By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Enterprises have been talking about VUCA for years. VUCA, an acronym for the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous world of today, seems to be on steroids now with disruption and a rapidly evolving business environment. The pandemic has contributed further to this VUCA environment, leading us into the future of work, where the lines dividing the digital and the physical are blurred. 

As the workforce and the workplace digitally transform, leadership models have to evolve as well, to remain effective and relevant in this new world. In today’s complex and challenging environment, leaders not only have to make sound business decisions that increase profitability, but also focus deeply on how their leadership is experienced, and how they can make their key stakeholders that include the employees, customers, and investors, feel more valued.

The transition to this digital world is to drive organizational agility, adaptability and enable customer-centricity. Along with these benefits, digital transformation can deliver unforeseen risks and unanticipated costs if organizational leaders do not alter how they exert influence, power, and control. 

Successful organizational digital transformation is only complete when leaders can transform themselves, measurably. In this digitally transformed world, the new bottom line demands the leadership’s own affective digital transformation – one that places equal importance on engagement, purpose, empathy, and fairness as other parameters of data-driven agility or efficiency and productivity.

The leadership transition challenge

Given the changing times, organizations need to revamp their leadership development initiatives and make them more suited to fit this ever-evolving world. The leader’s action or inaction can significantly influence the course of a business. Yet, despite high stakes, leaders are underprepared and under-supported during the transition.

The move towards becoming impactful virtual leaders is a significant transition point for leaders of today. Navigating this transition successfully with the right tools, to lead the digital workforce can influence organizational fortunes significantly.

Research shows that while leadership transitions are important, they are hardly easy. 

Even in the good old days, leaders ranked organizational politics as a big hurdle that impacted successful transitions. 68% flounder on issues related to politics, culture, and people, while 67% of leaders wish they had moved faster to change the culture.  

The rules of engagement have changed dramatically, as has the pace of change, client and employee expectations coupled with digital progress. So much so that it makes sense to follow Marshall Goldsmith’s advice, “What got you here, won’t get you there”.

As we move deeper into VUCA and a digital world, the need for leadership transition from being a remote boss to a virtual leader is only going to increase. According to research, most leadership development programs fail, as leaders do not feel appropriately supported as new leaders. Almost 74% of leaders in the US and 83% globally feel that they are underprepared for their roles. As such, organizations need to revamp their leadership development programs to become relevant for this shape-shifting world of work.  

Managing the leadership transition to lead successfully in a digital world needs organizations to provide greater support to their leaders and move their development programs away from the usually followed ‘hands-off’ approach.

Leadership development for the digital world needs an almost complete rewiring of traditional approaches of the directive and authoritative leadership styles and has to account for the individual development needs of the leaders.

Why Peer Coaching leads the way?

Cervantes once said that “to be prepared is half the battle won”.  

Successful leadership transitions in this digital age are a marriage of both.

Digital work has different demands from leaders. To be an effective leader in this dynamic world, along with technical knowledge, leaders need to be more mindful, empathetic, resilient, impactful, and agile.

With traditional models of leadership failing to hold water to today’s relevance, developing leaders require helping them cultivate new perspectives on leadership. 

  • Organizations need to create the right channels and provide the right tools that assist leaders in identifying effective leadership styles and the blind spots in their leadership. 
  • Leaders need to adapt to the challenges that organizations face in a digital environment and go on a journey of learning to lead themselves and then translating that knowledge to lead others and forming effective collaborations.
  • Leaders need the insights and the skills to overcome the challenges of the existing leadership culture and develop the right perspectives to design the appropriate strategies that translate into impactful outcomes in a digital world.

Peer Coaching becomes the antidote to leadership inertia – an essential to thrive in a digital landscape across an organization that is no longer siloed and bureaucratic and no longer responds to the and command-and-control models. 

Peer Coaching assists in leadership transitions as it:

