Resilience Is a Question of Leadership: 13 Tips on How to Benefit from a Modern Leadership Culture

Modern Leadership at dotSource SE
Modern Leadership at dotSource SE

» Employees do not leave jobs, they leave managers. «

Dr. Travis Bradberry, author and expert on emotional intelligence

Dissatisfaction at work adds fuel to the fire that companies have been trying to put out for years: a shortage of skilled labour.

One of the main reasons people leave their companies is the relationship to their managers. Although laying all the blame on one person or one group of people may seem like the easy way out, the fact that more and more employees are quietly or actually quitting should incentivise those in leadership roles to reflect on their leadership style.

The figures published in Gallup’s Engagement Index confirm this:

  • 61% of German employees will no longer be with their current employer in three years
  • By way of comparison, only 35% of employees could imagine changing jobs within 3 years in 2018
  • Quiet quitting has also increased exponentially: 87% of employees are not emotionally attached to their place of work – a fact that costs the German economy between 118.1 and 151.1 billion euros every year

How can the management level actively

  • ensure that employee satisfaction is established as a top priority of New Work in the company?
  • contribute to improving employee satisfaction themselves?
  • reduce the number of resignations?
  • make work in the company attractive to new talent?

Modern Leadership

  1. Trust as an Integral Part of Modern Leadership
  2. Bridging the Trust Gap: Differences between Perceived and Genuine Trust
  3. Feedback Culture
  4. Feedback Culture in Practice
  5. Modern Leadership Concerns Everyone
  6. Leadership Tools in a Value-Based Work Culture
  7. 5 Tips for Modern Leadership
  8. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
  9. Modern Leadership for Strong Teams

Trust as an Integral Part of Modern Leadership

There must be no conflict of values among the decision-makers of a company. Those at management level who do not introduce the values of New Work and togetherness out of their own conviction, but rather out of conformity will sooner or later fail because of one of the most essential factors for successful leadership and employee loyalty: trust.

Managers are fully aware of the importance of this corporate value – and in agreement. For the majority, trust has been at the top of the ranking of the most important values for years:

  • Trust: 36%
  • Responsibility: 27%
  • Respect: 17%
  • Integrity: 12%
  • Sustainability: 6%
  • Courage: 2%

Employees who trust their managers are employees who can go above and beyond and drive a company forward. Moreover, trust – just like satisfaction – is not a soft, but a hard factor driving business performance. Why? Because trust

  • reduces costs
  • leads to better results
  • fosters creativity
  • makes innovation possible
  • provides orientation
  • creates a feeling of safety

Managers also consider a value-based corporate culture to be highly relevant for themselves:

  • 77% rate teamwork and a healthy corporate culture as particularly important
  • About 76% see values as the strongest form of guidance, especially when it comes to difficult decisions
  • Around 74% value health more than success and profit

Bridging the Trust Gap: Differences Between Perceived and Genuine Trust

And yet, it exists: the gap between perceived and genuine trust.

It is up to the management level to enter into dialogue with employees to bridge this gap. Regular feedback in both directions is one of the fundamental measures for strengthening trust and increasing employee loyalty.

Questions both parties should be asking themselves during this process include:

  • What does trust mean to me?
  • What do I expect from others to be able to trust them?
  • How do we make trust measurable?

Modern Leadership and Feedback Culture

Regular exchange on these questions can help bridge the trust gap and avoid dissatisfaction or even resignations.

Joint weekly meetings and regular performance reviews, but also a face-to-face conversation every now and then are good opportunities for clear communication and transparency on both sides.

But remember: rather than just complaining, try to

  • use appreciative language
  • send »I« messages
    • How did I perceive a certain situation?
    • What did this perception emotionally trigger in me?
    • What would I have liked to have done to avoid this emotion?

These are the basics of a well-functioning, appreciative feedback culture. However, in real life, interactions between people rarely, if ever, follow a straight line.

Emotions, sympathy, personal challenges or simply having a bad day are all factors that influence everyday professional life, collaboration and the relationship between employees and their managers.

This makes it all the more important to have a set of rules that everyone tries to adhere to. It is just as crucial not to underestimate those external influencing factors, to include them in the assessment of a difficult situation, to show understanding and to offer assistance – as far as the professional relationship and the counterpart allow it.

It is not a question of

  • managers solving their employees’ personal problems
  • condoning misconduct
  • excusing continuous failures

It is about being a leader who

  • is professionally and empathically predictable
  • shows the team that they can count on emotionally stable reactions

Honesty plays a decisive role in a trusting relationship and productive collaboration. For this to happen, however, employees must feel comfortable and safe.

Honest feedback is not always pleasant feedback. Accepting feedback must therefore be exemplified just as much as giving feedback.

Three Methods for Feedback Culture in Practice

Off-Site Speed Feedback

Speed feedback during a team retro is a useful way to practice giving and receiving feedback in a relaxed environment.

