High expectations for new leaders

Being a boss isn’t what it used to be. In fact, many workplaces are cooking up new names to reflect the changes. "Boss" sounds dictatorial. "Supervisor" implies that employees need to be watched. "Leader" is the favorite of the moment. The change of title is strong testimony about the deeper changes that are evolving for managers.

What are these new leader expectations? They’re more sophisticated and demanding than ever before. They can be categorized in four distinct areas. 

Build organizational strength.

A business owner told me recently, "Running a company today is a little like building an airplane while you fly it." Changes are happening so fast, senior managers are scrambling to reinvent their companies. Consuming questions such as, "How do we do use the Web to maximize our business?" or, "Where are we going to find employees?" are heard in boardrooms everywhere. And quickly changing priorities can feel like chaos to everyone else. 

In the past, middle managers could sit back and wait for the grand roll out of the corporate strategy. Today, managers have to jump in and help shape it and communicate it. 

  • Don’t complain about changes. Investigate why the change is needed so you can help others who are at different stages of commitment. Take time to answer employees’ questions: "Why are we doing this?" and "How will this affect me?"
  • Think like an owner. A respected manager said to me, "When I have to make a decision, I always ask myself, ‘If I owned this business, would I make this decision differently?’"
  • Become an opportunist who hunts down problems. Volunteer to lead a cross-functional task force, rather than view it as extra work. Organizational issues are your work. Seek out new and challenging lateral jobs in other departments. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur with one client—the company you work for. 

Build interpersonal strength.

Employees are in the driver’s seat in this economy. If they don’t feel well treated, they vote with their feet. They want more balance, more respect and more involvement. Retention surveys we’ve done with employers point convincingly to the manager’s role as the most important link in the retention chain. 

  • Look for ways to make deposits in your employees’ emotional accounts. In spite of your busy schedule, find ways to give employees face time, both one-on-one and in meetings.
  • Ask each employee, "What do you want most from your job?" and offer concrete help so they get what they need.
  • Spend more time with the good performers than with the poor ones and take steps to coach or confront those who need it.
  • Show each employee that their contribution counts in personal, meaningful ways.
  • Take a stand and do what’s right rather than what is perceived as "fair" by different constituencies. Apply policies with good judgment, not "by the book."
  • Treat your employees like your important joint venture partners, because they are. 
Build inner strength.

Being a manager today isn’t for wimps. It requires mental and physical stamina. Effective managers have a strong sense of values and use them as an internal compass to guide their behavior. They treat people with dignity and respect and work hard to build trust. They know their actions speak more loudly than the words they are saying. 

  • Do the "Duck Paddle." Act calm and unruffled, even when you’re paddling like hell underneath. Compartmentalize stress--don't spread it.
  • Seek and act on personal feedback.
  • Lead by example. Recognize that every word you say and action you take is sending a message.
  • Learn everything you can about the art and science of leading others. 
Build career strength.

A programmer told me, "Why would I want to move into a manager’s job? Why would I want that target painted on my back?" He knows that front line employees have a higher stock value than managers do. Simply put, average managers are expendable and hard-to-find technical employees are golden. 

  • Know that job security is created by you—not granted by an organization.
  • Be more interested in solving problems and adding value than status or position.
  • Stay marketable by keeping your skills honed and build influence with outside networks.
  • Pay attention to critics because they are the first to discover your weaknesses.

We are in the middle of a workplace renaissance. There is a shortage of courageous leaders. Make the most of the opportunity. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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