This year has delivered a unique set of challenges that most leaders have never been trained to handle (especially when they arise simultaneously). From employee burnout to staff shortages to hybrid workforces and more, leaders need to hone and adapt their traditional skills; but the vast majority have not learned how to do it. So here are three vital areas where the leaders of your business are in desperate need of help and advice.
Skill # 1: Learn to Respond Constructively When Employees Share Problems
With employee stress skyrocketing, there are going to be a lot of problems. But based on the Leadership IQ study, The State Of Leadership Development, we know that only 26% say their leader always responds constructively when employees share their work issues. And if someone says their leader always responds constructively when sharing their work issues, they’re about 12 times more likely to recommend the company as a great employer.
The challenge for 2021 is that when leaders themselves are stressed, it will become increasingly difficult for them to respond constructively to the problems of their employees.
Empathetic listening is one of the many skills leaders can use to perform better on this issue. When an employee calls a leader and begins verbally offloading a seemingly endless list of issues, it’s far too easy for the leader to say, âWhat do you want me to do about this? Or “Life is not always fair” or “Think you are having problems?”, Or a number of less empathetic lines.
Listening with empathy (i.e. seeing the world through other people’s eyes) is not always easy. Among the thousands of people who took the Do you know how to listen with empathy? About a third of respondents failed. And only about 20% of people got perfect scores. It’s a difficult skill to master.
One technique I recommend teaching executives is to confirm that we heard what the employee just said and to corroborate that we understood it correctly. Just follow this three-step process:
- Step 1: After the employee has shared their work issues, say, âI want to make sure I understand what you are saying. “
- Step 2: Repeat what you heard them say.
- Step 3: Say, âDid I get it right? “
While most active listening aficionados use the first two steps, most of them miss the third step, wondering if we have actually heard them correctly. We didn’t listen with success and empathy until the other person said, “yes, you got that right.” And if they say âno you didn’t get itâ or âyou got it wrongâ then we have to say, âI’m sorry I misunderstood, can I try again, because I really want to understand your point. view ?”
Skill # 2: Learn to provide more effective and less moving feedback
A Leadership IQ study found that only 20% of people say their leader always provides constructive feedback that has helped improve their performance. Meanwhile, 40% of people say their leader never or rarely provides constructive feedback that has helped improve their performance.
But if someone says their leader always provides constructive feedback that improved their performance, they’re almost eight times more likely to recommend the company as a great employer.
When people are already stressed out and emotionally fried, the most important step in providing constructive feedback is to eliminate all emotions and keep the conversation as calm and analytical as possible. The less emotional a person is, the more intelligent and rational they will be.
One technique I recommend teaching leaders is the FIRE model. The FIRE model is a four-step process that we humans use to assess the world around us.
- 1. First, we notice a few facts.
- 2. Second, we make Interpretations on these facts.
- 3. Third, based on our interpretations, we experience emotional reactions.
- 4. Fourth, once we experience these emotions, we have desired endings.
Now, when a leader is about to provide constructive feedback, the first thing he should do is ask himself, “What are the facts here?” This one question forces us to look at the facts and put aside our interpretations, reactions and endings.
In fact, when preparing to provide feedback, it’s a great idea to literally write down the facts, interpretations, reactions, and endings by drawing a 4-box grid, labeling each box with an element of the template. FIRE, then inserting each feedback bit in the appropriate box. Once that’s done, you can simply cross out the interpretations, reactions, and endings and build the conversation just around the facts.
Skill # 3: Learn to set goals that empower and inspire employees
One of the best antidotes to burnout and stress is to focus on something positive and empowering. When a leader can emotionally engage their employees to do something important and invigorating, it is much harder for those employees to feel stressed and emotionally fried.
Yet, based on the Leadership IQ study, Are SMART Goals Dumb ?, we know that only 35% of employees say they are always learning something new on the job. Meanwhile, 52% of employees never, occasionally or rarely learn new things. As bad as it sounds, it’s even worse: Employees who are always learning new things are ten times more likely to be inspired than those who aren’t.
I recommend teaching leaders how to conduct monthly motivational conversations. And more specifically, I suggest you teach executives how to ask their employees the following two questions during these conversations:
- Question 1: “What things would you like to improve in the next month? This forward-looking question lets employees know that you want them to grow and that there are exciting things on the horizon that they can learn.
- Question # 2: “What things are you better at now than last month?” This question gently prompts employees to remember all the learning they’ve been through and use it to reframe their work experience more positively.
This year has delivered a unique set of challenges. But if you’re ready to hone and improve the skills you teach your leaders, you’ll find that not only will your leaders thrive this year, but they’ll also have an advanced toolset for the rest of their careers. . .