Everyone has two minutes of time to tell the person across from them what they appreciate about their work and the collaboration with them, but also where they still see potential – in line with the basics of a healthy feedback culture, i.e. on equal terms, appreciative and constructive.

After two minutes, it is the other person’s turn. Then, each person moves to the next chair until everyone has spoken to each person from the team, including the managers.

Everyone has equal rights. Everyone has the opportunity to give feedback in a setting that is free from project stress and daily office routines. In the best case, such team retros take place outside the office. Managers who make this possible for their team earn appreciation, increase satisfaction and strengthen a sense of trust and unity.

Be Radically Honest

» Feedback is such a big thing for many people because it is given too rarely. «

Julie Lepique, founder of femtasy

The German start-up femtasy takes a different approach to honest feedback outside of daily business.

As part of the »Radical Candor Lunch«, an exit interview without a resignation, each team member meets for lunch with someone from the management team – every six months.

Those who work at a different location or cannot physically meet up in a restaurant for other reasons can order food at the company’s expense and have the 90-minute conversation via video call.

The structure of this type of meeting is clearly defined: conversations do not take place with one’s own superiors, but rather with a manager from another team.

On the one hand, this allows employees to network beyond their own team.
On the other hand, this form of matchmaking offers employees a safe space to address unpleasant topics, such as difficulties with their own manager.
For this to work, there are clear tasks for both parties to complete in advance of the meeting and afterwards, but also tasks for the management team in general. These include ten preparatory questions that prove that femtasy is genuinely serious about radical honesty.

For example: »If you had to speak negatively about the company, what would you say?«

Just as important for more satisfaction and trust as the honest conversation itself are the measures, called action points, which the management team

  • decides on afterwards
  • makes transparent to all employees
  • reflects on in regular all-hands meetings

Extraordinary Team Retros

Making space and time for feedback outside of daily business is a promising way to strengthen employee loyalty and proactively avoid resignations.

Spontaneous team retros, convened by the management team or requested by employees when dissatisfaction in the team becomes more and more noticeable, are also options for resolving tensions and improving personal and professional interactions.

For these meetings, it is important to communicate to all parties ahead of time

  • why the meeting is being convened
  • what the agenda of the meeting will be
  • which methods will be used
  • how to prepare for the meeting

It is advisable to let an objective third party, who is not directly involved, chair the meeting. They can act in a neutral way, communicate the agenda and feedback rules, summarise, address questions and intervene if someone does not adhere to the agreed-upon rules.

One method that can prove useful for such team retros is the Balint method. What makes it special is that the case presenters, who describe the situation and answer comprehension questions at the beginning, spend the main part of the discussion – the feedback round consisting of hypotheses and proposed solutions – sitting with their backs to the rest of the participants.

Thanks to the constructed anonymity, participants feel encouraged to give honest feedback. Thoughts and suggestions that employees might not express in a face-to-face situation come to the surface thanks to the

  • group setting
  • deliberate separation of the meeting from the rest of the working day
  • staged anonymity

Modern Leadership Concerns Everyone

Regular internal training as well as external coaching are further ways to build and strengthen a value-based corporate culture.

A culture that everyone can help shape, pass on and refer to. One that promotes modern leadership at all levels.

It is not just CEOs and team leads who are leaders. Project managers, tech leads and mentors also need good leadership skills to pass the shared corporate culture on to their teams.

Leadership Tools in a Value-Based Work Culture

Concrete reasons employees list for leaving a company because of poor leadership include:

  • Overwhelming workload
  • Not feeling appreciated
  • Unfitting new hires
  • No promotion of creativity
  • Too few opportunities for further development
  • Too little training offered
  • Lack of empathy

5 Tips for Modern Leadership

Leadership skills and instruments to counteract these reasons are the basis for successful, modern leadership: practicing a no-blame culture, showing appreciation, promoting peer recruiting, creating space for creativity and leading empathically.

Practice a No-Blame Culture

Throwing employees in at the deep end can help them realise their full potential and create high performers. This »Just do it« mentality is also a sign of trust and appreciation.

Jumping in at the deep end, i.e. taking on a task that feels too demanding given the perceived or sometimes actual competence, can enable employees to go above and beyond and become more motivated and committed.
Working independently is important. Autonomy in everyday work is one of the main criteria when choosing a career, especially for the younger generation.

However, a bit of caution is in order. If employees feel constantly overwhelmed or are faced with too many failures, exactly the opposite effect can set in.

Therefore, it is incredibly important to not only promote, but also practice the mentality that mistakes are okay. That, especially when it comes to the very first try, no one expects perfection.

Make it clear that the most important thing is to learn from your experiences, no matter how successful they are. This is practicing a no-blame culture. And it requires teamwork: no matter how big or small the challenge, evaluating completed tasks together and exchanging opinions is essential.

