In a 2015 study, 71 percent of companies worldwide said their leaders are not ready to lead into the future. The same survey found half of companies worldwide believe their leaders are not ready to lead their organizations today.
Brandon Hall Group’s State of Leadership Development Study found critical gaps in training, specifically training targeted for mid-level managers. The highest priorities for improvement identified were developing leaders to become effective coaches, and improving their ability to act innovatively and lead high-performance teams.
Why is there a widespread perception that leaders are not ready to lead change, today or tomorrow? The answer lies in the exponential pace of change gripping businesses of all kinds. The same high-paced digital environment that has employees interrupted by apps and collaborative tools every five minutes has also gripped leaders, compounding organizations’ problems responding effectively to rapid change:
- Research shows only about 32 percent of U.S. employees are engaged – involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work.
- 66 percent of workers complain that they don’t have enough time to do their jobs.
- Employees typically have only about 1 percent of the typical workweek to focus on their own training and development.
How can businesses overcome these challenges? Coaching is critical, and not just when a big change or event such as an acquisition rolls around. Managers at all levels must step up to coach to change on a continual business. Here are three steps to meet the challenge:
- Put Down the Device and Connect: In working with companies large and small across many industries, we have found time and again that the need for training boils down to people having real conversations with their managers. Yet managers are bombarded with so much information, they may not take the time to connect with their employees in an ongoing way. To initiate real change, leaders at all levels should make time to disconnect from their phones and devices and connect with employees on a personal level. A simple, “How are you today?” and “How can I support you?” lets employees know you care and prompts them to engage.
- Spur Innovation Through Collaboration: Leaders are defined by their ability to achieve breakthroughs. They must be able to draw connections, innovate, discover, and overcome obstacles to push their teams to meet constant challenges. We all know that collaboration leads to innovation. Yet as leaders we often fall back on being directive and fail to engage employees collaboratively. No doubt there are many circumstances that call for a directive approach, such as reinforcing rules and dealing with insubordination. When we are seeking solutions, however, the answer often lies in brainstorming. Always look for smart ways to leverage your team’s strengths and talents. There is real power in collaboration, and it does wonders to motivate and energize employees.
- Make Training and Coaching Ongoing: Companies often wonder why, if they have put training in place, they aren’t seeing the results they are looking for. Often the problem lies with a one-off, check-the-box approach to training. The best forward-looking companies today view training as an ongoing process. Every training program must have a leader-reinforcement component that informs managers specifically what they need to do over time to make change successful and sustainable.
Finally, leaders need to understand that there are predictable, universal sources of resistance in every change situation. It could be employees intentionally dragging their feet in adapting to change and adopting new practices. It could take the form of outright rebellion. Whatever the resistance, leaders who constantly engage with employees won’t be surprised when the inevitable resistance surfaces. By constantly connecting, coaching, and collaborating, you can identify concerns and respond with strategies and communication to help employees cope, grow, and thrive through change.