The new normal, which refers to the post-pandemic reality of having to be ready for anything, demands a different kind of leader. In the past, leaders were chosen largely based on their hard skills. They would perform well in a given role, such as sales or marketing, and then they would be asked to lead groups. The good news is times are changing and leadership training can help prepare people for the latest expectations of CHROs.
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Now, many HR professionals are talking about hiring middle managers or C-suite leaders based on their soft skills and not as a reward of successfully executing on a non-leadership role. Discover the skills that people need to lead in this new era:
Open to a New Way of Doing Things
Organizations, institutions, and individuals can get stuck in tradition and routine. New ideas, processes, systems, and technologies can catapult businesses by making them run more efficiently, boosting creativity, and supporting productivity. Leaders need to decipher between the old and the new, and be unafraid to try, risk, and fail every now and then.
“It’s those who see this period as an opportunity, who are prepared to adapt and iterate, and explore new ways of working that will come out stronger and outperform competitors in the long term,” according to the World Economic Forum.
Failing at one of those work experiments can be defeating enough. But the world is experiencing hard times, too. There was a pandemic, war and its horrors, a looming recession, political division, and general anxiety. People who want to lead others must be prepared for this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. They must help others get through these dark times and come out stronger on the other side. That is why they must have resilience, the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.
“Leaders must learn to be resilient through times of change and pain and, in turn, inspire resilience in those that work for them,” according to Entrepreneurship magazine. “Do not be afraid to steer your team through the rain — if you look out for potholes, listen to the needs of your passengers and remember all the tips from that permit test you took all those years ago, you will have a smoother journey ahead.”
Connecting with the Team
Leaders can never connect with the team enough. This is especially true at a time when many more people are working remotely and may not be in the same geographies or time zones as their colleagues. The research HR Exchange Network Advisory Board member, HR veteran, and Researcher Michael Arena has shared shows that there is a great disconnect between leaders and the people they manage in this new world of work.
As a result, leaders must be intentional and create opportunities to speak to one another. They can use technology like Slack or Microsoft Teams to recreate water cooler talk in the virtual office. Most agree that organizing a combination of frequent one-on-one and team meetings for both small talk and updating each other on projects is wise. This is a major component of employee engagement, which is the top priority of HR leaders, according to the latest State of HR survey.
Once CHROs and other leaders are connecting with those they manage, they should be sharing their work and being honest. Younger generations of workers have grown up in a 24-hour news cycle with social media, where they divulge everything from what they ate for breakfast to their most personal secrets. They expect people to overshare. Those who try to keep secrets seem out of touch.
In addition, transparency about what the company is planning and projects on which teams are working can help with success. Google has long had a policy of keeping workers at every level informed of the company’s goals and projects, according to the HR Book Club book, Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google by former Senior Vice President of People at Google, Laszlo Bock.
When people know about what is happening, they can draw connections, brainstorm, and share ideas about how to move forward. Bock’s argument is the power is in numbers, and everyone can take advantage of each other’s great ideas.
If HR must pick one word to describe the leadership style emerging from the ashes of the pandemic it is empathy. When the world went silent and everyone felt trapped in their homes, employers recognized anxiety, anguish, and fear. They understood that mental health and wellness were not just buzz words. If HR did not address the wellness of the team, the team could crumble and business would fail at best and stop at worst.
INTERVIEW: How Empathy Makes for Effective Leadership
The new CHRO must lead with kindness. Checking in with team members and asking people if they are all right and actively listening to the answers are musts. Providing benefits related to mental health and wellness are just a starting point. They must have the emotional intelligence to recognize cues people send, communicate well, and connect with people on a human level.
One of the components of getting the most out of people these days is to help them recognize their purpose and value. Empathy, being able to share the feelings of another, is key to making human connections and helping people see their place in the bigger picture.
CHROs need a new set of leadership skills to manage talent in these uncertain times. These include being open to new ideas, resilience, transparency, and empathy. While these soft skills are of the utmost importance, they must be joined by hard skills like analyzing financial statements, understanding the needs of shareholders and customers, and helping align talent strategy with business objectives. The two go hand-in-hand. CHROs who have those hard skills and lead with heart at the same time will go far in this new world of work.
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