The way we do business has evolved over the last few years. 2020 required us to adapt, 2021 required us to refine, and 2022 will require us to hone our learnings. Over the past two years, leadership has been challenged. How we define good leaders and complementary leadership traits have changed and will continue to do so. 

We know that hybrid and virtual work environments are the way of the future. Therefore, we must develop leaders that are equipped to navigate that road. 

We’d like to share what the world has taught us about leadership over these past two years. These pertinent insights will help you kickstart your leadership development and prepare you for success in 2022. 

1. Know Your Soft and Hard Skills 

Both hard and soft skills are needed and necessary, but you must know when to use them. Do you know the difference? Hard skills are tangible, measurable skills that have a method to their madness. Soft skills are intangible and are typically difficult to measure. They can have varying degrees of “correctness” and varying levels of impact. 

Hard skills enable you to be an exceptional doer of tasks. Soft skills enable you to be an exceptional leader of people. Hard skills might get you the job, but hard skills alone won’t get you promoted – soft skills will. Soft skills will help you become an agreeable, understanding, and respected manager. Soft skills will allow you to succeed at an exponential rate that hard skills alone could not allow you to. 

Think about the best leader you’ve ever had. Think about why you thought that person was a great leader and what they did that made you feel that way. Your answer likely isn’t “because they had the most efficient processes, they were always right, and they have been with the company 20+ years.” Your answer likely is “because they were caring, compassionate, and understanding when I faced an obstacle. They also supported me when I wanted to challenge myself by learning new skills and taking on new projects.” 

Remember the traits that stick with you and apply them to your own leadership development. To develop your soft skills 

  1. Work with a trusted colleague to determine where you stand and what your strengths are. 
  2. Get feedback from your team on your soft skills, how you execute them, and their effectiveness. 
  3. Engage in learning and development opportunities to grow your soft skills. 
  4. Check-in with your people over time to monitor your progress. 
  5. Be patient with your growth. 

Read our article Soft Skills for Leadership” to learn more about flexing your soft skills. 

2. Lead with a Coaching Mindset 

Use your soft skills to lead with a coaching mindset. Your listening skills will be critically important in employing a coaching mindset. So, what is a coaching mindset? To have a coaching mindset, you must have a growth rather than a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset insists we are set in our ways, habits, behaviors, etc. A growth mindset insists we can change for the better, work towards favorable outcomes, and that we are in charge of our futures. 

Leaders with growth mindsets are more gratifying than leaders with fixed mindsets. When leaders have growth mindsets, they are also much better poised to have better coaching skillsMindset is a sliding scale, like anything else, where you can progress up or down the line. 

The first stage to changing your mindset is being self-aware, which is two-sided. The first part of self-awareness includes understanding your own thoughts, emotions, and perspectives. 

The second part of self-awareness is understanding the implication of your actions on others, which will give you the skill to shift your leadership style. 

Your style of leadership should shift depending on who is on the other end. No two people are the same. Therefore, you need to meet the other person where their head is at. 

You will become a better manager/leader by instilling a growth mindset with those around you. The “right” coaching mindset is different for everyone, and there is no “one size fits all” approach. Know that growth mindsets will serve your team, your leaders, and your organization the best since a growth mindset promotes learning, openness, and greater opportunities for coaching. 

Read our article “Lead with a Coaching Mindset” to learn more about the importance of mindset. 

3. Become a Great Coach 

Employees want to keep learning, developing, and growing as people. No one wants to feel stagnant in their careers! For these reasons, the role of a manager has transformed and now calls for the need to coach.  

In the words of Sir John Whitmore, leadership coaching is “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.” 

Coaching is both an art and a science. When engaging in a coaching conversation, ask open-ended questions, but be sure to validate and confirm what the person is saying. Coach “in the moment” and listen to understand rather than simply to respond. People take note of this, and it will help strengthen your relationship. 

Once you understand who you’re coaching, build an action plan for their goals. Then, follow up, evaluate and hold them accountable when they seem to be straying from their goals. We can be better together, especially when we have people rooting for and supporting us. 

Read our article “Become a Great Leader Coach” to learn more about leadership coaching. 

4. Embrace Virtual Leadership

We’ve all learned a thing or two about how to be a successful leader in a virtual world. As we move more towards an “old normal” we must not forget the important learnings of virtual leadership.  

The most critical piece of leading hybrid or virtual teams is to establish a shared and mutual working environment. It might become easy to unconsciously favor people that are in-office because you see their faces more frequently. Make a conscious effort to give both in-office and remote workers the same information, opportunities, and benefits. 

For those that have remained remote, managers should model the way for their teams. Demonstrate expectations and drive clarity across initiatives even when outcomes or processes might be ambiguous. Driving clarity does not mean you have to have the answers, it means that transparency is important. 

Facilitate continuous learning for employees regardless of location by establishing learning groups. Create cohorts comprised of people from various teams, geographies, and departments. They will not only develop in their careers together, but they will also learn from each other. This will additionally create a new type of unity that is only possible through technology. 

Read our article “10 Lessons on Leadership Development in a Virtual World” to learn more about virtual leadership.

5. Drive Resilience in Adversity  

The worst of Covid was an adverse period for everyone – a shared struggle that we all experienced in our own ways. Adversity will continue to present itself, although it may not be simultaneous for everyone. Be aware of what your individual people may be going through even when the whole group is not struggling. 

Resilience is having the strength to push through the harsh realities of today and recognized positive outcomes. Leaders should channel their emotional intelligence to see eye-to-eye with employees and motivate them to continue to work hard during tough times. 

Resilient leadership inspires teams to work through difficulties. For some, this means pay cuts. For many, this means furloughing. For companies at large, this means struggling to pay bills to stay afloat. Employees need to feel like these struggles are worth the pain. Make sure your people feel cared for and have what they need. 

As a resilient leader, support through transparency, find strength through each other, and act on long-term gains to drive inspiration, hope, and engagement with your people. Let them know that fighting adversity is a shared journey and you will do your best to support them. 

Read our article “What Makes Leaders Resilient in Times of Adversity?” to learn more about leadership through resiliency. 

As a leader, you can coach and be coached. Leadership is about serving those in your charge and supporting them professionally. Though leadership has been challenged over recent years, our lessons learned have enabled us to move forward with more depth and clarity. Pour into your people, but don’t forget to pour into yourself, too. 

If you would like more information about Churchill’s Leader as Great Coach Program, please see our brochure or contact us!

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