Employee disengagement under poor business leadership in the United States is estimated to cost $450 to $550 billion annually in lost productivity. A huge amount of money by anyone’s standards. And it doesn’t even take into account the impact on the uncounted millions of employees who have become casualties of poor leadership but are still engaged. Poor leadership also racks up lost dollars because it damages overall creative thinking, future innovation, diversity and inclusion, and mental health, along with inciting a fear factor about an employee’s next job — the fear that leadership there will be the same. It doesn’t need to be this way. Not at all. Not when businesses instead create strong cultures of leadership excellence. Why does that change the game? Because a strong culture of business leadership inspires a positive and effective organizational culture that supports engagement, creativity, innovation, and high performance. It’s just simply dollars and sense.
Admittedly, this has been a more trying and volatile year than probably any business leader can remember. But every organization goes through change, dysfunction, and loss during its life. The difference among them is that companies that have built a strong core foundation of nurturing and educating their core innovation resource — their employees —not only win market share but also win the trust of the consumer. Because when leaders do their jobs well, employees do theirs well too.
5 Methods to Follow:
First, Know Where You Stand on Leadership Excellence — Starting at the Top
The first step toward leadership excellence in all levels of your organization is to understand where your company benchmarks in terms of nurturing employee innovation and learning, starting at the top. High-performing leaders are your most important asset if for no other reasons than they:
- Represent the greatest competitive differentiation your organization can acquire
- Have lower turnover, higher engagement, and inclusive cultures
- Imbed a growth and learning environment that drives higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention
And because the traits of leaders are passed on to their employees, this formula is true:High-performing leaders = engaged employees = higher innovation = happy customers
The methods that the best leaders take to really amplify their employees to create a safe and supportive place for people to innovate, create, and grow lie deep in their CEOs being actively engaged in the development of a Culture of Leadership Excellence and Innovation. Most importantly, these CEOs hold themselves 100% accountable for the growth and development of all of the company’s current and future leaders. When a CEO’s core mission is to develop the next generation of leaders, suddenly the impossible becomes possible, because your organization is focusing on long-term growth rather than on short-term wins, which can erode any organization.It’s a difference we’ve definitely seen in this year of Covid, economic uncertainty, and social unrest. The amount of glasshouses that have come down in 2020 share the consistent themes of faulty leadership, overvaluations, and hefty goals unsupported by the necessary employee skill development or cultural safety. These failed businesses didn’t put their bottom lines ahead of their greatest asset — their people. And you have no bottom line without your people.
2. Take a Step Back to Build a Strong Bridge Forward
The second method of leadership excellence is to understand your current organizational state, which should clearly identify what business results your organization is looking for tomorrow relative to the results you’re seeing today. This evaluation provides a clear picture and an objective lens to see what is working in the organization, what’s not working, and the gaps a leader needs to fill. You’re looking to find those gaps where your leaders need to nourish employees to help unlock their potential. When that potential is unlocked, it directly and proactively adds to the health and productivity of those people and your business.
Taking a step back to understand where a leader is at, empowers your organization to build a strong bridge to its future state. You can draw a clear roadmap and milestones for success, which are essential to any organization’s change-management plan. Organizations will always change. What further fosters the future lies in the way leaders drive a calculated approach of knowing rather than assuming when and how that change will occur. When your leaders do this, they exhibit proactive leadership, rather than a reactive model — as your organization continues to strengthen its core.
3. Create a Growth and Learning Mindset Among Leaders for Accelerated Innovation Oranization-wide
Leadership excellence method 3 is all about mindset. When a leader depicts a growth and learning mindset that wraps around the organization’s culture, mission, and vision, they build trust, commitment, collaboration, accountability, and results — the five core functions of any company. Without a proper foundation, these core functions are often dysfunctional and weak. Skills can be taught, but mindsets need to be nourished in every plan, every communication, every conversation, and every employee. It’s the only way you can ensure alignment and clarity, and flip VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) to create vision, unity, clarity, and ability/agility. The result will be accelerated innovation throughout the organization.
4. Embody an Always-learning Mindset Companywide
Method 4 intertwines with Method 3: You really instill a learning culture that influences the mindset of all leaders and employees. To borrow a concept from the lessons of coaching great Don Shula and management guru and author Ken Blanchard: “Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You have not learned a thing until you take action and use it.”
When leaders exhibit an always-learning mindset they ensure that “fixed” mindsets will not be tolerated. Fixed mindsets literally kill all innovation and creativity. Most importantly, a fixed mindset stifles the diversity in all of us. One way to instill an always-learning mindset is to apply blended learning: Ensure participants immediately start applying on the job what they have learned in training, coaching, and any leadership development. Retention rates increase to more than 60% compared to classroom learning alone, without application (which by the way, also has a 90% loss in learning within 30 days). So, not only will an always-learning mindset get you the gains your organization needs, but a blended learning approach actually puts the learning into action — and takes it through to the output. You engage employees and enhance the bottom line in a very proactive and healthy way.
As a leader, the developmental journey towards personal mastery never ends. The more you master leadership in one area, the greater and more complex the challenges will be that in the same or a different area later. By adopting an always-learning mindset and cascading it throughout your organization, you will be true leadership in yourself and with the future leaders of tomorrow.
5. Create a Safe and Nurturing Home for Your Employees — and Customers
And the last method is servant leadership. When a leader serves their employees and embraces many if not all of these methodologies, you create measurable outcomes seen in engagement, performance, productivity, and overall employee happiness and satisfaction. You have in fact built a second home for your employees, a place it is safe for them to work, learn, grow, and help others. It’s a place where they want to stay.
Your customers will also want to stay with you because you have built a brand value of serving others. It’s what every employee and customer looks for when they give their time and money. They want to see that those resources were invested in them. Through your mindset of servant leadership, your employees know they can in turn invest these tools in their jobs — and serve others. It keeps the employee and the customer at home with you — because they feel safe, can think clearly, and inspire innovation all day long.
To boil it all down, the greatest takeaway is that you cannot nurture employees without first nurturing the leader. It begins there. When leaders benefit from a culture of leadership excellence, others will follow — and so will further innovation and excellence throughout your organization.
Kristy McCann Flynn is the Co-Founder & CEO at GoCoach. Kristy has 15 years of experience as a strategic human resource leader, change manager, and organizational development expert. She brings a big-picture perspective and a hands-on, tactical approach to her leadership style, which she is now bringing to life with GoCoach. Kristy’s goal is to help and educate companies to meet their ultimate goals by empowering their employees to take ownership of their careers.
Be sure to catch Kristy’s break out sessions “Building an Always Learning Culture” at NYC SHRM’s Annual Conference, Navigating Next.