5 Ways to Set Your Leaders Up for Success in 2021
How to drive behavioral change and sustain leadership performance in an unpredictable world.
It is fair to say that most of us experienced 2020 as a very turbulent time. Our norms and habits were forced to change, we stepped outside of our comfort zone and as a result created new opportunities, flexing our approach in different ways. At the same time, we tried to make sense of what was happening around us, which in turn stimulated us to re-examine our purpose, both at work and in our personal lives, setting the wheels in motion for change.
So now the calendar has turned to 2021, it is not surprising that many of us are setting new goals — we are keen to start a new chapter as well as give our lives meaning and purpose.
It will come as no surprise that people do not often follow through on their goals. The reason is that personal change is hard. People have an underlying need for a safe and structured life, and as such, we develop habits that maintain safety and predictability.
What has become apparent is that in 2021 a leader’s performance will be of critical importance. As businesses move away from crisis management, leaders will face diverse challenges – including adjusting business practices, accelerating digital transformation, and maintaining employee morale.
So how can leaders create and sustain development goals and accelerate performance to enable their teams to succeed and grow in a world that still seems so uncertain?
The behavioral sciences, and in particular the field of positive psychology and coaching, have helped us to understand what impedes behavioral change as well as strategies that can help propel us forward.
How to Make Change Seem Easy
1. Develop a Growth Mindset. Our state of mind is developed from our past experiences, however, we are often too busy focusing on the less positive experiences to recognize the good ones. Hence when it comes to tackling ambitious goals, leaders become caught up in negative self-talk. This common mindset (fixed mindset) limits our motivation and stops us from achieving.
According to Carol Dweck, a professor of Stanford University, the solution lies in adopting a “growth mindset” – a form of thinking that convinces our subconscious mind that we are capable of success. If we can convince our brain to look at things from a positive perspective, achieving our goals starts to become much easier.
2. Examine the Leader’s Underlying Potential. Most leaders don’t have a clear understanding of their natural potential, which prevents them from achieving quick wins. Potential and performance are not the same thing. Potential is future-oriented, whereas, performance is what is observed right now. Potential can be better understood through measures of ability, personality, and motivation. Setting developmental goals congruent with a leaders’ natural style and motivations can give a head start as less effort is required.
Most leaders don’t have a clear understanding of their natural potential, which prevents them from achieving quick wins.
3. Focus on Building Habits. Leaders often set ambitious goals without defining the process or habits they need to create to achieve that goal. Whilst goals define direction, they don’t provide a clear path for how to get there. For example, your goal may be to run a marathon, but on its own, it does not tell us anything about the system or habit we need to follow. James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) suggests that we should focus on our habits that lead to goals. So, if your goal is to write a book, then you need to focus on the schedule of writing (or habit) that you will follow each week.
5 Strategies Leaders Should Adopt to Sustain Effort and Achieve Success
1. Base Goals On A Realistic Assessment: Use objective measures such as self-report questionnaires or 360-degree feedback designed to raise self-awareness, so that leaders understand their potential as well as the impact they are having now. Leadership assessments result in development opportunities — improving knowledge of one’s potential and current performance can help leaders set more realistic goals.
2. Identify A Purpose: There is little motivation for success if goals are not connected to an individuals’ values, motivations, and beliefs. The underlying principle here is that “if you believe your goals are important you are more likely to achieve them”. Identifying the purpose that drives your goal can sustain leaders and their teams even in difficult times.
3. Produce Plans That Are Actionable: Rather than focus purely on the outcome, which can feel overwhelming, it is helpful to also pay attention to the process. A process goal is what you will actually have to do to achieve the big, ugly goal (e.g. Call one new client every day to achieve the goal of increasing your client base by 25% this quarter).
4. Enlist Support: When it comes to success and motivation, there are benefits from seeking help. Leaders are more likely to succeed if they have the support of a coach or mentor who can help them to stay on track by challenging beliefs as well as holding them accountable.
5. Celebrate Achievements: It is important to take time to reflect on each achievement made on the journey towards the ultimate goal. Some people work better and harder when they tie a reward to their efforts, so creating a reward system can provide the extra drive to get and stay motivated. Contact SHL to help you define the performance and potential of your leadership population and drive positive behavior change in 2021.