HR & Management

Are you equipped for the three pressures of leading in this evolving business landscape?

7 min read

12 April 2016

Not only is the enterprise landscape moving fast, but it is complex, uncertain and ambiguous for many leaders and managers in business today. Now is a fascinating and exciting time to be a leader and a manager – as long as you’re equipped for the responsibilities.

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Selecting talent, getting the best from your employees, managing the escalating aspirations of younger people and handling under-performance begin to give a flavour of just a few of the challenges today’s leader-managers face.

At a practical level, there are pressures – here are three that leaders need to be able to navigate in today’s fast-changing world of work.

(1) Agile managing

The advancement to manager is a common part of career progression. Consequently, when many professionally qualified and technical people become managers they get the title, the job description, the team, the office/desk/car and the increase in pay.

Being an agile leader-manager means you need to:

• Think about how you behave, how you approach easy and difficult things and people, noticing the effect it’s having and being deft in flexing when necessary to achieve the wanted outcome

• Assess what strengths you have in your organisation (or team) and where these strengths can be best employed – irrespective of the job role.

• Identify where the gaps are – in knowledge, experience, behaviour, attitude, engagement, contribution etc – to then fill them as quickly and efficiently as possible

The word agile means dexterous, light-footed, quick, deft, supple. Leader-managers who demonstrate agility of mind and behaviour will surely conquer opportunities and challenges presented more confidently and more effectively than those who are not.

Why being agile is powering the growth of British SMEs

Part of the agile leader-manager challenge you face is about knowing which hat to wear and when. The technical hat is all about getting the job done, using your technical knowledge and expertise; your leader-manager hat is all about how you get the job done through your team and other resources.

An effective leader-manager will constantly be engaging with business issues and considering them from multiple perspectives.

Yet being an effective leader-manager with people takes hard work, tenacity, practice and ongoing commitment. It requires great planning, agility in handling different people and difficult conversations, the ability to manage resistance to change in a changing landscape filled demanding employees and challenging clients.

Seven rules of engagement for successfully managing expectations in your business

(2) Understanding millennials at work

Millennials (or Gen Y) born 1980-1995 and they will soon make up a significant proportion of the workforce. Some employers who are stuck in the mind frame that millennials are a massive challenge to be “fixed” are now experiencing a reality check.

Millennials have a massive contribution to make, if only their leader-managers can optimise their capacities. Those who do, will be able to harness their strengths and be agile enough to attract, develop and retain them.

Read more on millennials:

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 predicts they will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025.

“44% of the millennials surveyed say they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years.”

What’s important to millennials? The most consistent findings about what motivate them as a group (and remember, individuals may differ) say:

• The opportunity for skills, technical and personal development
• Leadership skill development
• The opportunity for career progression
• Alignment of personal and organisation’s values
• Work- life balance and 
• Flexible working using technology

Successful leader-managers find and address employees’ individual drivers, preferences and values. If you as a leader learn about what is important to your employees and why, you’ll have a better handle on how best to motivate, engage or re-engage and retain them.

Continue reading on the next page for the final pressure leader-managers can expect to face in today’s workplace.

(3) Retaining future talent

With baby boomers retiring in large numbers (3.6m are expected to retire in 2016) and the estimated cost to replace an employee running over £30,000, today’s leaders need to find a way to identify talent and develop robust strategies to engage and retain them – while stemming the flow of your talented employees leaving the organisation.

Millennials have very different expectations about jobs, length of service in a firm and remuneration than their predecessors. Several surveys suggest that they value a good work-life balance, working for a firm with strong values and having a sense of purpose beyond financial success or having a job for life.

Younger people are more likely to resign and move to another role or career after a short period of time, often in search of promotion of a better work-life balance or if they feel the current role, manager or organisation isn’t for them.

The answer is in your hands – remember, your best people are your best investment.

Leaders who wish to retain future talent will be more successful if they scan the constantly changing landscape for trends, patterns and signs that may impact their ability to develop and retain millennials.

To conclude, these three pressures are connected. All three need you to be agile. If you can understand and demonstrate the range of skills, awareness and behaviour required to lead and manage well you are more likely to drive performance, to retain and engage your future talent.

Not only that, being skilled at attracting, developing and retaining talent, you’ll create a culture where your talent can blossom.

When you as a leader-manager can navigate these three pressures successfully, you will set yourself and your organisation up for sustained success.

Want to create engaged employees? Don’t miss these five steps for satisfying your staff.

Catherine Joyce is MD of people management firm BlueQuay, and author of Being An Agile Leader-Manager. She is a business leadership consultant and confidant to directors, senior managers and emerging leaders in blue-chip companies across a range of industries. Follow the company on Twitter at @bluequay.