  • Helps leaders develop the power skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, critical and strategic thinking, and self-awareness, etc.
  • Assists leaders identify and develop the traits to become adaptive leaders. 
  • Develops autonomy to be innovative while providing the guardrails to prevent chaos.
  • Identifies authentic leadership styles and develops the language to communicate their styles with impact, emphasis, and authenticity. 
  • Helps leaders become ‘complete’ leaders. Most leaders are ‘incomplete leaders’ who excel at one thing and struggle with another. Navigating through these gaps along with developing the capability to understand and communicate their unique way of leading based on experience, values, strengths, and personality; is critical to adapt in the digital world. 
  • Improves ‘sensemaking’, an essential quality for a rapidly evolving and digital work environment. Satya Nadella of Microsoft has been a sense-maker throughout his Microsoft stint. He learned this skill by frequently changing jobs. Organizations can leverage peer coaching to help their leaders develop the skills to improve sensemaking. It helps them identify and assess what additional sensemaking they need to do to stay in step with the changing market conditions, business models, workforces, and technologies.   
  • Helps digital leaders identify ways to inspire their team members for engagement and to secure buy-in. While technology connects teams, the screens can create barriers that inhibit connection. Peer coaching helps digital leaders build transparency, integrity, and empathy to evaluate strategies to overcome technological barriers and to connect with team members with authenticity.
  • Provides leaders with the support to navigate the ‘Age of Accelerations’ where change is inevitable and invariably faster. In this age, emerging as a transformational leader who inspires the workforce to enact organizational transformation needs to develop specific power skills. Peer coaching can make this transition easier and more effective by influencing behavioral shifts necessary to drive change.

Leadership development is imperative to align with the ever-evolving leadership fundamentals in the digital age.

Leadership development programs now provide crucial leadership support by providing clarity, support, and direction to help them communicate with purpose, create a compelling vision, decipher complexity with ease and energize, and inspire everyone with an inclusive vision. 

With Peer Coaching, organizations can help leaders make the necessary behavioral shifts needed to become more adaptable, handle higher pressures with ease and act with agility.

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered peer coaching platform can revamp your leadership development initiatives and help you build leaders who will help your organization thrive.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

COVID-19 accelerated our move into the Future of Work and forced organizations and leaders to transition to adapt to the new demands quickly. 

While the pandemic altered the business landscape, it also made it clear that the idea of leadership (that we had) needed transformation as well. The style of leadership that thrived with command and control must move out the door. The idea that strong leadership is shaped by strict direction and delegation and demands dutiful obedience does not fit into the new narrative. 

Read: From “Remote Boss” To “Virtual Leader” – How to Make the Transition

As the world of work continues to grapple with the disruptions to the professional space and personal lives, it is only those leaders who remain effective who have identified the shift that leadership needs. It is clear that leaders can either command or control – they cannot do both.

The Leadership Shift 

The best leaders have always believed that their role is to inspire and motivate others to act – not to dictate. By surrendering ‘control’, leaders invite people to discover their individual potential and build an ‘ownership culture’…one that goes beyond accountability and inspires people to do more than the minimum. 

True leaders do not rise to the top because they want to control or command people. If these have been motivations, then they need to revisit why they chose to become a leader in the first place. 

The pandemic disrupting the world of work and the rising dominant millennial population have made leadership and leadership styles a hot topic of conversation. Additionally, the preconceived notions of strength are no longer conducive in this new world of work. 

Leadership expert Seth Godin succinctly states that it is very uncomfortable for leaders to say, “I want to go over there, and I’m going to be responsible for getting us over there, and no one has ever been over there, and I’m not sure how to get over there, but let’s go.” 

But this needs to change simply because unconventional times need unconventional solutions as controlling, polarizing behaviors and actions disengage and alienate their workforce. 

The Vision Conundrum 

The command-and-control style of leadership leans heavily on “vision”. While vision inspires, motivates, and gives direction and hope, this enchantment with vision presents a disembodied conception of leadership – one that manages to captivate our imagination, but rarely does it have a positive effect on ourselves…think working yourself to exhaustion. 

Vision does promise us a future but makes a huge demand on our lives. So just as a vision has the power to ignite, it has the power to burn out, especially when it comes as an infallible directive. 

The limitations of leadership that remain encrusted in vision become painfully obvious in the time of crisis. Crisis tests vision. Most don’t survive. This is because when a crisis strikes, such as a natural disaster or a sudden drop in revenues, we are already motivated to move. But what leads to failure is not the clarion call to action but the flailing. What people need from leaders is more than vision. They need direction to move purposefully. 

Read: Purpose-Led Engagement for Women and Millennials

This shift to build shared purpose and lead successfully does not come from control-and-command. Instead, it comes from developing the ability to contain, interpret, and respond with reassurance. It helps the workforce reorient, refocus, and stick together by making sense of the prevailing predicament. 

Those leaders who can contain and hold mutual support ensure that work continues and eventually, a new vision emerges. Approaching this from a place of control is counterproductive as it only leads to anxiety and fragmentation – the exact opposite of the desired outcomes that we want from leadership. 

