As a leader, you are in the role you are in, at the time you are in it, doing the things you are doing, because you matter to someone. While that can be an overwhelming thought, it should inspire you to be the best leader you can be—one who is making it possible for your team to thrive and win together by bringing your unique experiences, ideas, and perspectives to those you serve. As a mentor once told me, experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is—in other words, growth comes from reflection, evaluation, and preparation.
As we approach the end of another year, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the challenges and triumphs of leading in organizations at this unique time. While somedays may cause you to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” the real opportunity moving into 2024 is to ask yourself, “Why is this happening for me?” I’m sure many of you set aside time at the end of the year to do some deep reflection. As you reflect on 2023, and prepare for 2024, here are a few items to consider.
Reflecting on 2023
There were three major items that seemed to occupy much of the conversation in client coaching sessions—the uncertainty of the economy, how employee expectations have changed (and aren’t going back), and the realization that the talent concerns everyone was kicking down the road are now beginning to have real impact today.
- Economic uncertainty. The year had its share of economic hurdles, ranging from inflationary pressures to supply chain disruptions to slowed purchasing decisions from customers. The economic headwinds that grew throughout 2023 became quite evident when preparing 2024 budgets over the last quarter of the year. Be aware of how tighter budgets may influence your sense of urgency, your openness to ideas, and your overall confidence as a leader. Reflect on how the economic environment in 2023 has stretched your adaptability, resiliency, and proactivity in being more innovative, employing more foresight, and making tough decisions more decisively.
- Adapting to changing expectations. It feels like leaders have finally accepted that changes brought on by the pandemic are now the new way of life in organizations. There are three main organization changes that have become the new reality.
- Employee expectations: The idea of work-from-home and flexible work schedules has moved from being a need or perk to being an expectation among many professionals. At the same time, employees are pushing organizations to move away from the traditional, hierarchical, rules-based culture to a highly collaborative, ‘teams of teams’, shared commitments culture. So, the challenges of being more collaborative while also being more remote have collided for many leaders. The opportunity for you is to embrace these changing expectations and find ways to flex your leadership superpower of bringing employees together in embracing these changes, rather than allowing the changes to push your team apart. Reflect on how embracing this new cultural phenomenon allows you to tap into the strengths, diversity, and energy of your team. Consider ways you have learned to strengthen communication, problem-solve, and innovate with this new style of work.
- Supply chains: The challenges of strained and uncertain supply chains continued to disrupt quality, consistency, and delivery to customers. It encouraged leaders to rethink sourcing, alternative supply options, and customer promises. Reflect on how these changes have made you more adaptable, appreciative of positive dependencies, and improved how you deal with ambiguity.
- Cyber-everything: Digital transformation certainly accelerated this year as the interconnectedness of systems and devices became ever more relevant in organizations. This was aided by significant advancements and acceptance of AI. So, this year advanced the realization that the technology aspect of almost every organization is changing significantly. Reflect on how adaptable you are in keeping pace with rapid advancements in technology and how open you are to learning how to use new technologies and tools to make your team and organization stronger, while still protecting yourself, your team, and your customers.
- Increasing talent pressures: Much of the attention over the past few years has been on filling open positions and closing skill gaps among existing team members. What has been pushed aside, during this time, is the rapidly approaching exit of many seasoned managers and leaders. When the concept of the silver tsunami became prevalent some years ago, most leaders felt they had 5 – 7 years to deal with the issue. Now the urgency is much higher as that window is in the 2 – 5 year range. Yes, some leaders are willing to stick around an extra year or two but failing to take the pending change seriously will have lasting impact on organizations. Reflect on what you have done in 2023 to strengthen your leadership pipeline and prepare your managers to lead effectively as new employees enter the organization. Embrace the strengths younger managers bring to the organization and avoid the temptation to try to “change” them to lead like you.
Preparing for 2024
In preparing for 2024, embrace the belief and positivity that you are built for success. Prepare to be proactive in:
- Rebuilding commercial confidence: In uncertain economic times, the ability to adapt is crucial for survival and growth. Renew your focus on customers and embrace the outside-in data they provide to allow you to win in your marketspace.
- Fostering a culture of healthy accountability: Empower your team through shared commitments, rather than relying solely on rules and hierarchy. Engage your team in aligning around your big opportunity in the marketplace, committing to sustaining positive team momentum, and clarifying consistent measurement that allows people to seek accountability rather than being held accountable. Utilize the diverse skills and perspectives within your organization to lead innovative solutions and create a stronger team dynamic.
- Embracing the future: The economic headwinds you may be experiencing at the end of 2023 will continue to have an impact in the early stages of 2024. Rather than allowing the uncertainty to hold you back, reduce your urgency, or slow your decision making, embrace your belief in the future. Be bold in pursuing opportunities with customers, reinforce urgency within your team, and be confident in making decisions—even with less than perfect data.
As we move into the new year, the lessons learned in 2023 can serve as a valuable foundation. The focus should remain on building highly collaborative, ‘teams of teams’, with accountability built from shared commitments. Continue to nurture a culture in which your team thrives and wins together, because the contribution of every team member is valued and the team is aligned, committed, and openly accountable to delivering on the organization’s operating plans.
Want to learn more about nurturing a teams of teams culture or enhancing accountability? Contact us at email@example.com to schedule a ‘What’s Possible’ conversation.