  • What led to the goal not being achieved?
  • Were the requirements clear enough?
  • What would have been needed to perform the task better?
  • How can we ensure that things go smoother in the future (both economically and emotionally)?
  • What did we learn from this?

Show Appreciation

A lack of appreciation for employees can become an existential challenge for companies in times of labour shortage.

As early as 40 years ago, studies showed that a culture of appreciation positively influences productivity. Recent studies back this up and demonstrate once again how business critical appreciation is at work. It can increase

  • productivity by almost 40%
  • employee satisfaction and retention by nearly 70%
  • commitment by almost 90%
  • employee loyalty by over 30%

Here, as always, good leaders are role models. They lead by example, practice and encourage a culture of appreciation.

For this, it is necessary

  • to define appreciation as a management task
  • to identify leadership tools, such as
      • expressing praise and gratitude sincerely and attentively
      • supporting employees emotionally and professionally
      • placing trust in employees
      • handing over responsibility and increasing self-esteem
      • promoting appreciative and motivating teamwork
      • recognising performance through rewards, not only financially
      • offering development opportunities and career prospects
      • acknowledging cultural differences and experiences

Encourage Peer Recruiting

Successful teams are communities. They do not only see themselves as a community of purpose, but as a partnership. This benefits both the team members and the company.

After all, people who feel comfortable around their colleagues enjoy their work more, are more motivated and more productive. This does not mean that you need to be best friends with everyone you work with.

However, teams that operate like a friendly community have the advantage that they can assess each other well and determine who – or what – can enrich collaboration or strengthen cohesion.

Managers should take advantage of this when it comes to recruiting new team members. Why not let those who will end up working with them take part in the decision-making process?

Peer recruiting – the trend behind this method – offers companies several advantages:

  • More appreciation for existing team members
  • More successful onboarding
  • Better integration
  • Lower risk for problems within the new team structure
  • Better combination of professional and personal skills
  • More time for management and human resources (HR)
  • Better public image

Ways to Make the Recruitment Process More Bottom up Rather Than Top Down:

Allow your tech leads or key operational stakeholders to co-assess applications

  • Have applicants who are invited participate in the selection process
  • Conduct interviews together
  • Evaluate interviews and applicants together

Team members involved in the recruitment process are neither trained HR managers nor established leaders who have already conducted countless interviews and made new hires.

For successful peer recruiting, it is important to

  • make the peers’ roles and tasks transparent in advance
  • provide information on the interview process and specify do’s and don’ts
  • share how-tos (if possible)
  • give tips for communication and behaviour in the interview

Make Room for Creativity

A no-blame culture, appreciative leadership and a balanced relationship between handing over responsibility and instilling trust lay the groundwork for promoting creativity.

They serve as the basis for the mental freedom that managers should give their employees. Whether it is offsite appointments for the launch of a major campaign, walk and talk formats for creative exchange, hackathons at other locations or retreats and quiet spaces as part of a company’s premises – physical freedom, i.e. workspaces and meetings outside the office, can also strengthen the creative flow of employees.

Lead with Empathy

Empathic leaders

  • put employees and their needs at the centre
  • align business goals with the personal goals of their employees
  • take time for all their employees
  • give employees room for feedback
  • are good listeners
  • are able to restrain themselves
  • value the opinions and ideas of others
  • are open to wild ideas
  • do not insist on imposing their own opinion
  • know their own strengths and weaknesses
  • are not necessarily nice all the time

Empathic people are not automatically empathic leaders. It is not uncommon for people who are empathic in their private lives to find it difficult to show their empathic side at work.

However, empathic leadership can be learned – and it is the future of the working world. This makes it all the more important that empathy is not confused with weakness.

Employees do not think less of a manager because they are understanding, show emotions and admit to mistakes and weaknesses.

Quite the opposite: it is precisely this behaviour that is not only increasingly demanded by employees, but also rewarded – with trust, the number one corporate value.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Value-based collaboration and leadership can only become a part of corporate culture if the values the company represents are visible to everyone.

Corporate Principles – 8 Tips to Create a Common DNA
Corporate principles should be:

  • defined and documented
  • made transparent and centrally accessible
  • visualised in an analogue way
  • made measurable
  • subjected to employee feedback on a regular basis
  • integrated as part of the onboarding and mentoring processes
  • used as an anchor in regular performance reviews
  • passed on to new managers via coaching and training

Modern Leadership for Strong Teams: More Tips and Best Practices in the Trend Book 2023

Handelskraft Trend Book 2023 ThumbnailIf you embrace and promote value-based leadership in your company, you have a great chance of being rewarded with talented and loyal employees. In the Handelskraft Trend Book 2023, you can find out how to use other New Work methods such as workations or job sharing to increase the satisfaction of your teams and thereby secure long-term success.

Fill out the form now and receive a free copy in your inbox!

(8 vote(s), average: 5.00 out of 5)

Leave a Reply