VUCA and the Leader

Organizations of all shapes and sizes now realize that to survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment, we need different leadership skills. Controlling leadership behaviors ensure that the distribution of leadership capabilities does not permeate across the length and breadth of the organization. 

As we move into remote work, leaders need to help employees gain more agency by enabling digital adhocracies that rely on individual initiative. This helps employees across the board to become more independent and harness skills that help them make decisions that are aligned with corporate culture, values, and strategy.

The Dawn of New Leadership 

Much like how chefs balance multiple ingredients to achieve a delectable balance of flavors and create masterful meals, leadership skills need to balance humanity and technology. This means that leaders will have to embrace technology to enable work and improve the organization, their job role now demands them to provide employees with a sense of purpose. They need now move away from this old way of thinking that considers control as strength and march towards a mindset of service towards their internal and external customers. 

Leaders today and in the future will have to be explorers who are willing to embrace the unknown, are open to new ideas, and can change course as the world around them evolves. Just like explorers of the past who learned continuously to quench their curiosity, leaders must learn to be perpetually curious and open to dialogue and discovery. 

Peer Coaching to Drive Change 

While leaders need to build technical dexterity, what is even more essential is to increase their psychological capital. 

Leaders need to develop skills such as empathy and have an extremely high emotional quotient to lead effectively in this age of hybrid work. They need to identify ways to transition to virtual leaders from remote bosses. 

All these skills need a systemic shift in thinking patterns and an unlearning of learned behaviors that come with social conditioning and mindsets. Organizations cannot drive these shifts by organizing annual leadership retreats or day/week-long training sessions. These shifts need a behavioral change, one that comes from peer coaching, since it contextually and continuously reaffirms the right actions, provides timely feedback, and is powered by relevance. 

With peer coaching, leaders can develop the right attitudes that help them power through setbacks and negativity with a positive attitude and approach. Peer coaching helps leaders identify the reasons why they need to leave their ego at the door and helps them understand why they need to subjugate their personal agendas for the greater good of the organization. For this, leaders need to build authenticity, self-awareness, and honesty which can be achieved with peer coaching. 

In Conclusion 

Peer coaching helps leaders realize that leadership is not a solo sport but a team effort. It is only by releasing control, delegating effectively, and learning the language of the workforce that employees will join them in supporting their vision and help move their strategy forward. Releasing control can be difficult, but with the right interventions and the right information presented through peer coaching, achieving this no longer remains a pipedream.

Connect with our team of experts to develop a robust peer coaching strategy using a powerful AI-driven peer coaching platform and transform leadership development in your organization. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Achieving harmony in work-life balance sounds utopian as a concept, especially with the stark impact
that COVID-19 has had on workforce dynamics. Reports are now indicating that a majority of the
women are being forced to drop out of the workforce at an escalating rate. However, in the face of
unprecedented challenges and the way the pandemic has transformed our society, leaders like
Shalini Ramakrishnan – Director, Product Marketing at Numly, is endeavoring to bring about a change
with guidelines and solutions that boost resilience and productivity.

1. In your present role, what are the unique qualities or characteristics that you have brought to
your career and workplace?
My innate ability to work across divisions and verticals is the most unique quality that I bring
to my role. I have had the opportunity of using this ability to experiment across divisions –
Sales, Operations, Product Training, and Customer demos without having to be streamlined
into a single role.

2. Every woman has different commitments and schedules in and out of the office. How do you
strike a balance between work and home?
We all know that achieving harmony at work and home is always a challenge, what with the
system redefining the ‘new normal’. The way I have learned to juggle both responsibilities is
by defining strict timelines and dividing up tasks to make work-life integration successful,
especially with my presence required across three time zones. This has helped me shift my
mindset in a way that I can prioritize my well-being and define boundaries for a more
productive and improved ecosystem – at both work and home.

3. How do you see COVID-19’s impact, both immediate and long term, on changing the nature
of how we work?
COVID-19 was almost a bolt out of the blue for organizations across the globe, and the
disproportional impact that it has had in the way organizations and individuals work cannot be
discounted. The immediate impact was transitioning to a remote working model that isolated
employees and left behind a silo mindset with minimal engagement and communication.
Overall, I see a fall in employee morale with organizations struggling to restore trust and
positivity. With the hybrid working model here to stay, they are now scrambling to re-invent
the work culture in the face of these existential challenges. Sustainable solutions are,
therefore, critical in the long-term – with increased engagement between peers and
managers, corporate flexibility to ensure the same levels of productivity, and the need for
reskilling and upskilling for innovation and strategic leverage.

