Planes downed. Mass shootings. Toxic dam bursts. Corporate misinformation on a massive scale. Inappropriate approaches to contract worker remuneration. In such times, anxiety increases – and it has been proved that increasing anxiety in the workplace impacts productivity. In 2015, anxiety symptoms were the highest they have been in the five years the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has been conducting its national Stress and Wellbeing Survey.
There is also increasing evidence that shows the significant impact of such anxiety on the long-term health of leaders. As the year comes to a close, leaders may also be experiencing what many in their organisations are feeling: they are tired, sometimes jaded, concerned about what the coming year might bring and what they can do in the face of the current global challenges to peace and stability to keep the workplace healthy and the workforce on track to deliver strong performance.
At a local level, adding to this mix is the increasing pressure on executives to actively address the potential for poor business culture to drag down the performance of the organisation. “Today, the focus for professional investors is on the behaviour of your executive and whether they can be trusted to operate consistently with your stated values. It is therefore, no longer sufficient to just talk about your culture. Your ability to demonstrate it in action, ‘your walk’, is critical”, according to recent UK research cited by ASIC’s Greg Medcraft.
Now is a great time for us to think about how best to support leaders in addressing year-end challenges so they go into the new year ready to inspire their teams and show strength in the face of volatility and uncertainty. In previous newsletters, we’ve talked about the importance of self-awareness. The first step is to help leaders take time for reflection, i.e. to check in with themselves. Here is a link to a document that I've found very helpful for this reflection in the past. The next step is to encourage leaders to check in with the other members of their leadership team and the third and final step is to check in with employees and help them reflect on what’s past and what’s on the way.
If you are pushed for time and only consider three questions in this review process, I’ve found the following works really well:
1. How was the past year for me/you - what were the highlights and disappointments?
2. What is one thing I/you would do differently?
3. What are my/your hopes for the coming year?
As part of this process, it's important for the leader to check in on their own values and whether their actions over the past year have been in congruence with the values of the organisation. In ensuring values-based leadership it is critical to address any deficiencies in the corporate culture that may be responsible for poor performance.
Leaders need to be crystal clear on what their core values are and how they have been ‘walking the talk’ to ensure alignment with the values of the organisation. This is not easy work but if it gets done in time for a fresh start in 2016, leader performance as well as organisational performance is likely to be significantly stronger as employees see the congruence in what is said and what is done.
The real upside here, supported by evidence again and again, is that strong values-based leadership leads to more effective decision making, grows a collaborative, strong culture and delivers high performance, profitability and shareholder value.
Can leaders afford not to stop and reflect on how they make decisions in their businesses and the impact they have on their teams and the organisation’s culture?
All the best with this deeper work and for a healthy and successful 2016. We look forward to continuing to support you in achieving this.
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