Business is never linear—challenges are inevitable and sometimes, there is no amount of predictive data to prepare for what lies ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic pressure-tested every industry and according to the 2020 Culture Report from Achievers, employees have found themselves less aligned with their employers. Leaders were forced to make fast, critical, and tough decisions, for better or worse, to balance employee safety with business survival. As we approach the year mark of this global pandemic, unemployment continues to recover from an all-time high and there is an optimistic outlook on the economy ahead. In difficult times like these, strong and clear leadership is vital to create optimal experiences for your employees, thereby creating the most impactful outcomes for your clients.
To create meaningful change at any level in your organization, here are four key ways to become a better leader in 2021:
1) Create a cohesive, compelling vision.
Today’s employees have faced unique concerns over job and financial security compounded by health and safety risks. Because of this, it is crucial to provide or reestablish a clear, firsthand view of the destination that you will head towards together. When I began my journey with Affinitiv in 2020, it was imperative to start fresh with a new mission and vision under my leadership. This would have been important regardless of when I joined the company, but it was even more important because of the unique timing. With this vision understood by all parties, we inevitably created a space for continued learning, growth, and ultimately, security. Be purposeful, determined, and unwavering in your mission and your employees will follow. In the words of John C. Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
2) Open the lines of communication.
Create space for important conversations. Are your teams talking to one another? Bring the department walls down and ensure your employees are consistently and productively working together. As an important first initiative at Affinitiv, I pushed my teams to create more opportunities to connect in a remote world. It was thrilling to see immediate improvement as employees began using and customizing our existing communication software to their unique needs and ideas. The more conversation, the more opportunity there is to dream up and develop bigger and better things. In addition to cross-departmental chatter, company communications have the power to keep employees informed of important updates, reduce or eliminate errors, praise performances, and improve on best practices. A steady cadence of communications should always be implemented and improved upon through ongoing analysis.
3) Create a strong company culture.
Employees are the most critical asset in your organization, and it is important to foster a culture that allows them to thrive. But do not leave them out of the process—work within your organization to create your culture! Affinitiv employees—or associates, as we call them—helped create and develop our recently updated Core Values. Build upon these values by establishing more communities from within the organization and continue to evolve over time based on ongoing employee feedback. It has been amazing to see what our associates have continued to create together. As we know, happy employees are more productive.
4) Empower your team to become their own leaders.
In order to create strong leaders, you must be a strong leader and lead by example. As the old proverb says, “give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.” To create sustainable and continued growth, you must develop valuable leaders within to take true ownership over their book of business. At Affinitiv, I regularly meet with my direct reports and offer coaching during monthly Senior Leadership meetings as well as monthly management meetings. It is mutually beneficial to understand what they are accomplishing while being there to help continually develop these leaders. Through these efforts, I am able to watch in real time as our mission and vision is carried forward, now as a part of each leader’s own destiny.
Your leadership has the power to drive forward remarkable success for you and your entire organization. While today’s business challenges come with the weight of the world around us, it boils down to this: be there for your team. Practice empathy, emotional intelligence, and above all, stay positive. You’re only as good as your last game. Keep playing.
All | October 11, 2021