In the world of business, trends come and go. This is even true in leadership – what is billed as the “next great leadership trait” one year will fall out of favor the next. With this ever-changing playing field, leaders need to be aware that the operating world around them is also changing. The key is to be flexible, yet still provide guidance and support for the team members who depend on that leader.
While these are not trends, there are several core skills that leaders need to master. Here are three leadership skills that have risen to an important level in 2017:
Skill #1: Employee Performance Management
Let’s face it: just about everyone hates the annual performance review. It is difficult for managers, especially those who have many employees under them. Employees tend to hate them because the process is filled with stress and fear (“Am I doing an OK job, or am I about to be terminated?”). Because many annual performance review systems are unwieldy, more and more companies are forgoing them.
That being said, performance management is a critical component of the company’s operations. Whether or not you use a formal performance review instrument or not makes no difference – the point is that employees need regular feedback on their work performance and expectations of the company’s management. Good leaders provide guidance and feedback on a steady basis throughout the year. One of the ways leaders can reinforce great performance in their employees is by telling them they’re doing a good job. Regular praise, and gentle correction if there’s a problem, are two time-honored ways to build morale, strengthening the team you’ve worked so hard to develop as a leader.
Skill #2: Managing Telecommuters
The ever-shifting business realm has become global in its scope. Because of global business, employees are expected to travel on work or to work from home in many cases. How does a good leader manage employees who are scattered around the world?
Various studies have shown that employees who are considered “mobile workers” or “telecommuters” are happier than those stuck in an office environment all week. So, there will be increased pressure from employees to gain telecommuting opportunities. One of the best ways leaders can stay in touch with their mobile workers and to keep them happy is by using regularly-scheduled teleconferences. Even a weekly Skype chat to share feedback and updates helps manage the scattered workforce effectively. Your employees will appreciate the feedback, and you can be sure you’re getting the best performance out of them, no matter where they are in the world.
Skill #3: Handling Emotions
Something leaders have struggled with since the dawn of time is the emotional component in employee-employer relations. Recent studies have indicated that today’s employees tend to be emotionally fragile; they don’t respond well to criticism and they don’t readily bounce back from failure. This is referred to as “emotional resilience”.
Constructive criticism is important, but too few leaders use the tools available to them out of fear that their employees will react negatively. Rather than yelling or accusing, leaders should take the time to understand their employees’ concerns. By providing feedback in a gentle, positive manner, the interaction can avoid any meltdowns and hurt feelings.
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