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72 STASHED IDEAS

The most effective managers of the future will be able to lead with empathy, although the 2021 Garner survey shows that only 47% of managers are prepared for this future role.

Qualities of the empathic manager:

  • They can go beyond understanding the facts of work. They proactively seek information to put themselves in their employees' context.
  • They develop high levels of trust and care and a culture of acceptance within teams.
Rebecca L. (@rebbll82) - Profile Photo

@rebbll82

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Career

While managers understand empathy, they are unsure how to use it as a managers tool.

How to build empathy:

  • Managers should engage in one-on-one conversations with their peers to diagnose current managerial challenges.
  • These conversations will offer a chance to engage in vulnerable discussions on how to support the well-being of their team.
  • Most importantly, these conversations offer managers the opportunity to make mistakes and learn to lead with empathy.

Three trends challenge the traditional definitions of the manager role:

  1. The normalisation of remote work. Managers start to shift their focus more on the outputs of employees and less on the processes used to produce them.
  2. Acceleration in the use of new technology to manage employees is replacing the tasks historically done by managers, such as allocating work and nudging productivity.
  3. Employees' changing expectations. Knowledge workers expect their managers to be part of their support system to help them improve their life experience, not just their employee experience.

Managers are overburdened by the demands of the changing work environment. Actions that focus on empathy is time-consuming.

In recognising the pressure on managers to maintain team connectedness in a remote environment, leaders should rebalance their managers' workload. Managers should prioritise their workload to focus on fewer, higher-impact relationships with individuals and teams.

The role of managers are changing

Gartner analysis shows that 46% of the workforce is projected to be working hybrid in the near future for midsize companies. Employees will have more choices about where, when, and how much they work.

In the past, managers used to be selected and promoted if they were able to manage and evaluate the performance of employees. Now managers are increasingly hired based on their ability to be great coaches and teachers.

While the roles of managers have expanded, roles and teams are not structured to support well-being.

Managers are more motivated to be empathic when they have a support system. Goodway Groups, a fully remote company, acknowledges that distributed teams face greater challenges with communication and shared visibility. They created a team success partner whose duties include fostering trust and psychological safety and supporting team health. Managers work with the team success partners.

A Marvel Named Stan Lee

The Silver Age of comics, during the 60s, produced many gems like the Amazing Spider-Man, the uncanny X-Men and Captain America.

Most of these were from the Marvel factory, where Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922, started weaving his magic with the help of other creative and marketing geniuses who sustained his vision.

After many attempts to get Marvel into Hollywood, Stan Lee retired from the executive activities as President of the company and opted for some retirement money and a cut of film/TV productions.

As soon as he was gone, Marvel’s movie business lit up with X-Men (2000) and the Marvel Rocket Ship went into the galaxy with Iron Man (2008) kicking off the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). The back-to-back blockbusters had Stan Lee’s cameo appearances, much to the delight of Marvel fans.

While DC had Superman, the White God Superhero with no flaws, or the angel-like Wonder Woman, Marvel came up with characters who had inner conflicts about their identity (X-Men) or were simply teenagers (Spiderman) dealing with angst, regret and bad luck.

Marvel hoped that these new stories with emotional depth and relatability would hook readers in a crowded comic book space. His readers responded much more than he could ever imagine.

Stan Lee, known to those who knew him well as a grand self-mythologizer, had an ability to impress strangers. He himself had superpowers, like great storytelling abilities, or the way he coaxed talent from others. Many compared him to an orchestra conductor, who acts as a human catalyst.

When he left the day-to-day operations at Marvel Comics in 1972 and became President and Publisher, his company became disorganized, and had five different editor-in-chiefs in five years. The sixth one, Jim Shooter, who was a ‘normal’ manager despised by many, stabilized a rocking ship.

  • Be aware of the business landscape to recognize that a need for change exists.
  • Impeccable timing - having the ability to seamlessly sell change while minimizing disruption. 
  • Sell an ability to sustain long-term bottom line impact that comes from the change you are selling.
  • Selling change requires a level of desire that makes it mandatory for you to get your hands dirty throughout the selling cycle. 
  • To withstand the obstacles and resistance by those affected by the change you are selling demands mental toughness.
Being people-focused

69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees.

