Top Five Leadership Challenges: How to Overcome Them

There are many challenges that all managers face. Whilst these challenges can arise at any point in a manager’s career, they can be particularly prevalent for newer or first-time managers. We’ve compiled a handy list of these challenges with tips on how to combat them, become the best manager possible, and support your team on their way to success.

Adjusting to the role

First time managers often find it difficult to adapt to taking ownership of their role. It can be particularly difficult managing those who you’re used to working closely with and perhaps have personal relationships with. It’s important to keep these personal relationships separate from workplace practices. You can do this by positioning yourself as an approachable and supportive manager and ensuring that the tough conversations still take place. Remember that giving constructive feedback shouldn’t be seen negatively, but  instead be seen as a way that you can help your team perform at their full potential.

Over managing

Whilst it’s undeniably important to be there for your team, and coach them to make sure you’re getting the best out of them: there’s a fine line between managing a team well and not letting people take on their own work. Your role is to support, so make sure your team has the space to complete their assignments and have some autonomy, whilst helping them make progress as individuals and take ownership of their development. Whether the people you’re mentoring are older, younger, or no matter how long they’ve been in the field, if you are able to guide them through hardships, lead them in the right direction and help them progress in their role or career, then you are succeeding as a mentor and as a manager.

Not giving enough guidance

Whilst over managing people and not providing the space to work can be an issue, the other end of the spectrum is not giving people enough input or guidance. Much as your team likely know what they are working on, as manager it’s up to you to ensure everyone is fully aware of what’s expected of them and how their work aligns and contributes to the wider company goals. If managers are unable to communicate clear guidelines and expectations for their team members, they will of course be unable to take ownership of their work and ultimately less productive. They will also have less motivation and drive to work towards their goals if they are unaware of the impact their work has on the company.

Keep the conversation open

No matter how things are going, it’s key to keep communication frequent and open. Providing constructive feedback is not always the easiest task, but it’s an essential way to ensure your team can develop and really progress within their role. It’s equally important, however, that you also celebrate people’s successes, however big or small. Giving positive feedback to your team when things have gone well or particular team members have shined is key to letting people know they’re valued. It will increase engagement; people will know that their work is recognized and that they’re appreciated. Introducing or optimizing the use of 360-feedback is also a great practice to really keep communication open and useful for everyone.

Embrace upward feedback

Giving feedback aside, it can be difficult, particularly as a newer manager, to receive constructive feedback: it’s not always the easiest to handle, particularly when still adjusting to managerial responsibilities. But it’s important to see such feedback as positive; something which will help you develop in your career and become the best, most supportive and  efficient manager possible. It’s not only key to receive this upward feedback with an open mind, but also to ensure you act upon it appropriately. Following up feedback either by discussing with your team what the next steps are and how they feel things could improve, or by taking the next steps based on people’s feedback really shows your team that you value their input. This will build trust and respect for you and ensure that everyone is on the same page moving forward.

What to share?

Transparency is something greatly appreciated by modern workforces. An employee engagement survey from Harvard Business Review actually found that 70% of those asked said they were most engaged when managers shared continuous updates and insights into company strategy. With many organizations adopting a flatter, less hierarchical approach, and employees taking more ownership of their roles, it’s not so much a case of management being the only ones in the know. Many employees now value transparency and candidness over more traditional practices. And, with an increasing amount of companies taking transparency even further, with salaries made public knowledge, and other less traditional information being disclosed to employees, it’s clear people like to be aware of what’s happening in the company. To be a manager that people trust and feel comfortable with, don’t close yourself off- keep your employees in the loop.

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog

Photo Credit: cheever.zachary Flickr via Compfight cc

Workplace Technology and Innovation: BFFs?

Technology and innovation. How do these terms fit together in your mind?

If you’re like me, you tend to lump them into a fuzzy “whole.” Yet in today’s fluid world of work, each plays a distinctive role.

How do they differ? Why does it matter? And how can they co-exist in ways that add value in modern organizations?

Technology vs. Innovation — Revolution or Evolution?

Some people define technology by focusing on tools and machines. But there’s a deeper view. Technology is based on processes and skills that we mobilize to control and transform our lives. Our goal is to create and manipulate physical objects, symbols and norms. It starts with cultures that are seeking pathways to progress, but ends with solutions that are, in a sense, forced. In this regard, technology seems “revolutionary.”

Innovation, on the other hand, has been described as a better solution that is readily available to society. On the surface, innovation may seem revolutionary. But the process of innovation is more natural than contrived. So perhaps it’s more “evolutionary.”

Regardless, there clearly is an intersection between these two concepts — a symbiotic sweet spot. Therefore, it makes sense to look at them in tandem, respecting the fact that neither can exist without benefit of the other.

Do We “Like” Innovation More Than Technology?

I find it curious that people from all walks of life tend to embrace and support the concept of innovation as a beneficial part of what keeps our world turning. Yet technology often is not as well received. In fact, in some circles, technology is feared and loathed so much, it’s considered a demonic presence that requires experts to eliminate it from existence!

While technology is often equated with concrete mechanisms, innovation is more abstract — and therefore perhaps more approachable. Innovation doesn’t require advanced design, engineering or scientific proof, but can simply be a clever idea that makes life easier or more satisfying. For example, this video demonstrates how innovative ideas can add value without necessarily requiring sophisticated technology:

Change Is Good. Maybe. Sometimes. Sort of.

For some people, technology may symbolize fear of the future. The element of uncertainty can be deeply disturbing to the human psyche. Perhaps reinforced by exaggerated imagery from powerful Hollywood icons, fear surrounding the “dark side” of technology seems to persist. Of course, pop culture isn’t the only reason why our society tends to be apprehensive about accepting technology.

Why do many of us struggle with actually translating an idea from concept to application? And what keeps us from seeing the direct connection between innovation and technology? Some people claim that innovation and its outcomes are driven by a basic human urge to continue learning and expanding our understanding of ourselves and our surroundings. And yet, we all know people who defy that rule — people who never seem interested in learning anything new.

So, why do people perceive innovation and technology so differently? They could be considered two “stops” along the same path — innovation is thinking “outside the box,” while technology is the result of putting those thoughts into action. Technology is what we “make” from our ideas. And sometimes in the space between thought and result, we find resistance that can derail our progress. But the process isn’t necessarily sequential. It’s the result of continuous and sometimes nonlinear inspiration and feedback loops. We can’t dismiss how previous and existing technology and innovation lead to advanced thinking, learning and ideation.

Innovation and Technology at Work

Despite natural human resistance to change, technology solutions increasingly define the world of work. Sparked by innovative ideas, we discover and develop new ways to streamline processes, improve efficiency, speed communications, and stretch the physical and cultural boundaries that previously limited organizational performance. Since Americans work such long hours each week, don’t we owe it to ourselves to create a work culture that is not only more productive, but also connects us in ways we previously never imagined, and encourages us to dream of how we might improve tomorrow’s workplace?

If we don’t dream it, we can’t do it. Without innovation to ignite the imagination, and without technology to power these thoughts, silos can isolate and stifle us from advancing our quality of life, and our pursuit of happiness. So let’s honor both as we look to the future of work.

Image Credit: Pixabay