Human Centric Leadership Pays Off

Leadership during periods of uncertainty, and change is never easy. Today, the task is even more daunting due to ‘pandemic fatigue’, the distance of working from home, new digital tools and employees’ fear of illness and personal economic impact.

Traditional management techniques such as setting challenging goals, tying incentives to results, and measuring KPIs can lead to resistance or burnout as employees struggle to meet expectations.

Today’s environment requires a new ‘human-centric’ leadership approach. By shifting the focus from the results to the people, future-ready leaders are experiencing increased employee engagement.

Human-centric leadership starts with understanding each employee’s feelings, needs, and goals – prior to consideration of the company objectives, strengthens commitment and long-term results. Keys to success are:

Building Trust
By showing employees you care, are willing to listen and committed to supporting them, you lay a foundation of trust.

Asking team members how they are feeling; inquiring (appropriately) about their family depends on the relationship. Being transparent, balancing confidence with vulnerability, then creates a culture of trust and a safe haven for employees.

Embracing Diversity
Each person on your team (irrespective of cultural background, generation, or gender) is unique. By getting to know each employee through open one-to-one meetings (video or, if possible, in person), human-centric leaders build deep relationships while gaining valuable insight into each person’s motivators.

Adaptation of management approach to meet each person ‘where he or she is’ creates commitment. Recently, leaders have found that some people need short, frequent 1-1s; or crave human connection, so monthly outdoor walking meetings are important, while others what the challenge to learn new tools.

Longer term, knowledge of key motivators can be used to define personalized incentive programs (extra vacation days, gift cards for favorite online stores, access to company cabins) to reward achievements.

Empowering Success
Global leaders, including Amazon, Google, and Ritz Carlton, attribute their success to empowerment. Their employees go beyond ‘the day job’ to innovate, define new solutions, deliver outstanding customer experiences, and move the company forward through uncertainty.

The keys to successful empowerment are to:

  1.  Assign people to teams and initiatives which align with their personal goals and motivators
  2. Set clear direction of what needs to be achieved, allowing the employees to determine how to reach the goal.
  3. Allow the team the time, space, and creativity to explore, experiment, and then move toward agreed-upon milestones – without restrictive time pressures or reporting demands
  4. Acknowledge that failures can and often will occur
  5. Leverage one to one’s as coaching opportunities

Team Building
As humans, we all have a desire to belong to a community. While social distancing requirements make historical team development activities difficult, there are alternatives for getting people together.

Some of the techniques used by human-centric leaders to build a sustainable team culture include:

  • Weekly video lunches; happy hours; quiz time or drum circles (using kitchen utensils) • Walk and talk sessions outdoors instead of video 1/1s
  • Open office time – a couple hours/week when the manager is available on video for anyone who wants to talk
  • Group picnics to celebrate milestones
  • Best recipe; garden; cool picture contests

Wondering what is right for your team? Just ask a few people what would make them feel connected and supported and give a bit of levity to the workweek.

The time has come for human-centric leadership. COVID-19 has disrupted all aspects of business, creating many opportunities for innovation as societies, companies, and people define the new future. By building trust with your employees; embracing diversity of goals and motivations; empowering success, and building a committed team, human-centric leaders are ready for success now and in the future.

Copyright Jennifer Vessels. All rights reserved.


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