4. What are the biggest challenges that you see with women in the workplace? Notwithstanding,
are there any benefits or opportunities of how the pandemic is transforming how we work and
live?
The challenges that women have had to face have been vastly disproportional and more
impactful on women. Women are striving to strike harmony with multiple responsibilities of
work, family, and home. Also, the biggest predicament for women is to be able to keep a
sense of normalcy in the current circumstances and how they can be best managed.
Organizations have started to recognize the struggle that women have been facing due to the
shift in work dynamic and incorporating initiatives that enable women employees and leaders
to drive a successful career for themselves. Work-life balance in the post-pandemic world is
an art that women in specific have to grow to master, with the transition from remote working
to the hybrid working model. The only benefit that I foresee is a sense of flexibility and a
smarter and more productive way of working.

5. In these trying times, how has Numly been a pillar in your work-life? How do you stay
motivated?
With the undue burden of mental load that has taken a toll on the well-being of women at
large, I would consider my team at Numly as one of the most dynamic and adaptive teams
that I have worked with thus far. Numly has been a pillar and extremely supportive of my
career choices, regardless of my gender. The freedom to define my timelines or decisions to
drive initiatives across numerous verticals was a shift that was graciously accepted by the
management and is motivation in itself.

6. What are some of the stereotypes and biases that you have experienced as a female leader?
How did you champion gender equality?
There have been some stereotypical situations that I have faced as a female leader, which is
questioning my ability to work effectively and deliver productive results. In the initial stages of
my career, these typical gender-biased remarks were prevalent and I chose to push them
under the carpet. However, the nagging question remained in my mind and I started to
introspect about how these preconceived notions could be dealt with. And I worked around
championing gender equality through empathy and behavioral changes.

7. Tell us about the Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs in Numly. Has it
been implemented, and if yes, how has it worked?
Numly has successfully implemented comprehensive programs with a collective vision – the
Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs. Amongst the gamut of programs that
are being implemented across organizations, these programs are designed on the core
foundation that developmental changes are essentially driven by behavioral and cultural
changes within an organization. The D,E&I program identifies skill gaps, addresses changes
in behavioral and critical skills, and recognizes and empowers women leaders to work and
evolve without bias. As opposed to the conventional external coaching formats employed
across organizations, Numly believes that peer-peer coaching not only elevates the
engagement within your organization, but is an experience that is bound to resonate with
employees in terms of connecting, engaging, and networking through an exchange of skills –
and most importantly, by breaking hierarchical barriers. We also have a host of ‘Getting
started’ programs where organizations can get started and onboard their employees with
ample learning material that is bound to transform their learning journey into a peer coaching
experience.

8. What advice would you give to women who want to be a mentor/coach?
The best advice that I would give to anybody who wants to be a coach is to understand that
every individual has struggles, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. And the ability to take
cognizance of the fact that you have to first be a coach before you can become a leader is
imperative. I believe that the coach-learner dynamic is a mutually beneficial learning journey –
where both reap benefits that contribute to their growth. If there is a skill that is unique to you,
the onus of imparting that knowledge to another individual as a mentor or coach lies with you.
Embrace any opportunity to be a coach as it not only minimizes the distance between you
and the mentee but also helps foster mutual trust.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

‘Quit Leadership’– The two words together sound like an oxymoron…like two words that do not belong to one another. After all, the world of business is replete with stories of bold CEOs like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford who built successful businesses through their charisma and their sizably ruthless business streak. While examples like these are fairly common and make for some interesting anecdotes and outcomes under the right circumstances, there is another kind of leader who doesn’t hit the headlines just as often. This is the ‘quiet leader’.

What is a ‘Quiet Leader’?

Firstly, there is nothing meek or shy about quiet leaders. A quiet leader can be just as effective and powerful as their outspoken counterparts. The quiet leaders are a breed of leaders who exercise their power and their leadership through their actions, rather than their words. 

At the heart of the quiet leader lies confidence. They usually are people who adopt solution-driven approaches, and leverage collaboration, logical thought, and encouragement to solve problems Quiet leaders are open, approachable, compassionate, and understanding. They assume leadership positions because they have a reason to care, they are passionate, and committed and not because of a loud voice or a larger-than-life personality.

The Challenges facing Quiet Leaders 

Empowering quiet leaders is essential for organizations since this genre of leaders does not intentionally seek leadership. Their quiet nature can often also be misconstrued for arrogance and their quiet confidence for ego

Quiet leaders are also often introverted and evaluate decisions thoroughly rather than rush into a decision fast. While this is a great trait and is actually a hallmark of good leadership, it can also often be misunderstood as slow decision-making. 

