What's the Future of Successful Leadership and Management at Work?
"We ultimately believe that it's our role as leaders, as coaches, to find out what about that individual is going to make them fulfilled and be able to achieve their best outcomes in both work and in life. In order to do that you have to be radically committed to that employee."
— Michael Johnson, President & CEO Multiview Financial Software
In the first episode of our podcast, Unicorn Leaders, our guest Michael Johnson relays that being “radically committed” to employees is the key to successful leadership in the business world.
He expands on this concept by saying it’s important to support your team members in everything they do — yes, even if it means leaving your team or company.
This idea is unique because managers generally react with frustration and anger when an employee conveys they want to leave their team.
Some managers may go as far as telling employees the company won't rehire them if they choose to leave. This isn't fair. At the end of the day, if your company is a positive place to work, employees will “boomerang back” to you after realizing the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
The truth is, most organizations treat their employees like numbers, and if your numbers go down, it doesn't look good on you as a manager.
When we start treating employees, partners, clients and vendors like people — where we see their individual needs and goals as more important than the bottom line, — we begin to see improvements in person-to-person dynamics.
If your company stands out as a great workplace in your industry, the people who once chose to leave may be even keener to return.
This tends to happen because when you put a person's needs before the company’s, and your employees are aware of that commitment, they'll feel more comfortable and valued in their work environment.
This is the foundation for solid corporate culture.
The truth of the matter is your team, for better or for worse, will have many changes in staff over time. You have to be realistic.
Below are Michael’s hacks and tips to help you understand the future of successful leadership and management.
Table of Contents:
What kinds of people do you want. What's the desired composition of your team?
The composition of a team concerns the skills and attitudes of each member. You want to get the right people on the team to achieve your desired level of performance.
Interactions between people matter more than the necessary talent on the team. The research shows time and time again that how we interact matters far more than who the individual and talent are on the team.
What do you want people to say about your company?
Companies spend time and money on marketing campaigns to build a loyal customer base. Much like how you want to develop a brand for your customers, you want a brand for your workplace and employees.
Thanks to technology, and social media, employees can reveal and share how they experience your company's brand from the inside out.
Everyone knows what happens inside every organization for the first time in history.
From the hiring, onboarding, career development opportunities and why people leave, the entire employee experience is broadcasted.
The new workforce of Millennials and Gen-Zs is highly networked. When they're searching for jobs, they seek referrals from current employees of potential organizations and suggestions from family members or friends. It's different from going on Facebook and looking at the organization's page.
They ask people who've already been in their desired roles questions, and they determine your employment brand by your reputation. Because of this, the most important thing you can do in today’s world is to maintain a strong employment brand and a workplace culture that lives up to it.
Reputation travels quicker now than ever before, hence organizational transparency is crucial to entering the workforce.
People want to know what it's like working at your company before they start working there, and in some cases just applying.
Suppose there's a discrepancy between how your organization presents itself to the world and how it really is, your future employees are going to find out online. Either from friends or from a new connection on LinkedIn, and they'll get the honest answer.
Your employment brand is why you're either attracting or not attracting outstanding candidates.
To effectively manage team composition, you have to answer some questions:
- Which team members have the necessary technical skills?
- Does your team have the right soft skills and interpersonal skills?
- Does your team have the right communication skills?
- Are the individuals on the team members committed?
- Is there alignment in the team's intrinsic values?
- Is the team the right size to complete their tasks?
Teams that have members who aren't aligned in their motivation and engagement aren't able to accomplish tasks and lack the skills to achieve these team goals. They're doomed for failure.
If you don't have the skills and the motivation, your team can't perform
Imagine a documentary about your team and what you'll accomplish six months from now.
- What specific results do you see?
- How was your day different from what the team is doing today?
Think about the skills needed to make that vision a reality six months from now.
Once you've done the work of envisioning the ideal outcome of how your team works and feels, the skills necessary to achieve it become clear because you've analyzed whether those skillsets match your existing team members and where there's a gap.
If you're in a fast-changing business environment, you're probably looking at many mismatches. In that case, you need to have some honest conversations about letting certain team members find a new place where their skill sets are a better fit.
You'll also need to recruit some new people with the right skills. Once you have a high-performing team and are moving towards your vision for six months in the future, you'll start to see the gaps more vividly.
Case Study: Netflix's Experience
Patty McCord (ex-chief talent officer at Netflix) tells a similar story of team composition at Netflix. She describes the challenges Netflix faced when shifting its business from mailing DVDs to a streaming service.
Netflix had to store massive volumes of files in the cloud and figure out how many people could reliably access them. It was estimated that up to one-third of residential internet traffic in the US comes from streaming movies and shows on Netflix.
Netflix needed to find people who had a lot of experience with cloud services and who had experience working for companies that operate on a large scale like Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook and Apple. Unfortunately for Netflix, those are some of the most challenging companies to recruit employees from.
McCord says that Netflix continually told their managers that building a great team was their most important task.
She said, "We didn't measure them on whether they were excellent coaches or mentors or got their paperwork done on time. Great teams accomplish great work, and recruiting the right team was always the top priority."
For McCord and the Netflix team, hiring and talent strategy became the primary contributor to their success during the shift from the DVDs to the cloud.
Over the years, McCord learned that if they asked people to rely on logic and common sense instead of formal principles, most of the time, they got better results at lower costs. They realized that a lot of their HR practices were only there to babysit bad hires. If you hired good people, HR became easier. If you hired really good people, all of the processes and policies didn't matter as much.
If you're careful to hire people who will put the company's interest first and understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace, 90% of your employees will do the right thing.
Most companies spend constant time and money writing and enforcing HR policies and processes to deal with problems that only about 3% of employees need. Do your best not to hire that 3% of people.
If you do, let them go because you made a hiring mistake. You want to hire, reward and tolerate only fully formed adults. Adult-like behaviour means having the tools to engage in open communication with your boss, colleagues, and subordinates.
Even in companies with tons of HR policies, the policies are only guidelines as managers work out what makes sense in each situation on a case-by-case basis. Patty gives credit to Netflix's compensation policy for attracting many of the hires of the stars they were looking for.
"The compensation philosophy helped a lot," she says.
Most of its principles stem from ideals described earlier — be honest, and treat people like adults.
"My tenure at Netflix didn't pay performance bonuses because we believed that they're unnecessary if you hire the right people. If your employees are fully formed adults who put the company first, an annual bonus won't make them work harder or smarter. Just pay them what they're worth," McCord said.
In addition, Netflix used equity compensation differently than most companies do. This gave them a chance to hire very talented people.
Instead of providing stock options on top of a competitive salary, they let employees choose how much of their compensation would be in the form of equity. They could take it all as salary or take some of it as equity. They believed that employees were sophisticated enough to understand the trade-offs, judge their risk tolerance and decide what was best for their families.
Overall, prioritizing and creating a phenomenal employee experience is most important. It begins by mapping out their journey. You've got to recruit top talent. How do we attract them? We need to create the right culture to hire the right people, so our reputation among the workforce remains positive and progressive.
Does this management advice easily apply to all companies? Possibly not; however, it does apply to any company I would want to build or work for.
As we mentioned above, being committed to employees and their growth, whether in or outside your company, is a big part of employee retention and the best way to create boomerang employees — especially amidst The Great Resignation.
Consider mentoring your emergent leaders through coaching conversations or finding someone in the company who could.
Take a listen to the podcast to hear more insights into the world of leadership and Michael Johnson’s episode to go more into depth about the future of leadership.
The following blogs will help you expand your insights into this topic and further your skillset to complete this vital part of your management role.