How does one build organizations that are people-focused, while acknowledging that nearly 70% of managers find communication with their employees uncomfortable?

  • Adaptability to changing requirements
  • Authenticity and consistent behavior
  • Bouncing back from failure
  • Coach-ability
  • Collaborative mindset
  • Compassion for those in need
  • Competitiveness
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Motivation to take on new challenges
  • Risk-taking
  • Stress management
  • Design thinking
  • Fashion instinct
  • Map making
  • Judging people and situations
  • Strategic thinking
Making a business thrive

Specific vocational skills are essential - coders should be able to code, salespeople should be able to sell. But, we also need soft skills. By only focusing on the seemingly essential skills, we've reduced the value of the skills that actually matter. 
What separates thriving organizations from struggling ones is the "soft" skills. These skills are not negotiable.

Soft skills 

If you've got the vocational skills, you're of little help without the human skills. The soft skills, or rather real skills, can't replace vocational skills, but amplify the things you've already been measuring.

For instance, a team member with all the traditional vocational skills is the baseline. Add to that perceptive, charismatic, driven, focused, goal-setting, inspiring, motivated, deep listener, and you have a team member that will benefit the organization in exponential ways.

  • Self Control: Persisting in doing things for the long run that you might not feel like doing in the short term.
  • Productivity: The ability to use insights, and the commitment to move things forward. 
  • Wisdom: Learning things that are difficult to glean from a manual.
  • Perception: Having the experience and the practice to see the world clearly.
  • Influence: Develop the skills you need to persuade others to take action.
  • Ability to deliver clear and useful criticism
  • Assertiveness on behalf of ideas that matter
  • Body language (reading and delivering)
  • Dispute resolution skills
  • Inspiring to others
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation and sales skills
  • Networking and presentation skills
  • Reframing
  • Talent management and team building.

Organizations know how to measure vocational skills. They know how to measure typing skills for example. However, they are less able to measure passion or commitment.

Organizations hire and fire based on vocational skill output. But, getting rid of a negative thinker or a bully is much more difficult. An employee that demoralizes an entire team is hampering productivity.

  • Crisis management skills
  • Decision making with effectiveness
  • Delegation for productivity
  • Diligence and attention to detail
  • Facilitation of discussion
  • Goal-setting skills
  • Innovative problem-solving techniques
  • Lateral thinking
  • Meeting hygiene
  • Planning for projects.
  • Artistic sense and good taste
  • Conflict resolution instincts
  • Creativity in the face of challenges
  • Critical thinking instead of mere compliance
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Diplomacy in difficult situations
  • Empathy for customers, co-workers and vendors
  • Intercultural competence
  • Mentoring
  • Social skills
  • Supervising with confidence

Self-management is about holding yourself accountable and ensuring you manage your time and resources effectively. Poor self-management leads to stress and burnout.

  • Make time for self-development as part of good self-management. It ensures that you focus on the important tasks without distraction.
  • Self-awareness. You need to know what habits you have so you can replace unhelpful habits with more desirable ones.
  • Controlling your impulses - when you want to react instead of respond.
  • Reflection is essential to keep you in tune with your priorities and values and identify opportunities for growth.

When we get busy, we often overlook the subtle shifts in ourselves. Or we become so focused on the work that we don't realise when we move away from what we truly value.

Being the best leaders we can be require us to identify our values and then live and lead according to them. When you understand what is important to you, what energizes you, what you believe in, and where you want to be, you can make decisions confidently.

Self-acceptance is not about accepting your failures and carrying on exactly as before. It is about taking responsibility for your actions, accepting what is and isn't possible to change, then developing a plan to improve things.

Self-acceptance is also about accepting your strengths. When you can identify your strengths, you can leverage that to get better results.

Self-growth is about striving to improve yourself and develop a sense of accountability and responsibility for the right things.

Self-growth requires passion and a sense of curiosity, always asking questions, and learning about your industry and yourself. Another essential part of self-growth is learning how to embrace failure and seeing it as a learning opportunity.

Focusing On Self-Leadership

Leaders spend many hours trying to shape and influence external factors such as processes, people, and targets.

Surprisingly, leaders would see better results if they spent more time focusing on self-leadership. Self-leadership consists of four elements: self-discovery, self-acceptance, self-management, and self-growth.

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