All kinds make up an organization. While there are employees who thrive under quiet leadership, there are also employees who only respond to a hotshot leader who dominates the spotlight and talks a good game. The bias towards dynamic and alpha leaders has been ingrained as a part of the social conditioning. But just like how we had Steve Jobs, the charismatic guy who could make everyone believe in the miracles up his sleeve, we have Tim Cook, the quiet leader who leads Apple’s success story now. 

Simply put- while we might not be used to the idea of the quiet leader, but that doesn’t mean that these leaders don’t exist, or don’t lead well. If anything, quiet leaders can actually be better leaders. And it is the responsibility of the organization to identify, encourage and enable these leaders to improve organizational outcomes.

Coaching and the Quiet Leaders 

It may seem that the loudest voice in the room is the one that gets heard, the quiet person may have a lot more substantive to contribute. As such, organizations have to identify ways to help these leaders excel by helping them define their style and assist them in understanding how they can improve it to make it more effective.

But how can organizations identify these quiet leaders and help them? Clearly, these are not the people who will be vocal about their skills or aspirations. They probably will be unaware of their leadership qualities.

Here is a look at how organizations identify and capitalize on the power of their quiet leaders:

Identify the quiet leaders 

The first step to this puzzle is to identify those quiet leaders. While managers and organization leaders can keep their eye open for the employees who display the qualities of quiet leaders, taking a data-driven approach makes this an easier and effective process. 

Tests such as 16 Personality Factor self-evaluation tests or Behavioral Skill Analysis provide dependable, data-backed analysis of skills of employees. Those high-performing employees with quiet leadership traits can be easily identified using this data-backed strategy. 

With this approach, organizations also get insights into the areas that these quiet leaders need help in. Organizations can then effectively connect these employees to the right coach and set them on a path of successful leadership.

Connect them to the right coach 

Managing the complexities of today’s organizations, global, distributed, hybrid, or remote teams, and the like needs quiet leaders to develop their communication styles and build authentic connections. Connecting the right coach to quiet leaders especially becomes important when our definition of normal has changed. Ensuring the right coach-learner pair augments the quality of outcomes organically.

Organizations have to help the quiet leaders identify, understand, and reach their true potential. Having the right coach guiding them along this path is imperative for success. As such, organizations have to connect their quiet leaders, both potential and existing, to the right coaches who can help them learn to be better leaders by harnessing the qualities that they have and developing the qualities that they need.

The chemistry between the coach and the learner has to be right for it to deliver the right outcomes. Taking a data-driven approach and employing a technology-enabled, AI-driven coaching platform can make it easier to connect the right coach with the right learner and ensure better coaching outcomes.

Discover the leadership style

Coaching is a great tool for organizations to help their quiet leaders identify and develop their leadership styles. The leaders and those across the organization need to learn that ‘quiet’ does not translate to ‘ineffective’ and ‘loud’ does not always mean ‘effective’. 

A leadership style is essentially the path the leader uses to communicate, influence, or guide others. Connecting the quiet leaders to the right coaches helps them build on their self-awareness, identify their natural tendencies, and evaluate and understand how these can help or hinder their efforts. 

Coaching does not take a cookie-cutter approach to leadership development but rather, it takes a more individualistic approach to leadership development. By doing this, it helps the quiet ones learn and internalize executive skills like influence, inspiring confidence in all stakeholders, networking, stress management, strategic thinking, managing a diverse team, and visioning, etc., and helps them develop a leadership voice of their own. 

Quiet leaders need engagement too

It is a misnomer that employee engagement activities have to be directed at the employees only. Leaders too, are essentially employees.

Just identifying high-performing employees and prompting them to leadership roles does not essentially guarantee great outcomes for the organization. We need to remember that even at the highest levels, leaders need the same things that the everyday employee needs to stay engaged – acknowledgment and growth opportunities. 

Giving leaders, especially quiet leaders, an opportunity to enhance their career paths and providing them with the right tools to move ahead in their careers shows that the organization values them and their contribution. 

It is also an active way to show that the organization is invested in their career progress and their long-term growth and success. This can hugely contribute to the engagement levels of the quiet leaders as they are not the ones who are too vocal about their needs and yet, would like the same level of acknowledgment and growth as any other leader would.

