesn’t change the fact that people are experiencing them. Fears can damage organisations even if they are only perceived and not real.
Flatter organisational structures
There is an ongoing trend towards flatter, more agile organisational structures. These give businesses the ability to adapt quickly when they need to. With a less rigid hierarchy it becomes quicker and simpler to reorganise teams and refocus resources.
Less hierarchical structures are also well adapted to remote workers and the increasing use of freelancers.
Many may welcome this less-traditional organisational structure. However, some managers will certainly feel they are being asked to take a step down and some employees might feel uncertain or lost in a more fluid hierarchy.
A need for authenticity
After the shock of the last two years, and the sometimes questionable responses from leaders in government and business, people are seeking employers who have an air of authenticity.
People want to see honesty and compassion from their managers. They want leaders to display their human side, perhaps even show their fallibility (though not too much).
We’re seeing the same viewpoint from consumers. Brands are scrambling to become less aloof and respond to their customers with empathy and humility.
Your employees choose you
In many sectors there are far more vacancies than applicants. This means that when recruiting and retaining your staff, they probably have the upper hand.
As well as ensuring that your company is attractive to your current and prospective employees, you might also find that an increased use of freelancers is required to fill gaps.
The purpose of our three habits
Our three habits reflect the changing working environment. They provide tangible, realistic techniques which you can use to tackle the challenges, and maximise the opportunities, that 2022 has in store.
And, if three isn’t enough for you, our leadership programmes and executive coaching services will further enhance your management style and skills, to make 2022 a resounding success for you and your organisation.
Habit 1 – Act with Purpose
Why you need to do this
A feeling of purpose, of being part of something positive and authentic, is important to you and your employees.
People (including you) need to feel that they are of value, particularly if they’re working remotely some or all of the time.
Defining why your team exists (as part of your wider organisation) and what you all do to make the world a better place, will give your people the sense of purpose and value which they need.
How to do it
First of all, you need to define what your purpose is. This should be done in creative collaboration with your team. Work together to devise a single sentence that describes your team’s purpose.
Questions which can help with this process include:
- What benefits does our team bring to our organisation?
- How do we measure our success?
- What would be missing from this organisation if our team did not exist?
Once you have defined your purpose it’s important to use it. This reinforces the positive message and feeling of being valued.
Some suggestions for how you could do this:
- Stick it somewhere prominent, remembering that this might need to be an online shared space if you have a remote or hybrid team.
- Share it with other teams, it can be a useful way to succinctly tell them what you do, particularly in larger organisations where smaller teams can become a little lost.
- Refer to it during team meetings, for example “how will this decision contribute to our teams’ purpose?”
- Use it as a discussion point in one to ones. You might ask “does our team purpose match your reasons for working here?” or “do you feel you are given enough opportunities to contribute towards our team’s purpose?”
- Once a year review your purpose to check it’s still relevant and sufficiently inspiring for your team.
The benefits of this habit
Adopting this habit should help to motivate your team and give them a sense of being valued. But the benefits go beyond a happy team.
A clearly defined purpose gives you, as a manager, a clear direction and a reference point for decision making.
Plus, aligning your team’s purpose with individuals’ personal reasons for choosing their role, increases your chances of recruiting and retaining talent.
Habit 2 – Redefine your Culture
Why you need to do this
Organisational culture is a complex topic. So many things influence it; your company’s products, history, leadership style, location, type of employees, market…and so on.
In turn, your company’s culture influences what it can achieve, through teamwork, innovation, employee engagement and performance.
With the lack of face to face interaction in recent years, many organisations’ culture has become weakened. They need to find a stronger way forward, and one that aligns to our new ways of working.
At the heart of this is igniting a sense of camaraderie and teamwork between everyone in your organisation. Make it clear that you are all in this together and that any “them and us” structure is a thing of the past. This will reengage your people now and pave the way to any changes towards a flatter organisational structure in the future.
How to do it
The complexities of an organisation’s culture mean that there are many “levers to pull” in order to generate a positive and healthy culture.
But the most important thing is that, as a leader, you exemplify the organisational culture in your management style.
You should start by asking yourself these questions:
- What is our company’s and team’s purpose? Do I feel emotionally connected to it and responsible for working to achieve it?
- Are my company’s values important to me? Am I committed to bringing these to life for my team?
- How do I need to tailor my behaviours with each of my colleagues so they feel ownership for our purpose, quality of work and goals?
- Do I do enough to make each person feel psychologically safe at work? Can my team ask me for help freely? Do I admit to my mistakes? Does my team feel free and motivated to learn and grow?
- Do I manage intelligently? Do I minimise bureaucracy, delegate responsibilities, solve problems collectively and look for improvements in our processes and systems?
Once you’ve reflected on your own answers, discuss them with your team. Ask them how they would answer each question. Openness and honesty are the foundations of a positive organisational culture, and support the increasing need for leaders to be authentic in their approach.
The benefits of this habit
Positive cultures are collaborative, inclusive and share responsibility throughout the team. They reject any ‘top down’, autocratic leadership styles and imbue the benefits of the flatter organisational structures we will see more of in the future.
A positive culture is at the heart of all high performance teams. It enables them to focus on doing their best work without the distractions of inefficient processes, poor task management or disruptive behaviour from colleagues.
A feeling of psychological safety, the freedom to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed, is one of the five key dynamics which set successful teams apart from other teams at Google. This is only achieved with the right culture at a team and company level.
Finally, a positive culture will encourage higher levels of employee engagement. As a result:
- You will retain and attract top talent because people will want to work with you.
- Your people will be motivated to learn and grow in their roles.
- Everyone will feel a sense of ownership for their objectives, tasks and colleagues.
Habit 3 – Be a Trusted Leader
Why you need to do this
Your people are still bruised from the last couple of years and need reassurance and stability.
Over the pandemic years they will have almost certainly seen their leaders make mistakes (even leaders are only human). Compounded by the isolation of remote working, this will have eroded trust.
And trust works both ways – employees need to trust their leaders and also feel trusted by them.
Trust needs to be nurtured, to give your people confidence in your leadership while ensuring that they feel understood and valued.
How to do it
Firstly, you need to be guided by the three key components of trustworthy behaviour: Competence, Reliability and Honesty.
But, beyond that, there’s a need to show a degree of vulnerability. This is sometimes known as the ‘pratfall effect’. The principle is that highly competent leaders become more likable if they make an occasional mistake.
We’re not encouraging you to make a major mistake like bankrupting the company, but rather to sometimes show a more human side. For example, this could mean:
- Being more (appropriately) open in conversations. For example, talk with colleagues about your life at work and at home.
- Openly admit it when you make a mistake.
- Ask for help or opinions from colleagues throughout your organisation (not just your peers).
- Apologise when you get something wrong.
- Be sensitive and empathetic when holding feedback conversations, while being clear and definite in the information you provide.
Changing your behaviour in this way will give your leadership style a more authentic, human quality. In turn, this will make it easier for your people to trust you.
The benefits of this habit
Trust sits at the core of effective leadership and management. You need your people to trust you in making decisions which affect them. And you need to trust your people so you can delegate responsibilities.
Building trust isn’t an overnight thing, it grows slowly between individuals. Therefore, it’s important that managers continually work on their relationship with each colleague.
A team who trusts the direction that their manager is taking them in are more likely to be self-starting, motivated and creative in their work. Ultimately this makes it more certain that the team will achieve their collective goal.
Supporting you throughout 2022
Another trend we see emerging in 2022 is a return to more in-person coaching and training.
Get in touch to discover how we can help your organisation meet the challenges and opportunities of 2022.