Leadership during periods of uncertainty and change is never easy. Today, the task is even more daunting due to ‘pandemic fatigue’, the distance of working from home, new digital tools and employees’ fear of illness and personal economic impact.

Traditional management techniques such as setting challenging goals, tying incentives to results, and measuring KPIs can lead to resistance or burnout as employees struggle to meet expectations.

Today’s environment requires a new ‘human centric’ leadership approach. By shifting the focus from the results to the people, future ready leaders are experiencing increased employee engagement.

Human centric leadership starts with understanding each employee’s feelings, needs and goals – prior to consideration of the company objectives strengthens commitment and long term results.  Keys to success are:

Building Trust

By showing employees you care, are willing to listen and committed to supporting them, you lay a foundation of trust.

Asking team members how they are feeling; inquiring (appropriately) about their family depends the relationship. Being transparent, balancing confidence with vulnerability then creates a culture of trust and a safe haven for employees.

Embracing Diversity

Each person on your team (ir-respective of cultural background, generation or gender) is unique. By getting to know each employee through open one to one meetings (video or if possible in person), human-centric leaders build deep relationships, while gaining valuable insight into their each person’s motivators.

Adaptation of management approach to meet each person ‘where he or she is’ creates commitment. Recently, leaders have found that some people need short frequent 1-1s; or crave human connection so monthly outdoor walking meetings are important while others what the challenge to learn new tools.

Longer term, knowledge of key motivators can be used to define personalized incentive programs (extra vacation days, gift cards for favorite online store, access to company cabin) to reward achievements.

Empowering Success

Global leaders including Amazon, Google and Ritz Carlton attribute their success to empowerment. Their employees go beyond ‘the day job’ to innovate, define new solutions, deliver outstanding customer experiences and move the company forward through uncertainty.

The keys to successful empowerment are to:

  1. Assign people to teams and initiatives which align with their personal goals and motivators
  2. Set clear direction of what needs to be achieved, allowing the employees to determine how to reach the goal.
  3. Allow the team the time, space and creativity to explore, experiment and then move toward agreed upon milestones – without restrictive time pressures or reporting demands
  4. Acknowledge that failures can and often will occur
  5. Leverage one to one’s as coaching opportunities
Team Building

As humans we all have a desire to belong to a community. While social distancing requirements make historical team development activities difficult, there are alternatives for getting people together.

Some of the techniques used by human centric leaders to build a sustainable team culture include:

  • Weekly video lunches; happy hours; quiz time or drum circles (using kitchen utensils)
  • Walk and talk sessions outdoors instead of video 1/1s
  • Open office time – a couple hours / week when the manager is available on video for anyone who wants to talk
  • Group picnics to celebrate milestones
  • Best recipe; garden; cool picture contests

Wondering what is right for your team?  Just ask a few people what would make them feel connected; supported and give a bit of levity to the workweek.

The time has come for human-centric leadership

COVID-19 has disrupted all aspects of business, creating many opportunities for innovation as societies, companies and people define the new future. By building trust with your employees; embracing diversity of goals and motivations; empowering success and building a committed team, human centric leaders are ready for success now and in the future.

Article provided by Jennifer Vessels, Future Ready Innovator and leader of Next Step.