Build leadership presence 

Many top-level executives are great at their jobs, are hard-working, and have team members who like them. And yet, they are not able to step in firmly into leadership roles. Not only does this impede this executive’s growth, but it also impacts their team members and impedes their opportunities for growth and learning. 

These top executives, the quiet leaders, continue to deliver value through their work but they continue to adhere to the ‘worker persona’ and find it hard to adapt and adopt the ‘leader persona’. This attribute is very commonly seen in women leaders who continue to work very hard, try and avoid mistakes as they feel mistakes can impact their careers more strongly than a man’s, or even avoid delegation or seeking help lest it is seen as a sign of weakness. 

Coaching can play a big role in bringing in the right mindset shift here. Coaching helps individuals identify and understand the root cause of issues and behaviors and increase self-awareness. It helps them understand and accept their personal challenges, and evaluate how to harness the power of the strengths that they have. This approach helps the learners enhance their leadership persona and consequently drives them to perform better as leaders. 

In Conclusion 

Quite leaders might not be the norm, but given the direction the world is moving towards, the rise of the global workplace, constant change, and the millennial and Gen Z as the dominant demographic in the workplace demand leaders who are more empathetic, resolute, and resilient. Coaching these quiet leaders to find their style of authentic leadership not only benefits them but also benefits the organization immensely. Since being quiet and the qualities that come with being quiet are behavioral, coaching proves to be a valuable cog in the wheel because it is only with coaching that it is possible to drive behavioral change.

Connect with us to see how you can help your top executives become effective leaders, irrespective of how quiet they are, by using an AI-powered coaching platform. 

From "Remote Boss" To "Virtual Leader" - How to Make the Transition

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Leadership is under fire. The rules that worked in the past seem broken as we move into a normal characterized by large scale remote working owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Leaders who thrived within the portals of traditional offices are having to navigate new territory. This unchartered territory of having to lead both virtually and remotely demands the emergence of a new leader – one who is no longer a ‘remote boss’ but is instead a ‘virtual leader’.

Read: How Has the Role of Leadership Changed with COVID-19?

Leadership during crisis 

When it comes to a crisis, most assume that what a leader must deliver is a robust response plan. While this is true, what happens when a crisis continues? 

We saw how COVID-19 upended the world of work, turned the economy upside down, and ballooned into a crisis of an unprecedented scale. In these times, instead of looking for predefined response plans, leaders need to develop their mindsets and behaviors that will help them look ahead and adapt. And while leaders might come under undue pressure from stakeholders and might need to come up with strategies to alleviate the financial implications of the pandemic, they need to focus on developing their empathy so that these pressures do not get placed on their employees. 

During crisis and uncertain times, compassion and empathy are two invaluable traits for leaders to develop since it is the job of the leader to placate the fears of their employees.

As the dust begins to settle on the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the workforce adapts to their remote work setting, leaders have to make sure that they not only ensure business continuity but also drive engagement and performance of their workforce. 

Leadership has to move from its traditional avatar where the leader was the boss. Consequently, leadership styles also have to move from the traditional direction-driven style and adopt a more guidance-driven approach – one that is focused on guiding employees to excel by enabling and facilitation. 

The biggest reset in the role of the leader is perhaps the shift from a ‘command and control’ approach to one that ‘inspires and coaches’. 

Leaders have to quickly adapt to new leadership styles to remain effective in this new world of work. Quite naturally this demands a shift from being the conventional and traditional boss to becoming leaders who enable and empower. 

Virtual leaders thus need to be more empathetic and greater at communicating with their employees. They need to capably guide, develop, empower, enable, and coach their teams to build authentic connections.

Leaders are now coaches

In the post-COVID world, leaders will not only have to give direction and purpose to the organization but have to also coach the employees to adapt to this new world of work. 

  • Coach to build shared purpose: Along with ensuring that the employees are achieving their goals, they have to assume the responsibility to drive employee wellbeing and drive a feeling of ‘shared purpose’. It is only when employees connect with the shared purpose that they become more invested in the organization’s growth story. And it is when employees resonate with this shared purpose that they put in discretionary effort – it is this effort that shows the quality of your employee engagement levels. 
  • Coach to develop the leadership pipeline: One of the key responsibilities of leaders is that of creating a robust leadership and succession pipeline. In the absence of physical connections, leaders also have to now become actively invested in coaching their employees to move further along their career paths. 

