Being a leader in today’s workplace is not easy. You must balance an ever-changing marketplace of ideas and policies with the way things have always been done in your company; and most of the time, those two things do not line up. Often, your evaluation is based not just on your performance, but also on the performance of others. Combine this with the changing of values from generation to generation and being a leader of people becomes very complicated.
In my career, I have had some of the best and worst examples managers/supervisors. I have had leaders that have given me the chance to grow into the person that I am today. They allowed me to work on myself and my talents as an instructional designer. Conversely, I have had supervisors that made me question my entire career choice. If you have been in the working world for a long time, you have probably had the same experiences, hopefully more of the former than the latter.
However, when someone is promoted to a leadership position, there is an assumption that they are instantly ready to lead their former peers. After all, they excelled at their previous role which is how they got their promotion. They should have all the skills needed to lead a team of employees in their former role, right? Well, no.
Being a leader of people requires a unique set of skills that, like all skills, must be trained and practiced. Knowing how to talk to your team, being able to identify when someone on your team is having trouble (either personally or professionally), having necessary uncomfortable conversations, these are all skills that go hand in hand with being an effective people leader. These skills are not something that come easy and are not something that most people are good at naturally. That is where leadership training comes into the picture.
Leadership training is a way to ease the transition into the role of being a leader of a team. Generally, when a new manager or supervisor is assigned to the team, the majority of their training is around what that team’s responsibility is to the company. Don’t get me wrong, that is important. But, there is another side of training that is often left out. Soft skill training is just as important as learning how your team supports the business because it teaches you how to keep your team whole, in both a personnel and mental sense.
If there is one thing that we have learned in the past few years, it is that worker burn out and stress are huge factors in the workplace today. If you as a leader are not trained on how to deal with your team’s mental wellbeing, then you are just asking for high turnover and a never-ending carousel of new employees that you must train.
Being a manager of a team in today’s workplace is no longer just telling your team to meet their KPIs and expecting them to follow your word as law. Good leaders know that innovation and questions lead to better processes. They listen to their team when they have concerns or questions about how things are done or how policies affect their day-to-day activities. We must view the workplace as an evolving ecosystem that changes with us as new employees enter and older, more senior employees retire. Gone are the days of blaming every new change on Millennials, because now Millennials are the new managers.
My belief is that the key to being an effective leader in today’s workplace lies in listening to and understanding the needs of your team, and how those needs align with the needs of your company. If you can understand how to align the needs and strengths of your team to the needs and strengths of your company, then you have found the “secret sauce” of being an effective manager.