The Conversation

5 May 2021

Perhaps I should say it quietly, but things are starting to look much better for the UK economy.

Many larger companies are holding up well anyway, but more upbeat news cannot come quickly enough for the number of small and medium firms who are still struggling.

The last year has given us all a chance to reassess what is important in our lives. And so it is not surprising that so many people, including those in senior roles, are for one reason or another tempted to seek greener pastures - a new job, new challenges – a new start in this new normal. But why look to move when their current role is rather good?

  • The company seems to be stuck in a paralysis of inactivity and they feel stifled. Due to financial constraints or a fear of overreaching nothing new is happening and it feels like things are moving backwards.
  • They don’t feel appreciated having worked incredibly hard over the past year with little recognition.
  • Aside from a lower-than-desired salary, boredom is the primary reason most say they want a change. They don’t want to go back to the same old boring commute. They don’t want to go back to same endless and pointless meetings - they need a new challenge.

In 2021, outstanding leadership has never been so important to the success and growth of an organisation.

When people look to those in charge and need them most, outstanding leaders act swiftly, decisively, and confidently without ego, undue emotion or public gnashing of teeth. They actively want to build a culture where mistakes are simply challenges to overcome, not opportunities to point fingers and assign blame.

I was chatting with a CEO last week who said, in a rather downbeat way, that just as he needed everyone to step up a gear, he was actually seeing a lack of motivation and productivity. Outstanding leaders don't pretend to know everything – I would argue that they actively hire people who know more than they do, because they instinctively ask questions. I suggested that it could be because his workforce had lost the connection between what they are doing and why. When there is a lull in motivation, he simply needed to remind them of the big picture and how they fit in. Communication is key. Outstanding leaders explain and then they listen--because the most effective communication involves way more listening than talking.

  • Outstanding leaders quickly weigh, assess, decide, and then immediately act -- because decisiveness and action build confidence and momentum. Making a bad decision can be ok, mistakes can almost always be corrected and let’s face it, we all make bad decisions. What matters is what we do after we make those mistakes.
  • Positive reinforcement is really the key. Leaders often do a really great job telling their employees what they do wrong, but forget to tell them what they do right. Saying thank you and recognising achievement is vital. No one gets enough praise, so truly outstanding leaders see expressing thanks, giving praise, and providing recognition as one gift that can never be given often enough.
  • Outstanding leaders create broad standards and guidelines and then challenge their employees by giving them the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best transforming work into an outward expression of each person's unique skills, talents, and experiences. Accommodating work-from-home days /flex time can actually enable people to function better and get more done -- even if they’re actually working fewer regular hours. Performance should be measured in work done well and deadlines met, not how long it took to get the job done.

We know that firms are starting a phased return to the office, securing more new business and of course with that comes certain people challenges. I have always thought it noteworthy how businesses spend so much time figuring out how better to engage with customers, and so comparatively little time on how better to engage with their own management.

Having the right people at the top has never been so important. Employees are an organisation's most important asset, so taking care of them is essential if you want to retain and attract great talent.

Lorri Lowe,
Partner UK


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