In this virtual setting, leaders have to also ensure that this pipeline is filled with the right candidates. In this new normal, leaders have to now leverage data to identify the right candidates to plug into the pipeline. While the high-performing employees do rank higher in the eligibility criteria, leaders have to dig deeper and assess if they have the skills to lead. Leveraging tests like 16-Personality Factor tests or behavioral skills assessments, leaders can gain insights into the skill gaps and give them the tools to navigate the chasm via coaching.

  • Coach to become self-motivated and action-oriented: In this virtual environment, leaders also have to coach employees to map expectations and outcomes. Helping employees to look at the big picture, understanding how they contribute to this picture and how they make a difference helps the employees remain motivated and connected with the organization. 

Unlike a physical office where news on the latest developments gets around easily, in remote environments, leaders have to help employees understand and manage their goals and expectations and help them become more action-oriented instead of instruction-driven.

  • Coach to drive agility and responsiveness to change: Leaders have to coach their teams to become more agile to change and drive adaptability as they settle into this new world of work. Empowering them with the right tools, technologies, platforms, and coaching resources will play an important role in driving engagement and consequent organizational success. They need to help employees devise ways to become more visible, help them drive impactful work, and ensure their career progression. 
  • Coach to make the workforce more independent: Leaders have to coach employees and team members to improve their planning and communication skills to ensure the right expectation setting. For this, helping remote workers identify the correct mechanisms to set the right deadlines, margins and expectations go a long way to make the workforce more independent in their work without resorting to micromanaging. Helping employees become better decision-makers gives them more autonomy in their work.

Leaders need coaching to coach right 

Even a cursory glance at the above makes it clear that leaders now need to develop a new vocabulary – one that is authentic and is rooted in empathy. Organizations thus need to take a close look at their leadership coaching strategies so that leaders can foster employee and organizational growth by helping their teams manage their work better. 

Read: Want to Create A Pipeline of Leaders? Train Managers to Become Better Coaches

Day-long leadership coaching sessions are unlikely to help leaders, especially because the rules of the game have changed completely. Virtual leaders need to focus on driving authenticity. They need to become more observant, trusting, caring, and empathetic in their leadership styles and build the right connections with their employees. To achieve all this, there has to be a change in the mindsets and behaviors of leaders. 

As leaders also become coaches to their teams, they have to learn to communicate more clearly and with empathy. They have to demonstrate that they are not only interested in employee performance but are equally invested in employee well-being. This brand of leadership becomes all the more essential as in a remote setting, leaders have to guide work relationships with clarity so that others are inspired to become deeply invested in their work. 

One of the most important things virtual leaders have to build is trust. They can build and enjoy this trust when they learn to trust themselves. Hence, they have to learn to let go of the art of micromanaging and inspiring the team to become more accountable towards their work. Along with this, leaders have to adopt a growth mindset and enable the same for their employees. They also have to learn new methods to individualize interactions and empower employees to work with autonomy to drive accountability and ownership in a virtual setting. 

It is thus essential to coach leaders to mobilize their existing environments to enable new competencies in their workforce by using data. They have to develop their emotional intelligence to build resilient teams. Leaders also have to be coached to drive a sense of shared purpose across the organization’s value chain and become more authentic and intentional in their leadership styles. 

Connect with us to evaluate how our AI-powered coaching platform can help your organization leaders prepare to lead the workforce in the new world of work and develop their leadership vocabulary to lead the employees and the organization to success. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

If 2020 was a test of resilience, the year ahead is going to be a test of growth in the face of adversity. 

As the world and global markets gradually resume the journey back to normalcy, organizations have to put on their thinking caps and identify growth strategies that will help them bounce back from the 2020-infused business and profit doldrum. 

For HR leaders, the year ahead is a crucial one – HR strategies have to build resilience into the organizational DNA and create a culture that enables, empowers, and drives organizational and employee agility.

2021 – A year of strategic importance

Building critical skills and competencies are going to be of strategic importance in the coming year. 

  • From improving business results, executing business transformation, and achieving operational excellence, HR has to design strategic initiatives that will help in achieving these outcomes. 
  • Along with this, skill development initiatives have to also become dynamic and future-forward to match the pace of change and ensure that employees accrue the right skills that benefit the organization tangibly. 
  • Additionally, addressing change fatigue and identifying factors that lead to work friction becomes essential as work from home burnout becomes an unignorable reality. 
  • HR strategies have to be focused on building a robust leadership pipeline by focusing heavily on diversity initiatives and recalibrating leadership training programs. The tumultuous past year and the overhaul it has brought about in the world of work demands that leadership coaching is relevant to meet the needs of the COVID era. 

