With a mission to help people be better leaders, we constantly ask aspirational leaders:, “what do you need support with?”   Currently, the consistent response is “how do I manage the boundaries of what the individual wants with what the business needs?”. The new normal of remote working thrust a significantly different expectation on Leaders. On one hand, a much greater need and appreciation for empathetic leadership- care for the individual, mental health, flexibility, and resilience. The human side of leadership. On the other, Leaders want to reset focus to consistent achievement of budget, succeeding against targets, stepping up to the next level of performance. The commercial side of Leadership.

Of course, this is not an either/ or question but an “and” question. How do you do both well when you feel a bit stuck in the middle – not wanting to lose key talent while also steering your team to new performance pastures.

Underneath it all, Leaders are asking themselves two key questions.  1. When is it right for me to increase performance pressure? and 2. How much flexibility is good for business?

Let’s unpack question 1.  In a typical team, you have three different levels of performance. Those you might call your “A” players who have the results on the board and also lead the way with the right behaviour. Then there are the ‘’B’’ players, whose performance and behaviour, and capability is good, with some areas for specific improvement. Finally, you find the ‘’C ‘’players. These are the ones that have yet to reach the performance level needed due to lack of capability, motivation, behaviour, or time.

In an environment of change, when costs are being scrutinised and we are looking under each rock to find efficiencies, the C players are under focus. It’s not black or white for the leader. Will the C player make it? Are they demonstrating the right behaviours? How much time do I give them? What is fair? Leaders don’t want to create issues by handling them insensitively. However, they have a requirement to address the performance.

A leader this week gave me a great example of a newish employee who was not delivering the expected results but seemed to be doing the right things. The Leader asked the line manager to meet with the person weekly to better understand and support to make sure that person was focusing in the right areas. Despite pressure from peers, finance, etc. to manage the person out, the managers backed the person and now, 3 months later, performance is exactly on target.

The second grey area:  how much flexibility is good for business? Deloitte has just announced they are happy for their 1000 Australian people to have complete decision-making authority on where they work. Depending upon what industry and working environment you had pre covid, most leaders we talk to would still prefer people to spent 2/3 of the week at work. The other complicated area is with remuneration and bonuses. Hybrid working makes it more difficult to see the correlation between inputs and outputs and to see the discretionary effort of individuals to go beyond what is expected.

Take the very common scenario right now of people choosing to live outside the cities yet wanting to retain their current professional employment, pay level, and working conditions. Seems fair and reasonable at face value, but what about the impact on the team, the leader, the customer, the business. How many small adjustments need to be made for the choice of one? Maybe an easy choice if they are an A player, but obviously more difficult with B and C Players.

Whenever we must reach a delicate balance, Communication and Coaching Conversations are the science to the art of Leadership, the glue connecting the dots.

Leaders more than ever before need frameworks to help them manage the Person as well as the Performance.  Tools and templates to think and talk through situations, navigate the right path and negotiate mutually beneficial outcomes.

Here is an example of a Lighthouse framework (PCP) to put the 1. A person at the center, with a 2. Performance frame using a 3. WE conversation to stay on track and reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.

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Research shows that if leaders have a weekly 1:1 conversation with team members, engagement increases by 13%.  Interestingly, when leaders have a monthly conversation, engagement decreases by 5% (Cisco, 2018). Leaders committing to regular weekly conversations is crucial in these difficult times.  This communication helps Leaders stay in tune with the person and prevent the misaligned expectations than creep in when issues are not discussed.

We are here to help systemize leadership to enable your business to scale, transform or grow. Please contact Peter Nankervis or Lighthouse Group at www.lighthousegroup.co to see how we can help you and your business. 

Lighthouse Group