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3 Ways To Become a More Modern Leader: Culture, Technology, Innovation

Originally posted: October 17, 2017 on TrishMcFarlane.com

 If you’re in a leadership position, one of the easiest patterns to fall into is working in past processes.  In the short term, this is typically an acceptable practice.  In the long term, it can be career suicide.  If you’re someone who is stuck in the past, there are ways to overcome any resistance you have toward the modern workplace, how people need to work, how to better interpret data or accepting new technologies and the impact on your work.  Most of us are raised thinking it is all right to be resistant to change.  We hear adages such as:
  • Past behavior or performance determines future performance.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.

It’s logic like this that keeps business leaders plodding along, year after year, doing the same things. Thinking that there is some reward for maintaining business practices instead of taking risks is a commonality many leaders share. This measured, predictable approach plays out whether the topic is new technology, new employee policy, or new recruitment methods. Many HR leaders fall into this trap as well. What can CHROs and other HR leaders do to help ease this type of leader into the present or even the future of the workplace? Three areas HR leaders can focus on are culture, technology and innovation.

The Future Leader- Culture

One of the biggest challenges organizations face in reaching greater success is leadership stuck in the past about the way they view their culture. In the future, successful leaders will start by taking an active role in creating a culture where all employees are heard. One frequent complaint HR departments encounter comes from employees who think their leader is not listening to them. They are not having their needs met, nor their ideas heard.

If an organization has a group of leaders with this perceived behavior, it can create an organizational culture where employees do not feel valued. There are direct ways leaders can make simple changes in communication to conquer this perception. If you have a leader who does not embrace employee contributions, start by sharing the benefits of a partner approach with the employee. Specifically, there are exercises the leader can do to create a more connected partnership with the employee. Several include:

  • Add team member feedback as an agenda item for every meeting.
  • Solicit feedback directly from team members on ways to improve communication among the group.
  • Task different employees for leading being the “voice of the team” for that week or month. That employee has the role of soliciting feedback and ideas for the entire team.
  • For any situations needing a solution, assign team members from different generations to tackle the problem and come up with a recommended solution. By exposing team members to opportunities to more formally share their different perspectives, you will create an environment where employees are not only heard by the leader, but by their colleagues.

These are just a few tactics that can work to improve the team culture. They will not only increase your team’s engagement, but may also help your organization realize a decreased turnover rate. Employees who feel valued and heard tend to stay with the leader, and the organization.

The Future Leader- Technology

Purchasing and using new technology in an organization remains an area where leaders are hesitant and skeptical. Often, it is the fear of the unknown, coupled with rapidly changing technology that keeps leaders paralyzed. Additionally, there is the challenge of working for a company that will not allocate budget to technology upgrades or purchases, so leaders fall into the pattern of not worrying about it. If you are in an organization where there is potential spend but a leader is not embracing it, there are ways to start the conversation.

One area where leaders tend to balk, but could see great reward with adoption, is embracing mobile.  By giving the leader examples of current technology and case studies of where it is working, you will make the leader more comfortable making the move. Additionally, if you point out ways the leaders, as well as employees, use their mobile devices in their personal life for consumer-driven experiences, it may be enough to demonstrate that similar capabilities exist in the work experience.

The Future Leader- Innovation

Finally, demonstrate, stress and reward innovation by the organizational leaders. This continued process lessens the fear of failure the hesitant leaders have. When they see that innovation is being built into the culture, they will slowly begin to feel more secure being innovative. Today, most leaders are not rewarded for real innovation. They are still being rewarded for tactics that lead to short term goal achievement. We give gift cards, trinkets, etc. Start to think about what true innovation could do for your organization. What is the potential revenue impact? Start with a pilot program to build that into a leader’s reward process and see if that is enough to spark an organization-wide movement.

If you continue to get met with resistance from leadership stuck in the past, ask questions to learn what they think could be better with their ways and give examples of how new approaches “fix” those. By citing similarities of how the new suggestion is like the current process, they may be open to considering the approach. It’s all about having an open, honest discussion and using your coaching skills to bring the leader around. The benefits will be numerous.

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