Like nearly everything else in the world, leadership has changed dramatically over the last 18 months. Leaders are now faced with a new set of priorities and challenges as they lead their organizations in a rapidly changing world and lead teams and customers who are facing struggles and changes of their own.
Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers and Impact Players, says that leaders who want to lead through uncertainty have to lead differently.
Too often, leaders who are trying to do the right thing slip into the role of having to have all the answers. But today’s leaders can’t possibly have all the answers, especially as they move through uncharted territory. Instead, leaders need everyone’s intelligence and have to use their knowledge and expertise in a way that allows everyone to contribute.
Wiseman compares it to running special forces—the leader doesn’t know everything or run the entire mission, but instead coordinates intel from their various employees and celebrates success. Often, that comes from asking questions and encouraging learning instead of always supplying an answer or opinion.
Wiseman also says that in these challenging times, leaders need to extend more grace and understanding to employees and customers than ever before. Many people are facing invisible challenges. That strain can be especially difficult on customer service and contact center employees who are working hard to help customers but can’t deliver what they’ve been able to deliver in the past. That exhaustion can lead to a feeling of languishing.
Wiseman’s research has shown that employees don’t burn out because of having a heavy workload—they burn out by not having an impact. Leaders can’t take their foot off the accelerator and have employees not do the hard stuff and expect it to fix the problem. Leaders need to give employees as much control as they can handle and soften the edges. The greatest challenge for leaders in the current climate is knowing where to put their foot on the accelerator and where to take it off.
Customer- and employee-focused leaders are multipliers who expect the best for their people, listen to their feedback and ideas and guide them through challenges. But they also extend grace and facilitate teamwork to help people contribute at their true capability.
Leadership is changing, but employees and customers will always be central to success.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Join the waitlist now for the new Customer Experience Community here.