It has been a year of uncertainty and change, and leadership in 2009 is going to look very different from 2008. To make sure you get the most out of your people in the months to come, do not disregard all your existing talent management experience and practices in favour of a completely new way of leading.
Most leaders have the skills to deal with this brave new world; it is just a case of learning how to put them into practice in a new context. So as we move towards the end of the year, let's take a look at the top 10 lessons to take with us from 2008.
1. Handle redundancies well
Unfortunately, job losses are becoming a fact of life. But they need not spell disaster for all involved if they are handled well. If your employees are helped to exit the organisation into new jobs or careers, you are not only rewarding the time they have given to you, but you are also ensuring that they leave feeling positive about your brand and importantly maintaining their relationship as consumers.
2. Don't forget the ones left behind
Helping people out of your organisation is important, but their colleagues left behind need a lot of attention too. They will be feeling all sorts of emotions -- guilt, panic, even bereavement -- which will sap their willingness to put in the extra effort to help the organisation through tough times. You will have to pull out all your engagement stops to keep them on your side through difficult times into the future.
3. Challenge for HR
This is likely to be the most challenging time that your human resource team has faced. Many of them will not have worked through a time of economic turmoil and might need training, support and mentoring, especially if they are working on restructuring projects and being the bearers of bad news.
4. Have a vision
Change is inevitable but you have to be able to make your team buy into it and move forward with you. Amidst all the upheaval, focus on the vision of the new organisation at the end of the transition.
5. Create a coaching environment
Leaders who coach their teams through change should encourage employees to take control of their workload and targets. This helps to create advocates of change who feel that they have a say in the direction of the organisation. This is particularly important when they might be feeling out of control of their future.
6. Don't forget yourself
You might be concentrating on the future of your organisation, but it is sensible to take some time to focus on your own future too. According to Mr John Boyd, the director of the International Directors Centre (IDC) at DBM, three quarters of new jobs for senior executives come through networking, as opposed to 60 per cent for more junior workers, so in these uncertain times it is worth keeping your networks strong.
7. Be strategic
Examine exactly how you need your leaders to behave so that they are aligned with the strategy of your organisation.
Should they be innovative or delegating, for example? Once you have identified the behaviours that your organisation values, then you can set about developing these in your leaders. This is a cost-saving measure resulting in more targeted development expenditure.
Keep the workforce engaged so that workers will feel responsible for the future of the organisation. Demanding, fickle and hugely talented members of Generation Y are joining the workforce. Research shows that they want to work for organisations which care for them. Their flexibility, innovative attitudes to work and technological know-how are critical skills for the future.
9. Be a team player
In difficult times, we need strong leadership that comes from a strong team, not from a single, autocratic leader. It takes more than one person to cope with the complexity of today's business, the impacts of international markets, increasing regulatory demands and the speed of change.
10. Find opportunity in change
This could be an ideal time for you to earn your stripes. If you are able to keep your head above all the change, it could be the most exciting and significant career development opportunity to show your quality.