If you’re a business leader, it’s likely you got to where you are through hard work, perseverance, and a determination to be the best you can be. Regardless of your success, you’re unlikely to be content with your current leadership game. Instead, you’re always seeking ways in which to advance and improve.
This is no easy feat. Being a leader demands high levels of responsibility; leaders need to motivate and inspire their team, and they need to deal with fluctuating workplace demands. Moreover, what constitutes a great leader tends to evolve and change over time. What compelled Generation X to work hard won’t work with Generation Z. As our understanding of human psychology advances, we also become more knowledgeable on what inspires high levels of engagement and discretionary effort.
With this article, we’ll look at modern leadership techniques and how to implement them in 2018 in order to improve individual, team, and company performance and productivity, while building a more competitive and profitable business.
1. Take the time to discover employee strengths — and allow them to use them
As we move into 2018, autonomy is a key concept all leaders should keep in mind when it comes to both their leadership style and their performance management systems. Rather than rigidly controlling your employees or trying to manipulate their strengths to suit your company, you would be far more efficient and successful as a leader if you allowed your employees to play to their strengths.
According to a Gallup poll, if you keep your employees' strengths in mind when constructing objectives and goals, you can make your company much stronger. Simultaneously, you can boost engagement and morale while minimizing turnover and lessening stress levels
The use of employee strengths has been shown to be far more effective a motivator than even leadership exhortations. Put simply, this is because as a leader, you have taken the time to find out what truly motivates your employees, which ultimately works to your company’s advantage. In fact, even simply learning about employee strengths is known to make them 7.8% more productive, while boosting company sales and profit. So as we move into 2018, leaders should do more to focus on strengths and positives than dwelling on what employees can stand to improve.
2. Incorporate real-time feedback and more frequent one-on-ones
The concept of continuous, agile performance management is no longer a revolutionary or disruptive management trend. It’s widely recognized to be a more effective means of managing behavior and performance than an annual performance review. Although not all companies are incorporating more regular performance discussions, most are in the process of switching over. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, 70% of all multinational companies are moving towards this model.
If you were considering a shift towards continuous performance management, as a leader, you should be comforted by the prospect that companies are seeing great results. In fact, Adobe experienced a 30% drop in voluntary turnover following their transition. Much of its voluntary turnover was traditionally associated with their stressful and time-consuming annual appraisal process.
As Generation Z enters the workforce, the need for more immediate and meaningful feedback will only increase. With the internet, smartphones, and a myriad of collaboration tools, people are connected all the time and expect — and deserve — real-time feedback when it comes to their work. Employees are also eager to make a connection with their managers, with 53% of Generation Z preferring face-to-face communication over instant messaging.
In 2018, leaders should consider incorporating (at a minimum) monthly check-ins with employees to discuss progress, concerns, and objectives. You’ll soon reap the rewards and enjoy the benefits of improved relationships between you and your employees.
3. Actively listen to your employees
Of course, it’s not enough to just deliver instant feedback or to be available to your employees. You also need to consider the quality and content of the feedback and communication. As a leader, you need to show that you are actually listening to employee feedback and you care about what they have to say. Doing so will not only make employees feel valued; it could also seriously improve business processes and strategy.
In 2018, being a business leader means so much more than simply concerning yourself with objectives and the financial bottom line. If you want to get the most out of your employees, you need to have an open-door policy and they need to feel that they can discuss any and all issues that might be impacting their work, from poor workplace processes, to office harassment, to private factors that could affect performance. In your one-on-one discussions, go above and beyond expectations. Put your employee in the driver’s seat and allow them to guide discussions. Stick to simply providing advice and assistance when you can.
4. Always take an opportunity to improve upon yourself
As mentioned in the introduction of this article, self-improvement is necessary for a great leader. In fact, in order to be a leader, you need to be highly self-aware. Leaders know they’re not perfect and they’re constantly trying to improve themselves, which is why so many leaders spend their time reading self-help books.
If you truly want to up your leadership game in 2018, take some time for self-reflection and determine how and where you can improve. What are your particular strengths and weaknesses? Find this out and take measures to become a stronger, engaging, more confident leader. Keep reading and challenge your existing methods — this includes making serious changes with regards to the way you operate and the way your company functions. This is the only way to remain competitive in today’s dynamic working environment.
5. Learn what will motivate and inspire Generation Z
You might be primarily concerned with millennials and how they operate in a working environment. This is great, as millennials likely comprise a decent portion of your workforce. However, the older millennials are now in their mid-thirties. Moving forward, you will need to consider Generation Z and what inspires them to perform well at work.
Generation Z comprises those individuals born between 1996 and 2010, so the oldest members of Gen Z have now graduated college and are taking their first steps into the corporate world. Generation Z are technologically savvy and accustomed to immediate forms of communication. They are also keen on learning and self-improvement.
The secret to motivating these individuals all lies in connectivity. Engage in frequent, meaningful discussions, and get to know your new employees — what they want out of their roles, how they want to advance, and where they see themselves in five years. Also, cover how they personally make a huge impact on the business. This will demonstrate to them that they are an important part of the company and that you value their contributions. Their sense of self-worth and confidence will increase ever further if you invest in their immediate and long-term career advancement.
As the years go by, what it means to be a great leader will necessarily change. What’s important is that no leader gets stuck in their ways. To do so would be entirely counter-productive to a well-performing workforce. However, when leaders make efforts to research leadership trends, not only do they benefit from a more engaged workforce; they also notice visible business improvements. Make it your goal to keep up to date with these changes and to take the thoughts and opinions of your employees on board.
Stuart Hearn is CEO and founder of Clear Review — a performance management software system that prioritizes simplicity and transparency. He is enthusiastic about performance management trends and researching ways in which to improve employee engagement and productivity levels to improve business and performance.