Even a cursory glance at this list makes it clear that HR has a tall order to fill. However, the cure to most of the ills plaguing the organization (and consequently HR) lies with coaching. And while organizations can leverage external coaches to drive their coaching initiatives, creating an internal coaching culture becomes imperative to drive sustainable change.  

Why do organizations need an internal coaching culture?

Coaching is more than an antidote for fixing performance issues or a perk to attract and retain employees. 

Many organizations are turning to coaching to develop a more robust leadership pipeline, develop managers who can also function as coaches and guide their team members, and help employees navigate and develop their career paths. 

Coaching has also emerged as a viable alternative to close the skills gaps, the labor shortage, and low productivity chasm – especially as VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) demands organizations, and hence employees, to become more agile than ever before. 

But how can organizations create an internal coaching culture? The devil here lies in the details. 

  • Coaching has to be integrated into the workplace culture 

The primary objective of coaching is to drive lasting change. Coaching can achieve this lasting change because it is continuous, enhances skills, and enables behavioral change. 

To create the right coaching culture, it is essential to integrate it into the workplace culture so that the organization and employees can proactively identify challenges and opportunities for growth and have robust development-oriented, relevant coaching conversations. 

  • Eliminate guesswork and replace it with data

HR teams have to improve their capability and pace to map skill requirements with skill development initiatives. Banking on the end-of-the-year assessment or review to identify skilling, reskilling or upskilling needs of the workforce is a reactive strategy that can no longer contribute to organizational agility. 

HR has to focus on adopting a more proactive approach that helps the organization become more responsive to change. 

According to Gartner TalentNeuron™ data, “the total number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10% year over year, and one-third of the skills present in an average 2017 job posting won’t be needed by 2021.”

However, to achieve this, HR has to move away from the traditional approach that employs guesswork to identify workforce needs. They, instead, have to adopt more data-backed strategies that proactively identify the current needs of the employees and ensure that the skill gap is duly closed by aligning skill development initiatives with organizational goals. 

Creating such an internal coaching culture demands that organizations use tests and assessments such as the 16 Personality Factor Tests, behavioral skill development tests, and the like, which can help organizations identify the exact coaching needs of the employees and replace the guesswork with data. 

  • Develop an army of internal coaches

Creating an internal coaching culture demands developing an army of internal coaches. Identifying high-potential employees who are interested in coaching their peers is a good starting point. 

Managers can contribute heavily to coaching, especially since they are well aware of team dynamics, where their business unit needs help, and where employees need coaching. However, they have to master the art of coaching as well so that they can coach effectively and build healthy mentor-mentee relationships. 

Organizations can also look at subject matter experts to contribute to coaching initiatives. 

Identifying these potential coaches, assessing which skills, they are lacking, and which skills they need to develop to coach effectively can help organizations develop their army of coaches. Complemented with external coaches, such an ecosystem can create a vibrant coaching culture and blend it into the organizational DNA. 

  • Embed coaching into talent and performance management 

The COVID crisis has dramatically impacted goals and employee performance plans. Remote work is becoming the norm. Performance and talent management are becoming a steep climb, especially as business leaders feel that performance management systems are not accurately helping them identify top performers. 

While the annual performance review had been an acting barometer until recently, today, waiting it out till the end of the year can only lead to frustrated talent. While the annual performance review does hold merit, complementing it with regular coaching delivers better outcomes as feedback is constructive and continuous. 

Technology has also made it possible to provide AI-powered nudges to make learning and development more holistic, relevant, contextual, and consequently, impactful. 

In Conclusion 

Organizational structures are becoming flatter and yet, more complex and employees are working with, interacting, and collaborating with more people. 

New work models that were in the testing phase (such as fully collocated, alternating on-site, on-site on-demand, connected remote, work from anywhere models) are all now mainstays. The digital nomads, the new age white-collar workers, are also an integral part of the enterprise today. 

With so much changed, HR has no alternative but to tap into technology to help the workforce stay connected, engaged, and enthused. As the organization and the needs of the employees evolve, HR has to drive the paradigm shift and work towards cementing an internal coaching culture. 

When all leaders, managers, high-potential employees, and subject matter experts become coaches, helping the rest of the workforce move along their career paths, ensuring productivity, profitability, and organizational agility become achievable goals. 

It is time to proactively address the development needs of the workforce and keep the organization moving northwards towards better outcomes. 

Connect with our team of experts and see how employing an AI-powered technology platform can help your organization build a robust internal coaching culture to drive enablement at work.