The global pandemic has put pressure on workforces in more ways than ever before. Economic uncertainty leaves companies wearily contemplating downsizing, employees in constant fear of losing job security, and leaders questioning whether their typical methods for managing remote teams still work. These unpredictable circumstances make it imperative for management to adopt flexible leadership.
What Is Flexible Leadership?
Flexible leadership is management’s ability to quickly adapt in a dynamic professional environment based on the needs of their team and the needs of the business. As a leader, this requires an ability to divert from your natural leadership style to fit the demands of a diverse group of team members.
A flexible leader is open to new ideas, inclusive of perspectives different than their own, not defensive, and has healthy relationships with each member of their team by working to understand their specific learning and communication styles to lead them most effectively.
Why Adopt Flexible Leadership Now?
The importance of adopting flexible leadership becomes increasingly evident by the day. Initial stay at home orders forced companies to allow their teams to work from home, but as the pandemic continues, the flexibility of remote work has become a high priority for employees everywhere. In fact, one survey shows that close to 98% of employees would want to work remotely, at least partially, for the rest of their career.
Add to that the fact that employees’ lives are completely different than they were before. Whether they’re taking care of sick relatives, contracting illness themselves, homeschooling a child as a full-time working parent, or working in a less than ideal work-from-home situation, flexibility is vital to the work week.
Remote work has even given employees the opportunity to relocate. Some are looking to move closer to family, others are flocking to more affordable areas, and others are simply moving to the city of their dreams as a result of the flexibility that remote work has granted them. It’s no secret that the pandemic has revealed the dire need for flexibility and support from leadership, so what can leadership do to adopt this mindset?
Ways To Be A Flexible Leader
Leaders should develop their flexible skills on an individual level as well to help effectively lead prosperous teams. Here are some things you can do as a leader to improve your flexibility in today’s business environment:
Develop personal relationships
Growing a personal relationship with your team members will provide the foundation necessary for a healthy, successful professional relationship. Ask your team members how they are doing in and outside of work. Allow them to share personal details about their lives and allow yourself to do the same. Showing your team members that you care about them as a person, and not just an employee, will help build trust, boost their motivation, and increase their overall performance.
Offer personal and professional support
Being there to answer any questions and guide employees in their career paths is a given when it comes to being a leader, but take it a step further. Some employees may be caring for a sick relative, while others may be moving across the country to work for your company. With these cases comes an opportunity to lend a helping hand — contact your HR team to learn about paid family leave benefits, or help relocating employees by learning about relocation assistance or providing an online resource for real estate listings. In transformative or uncertain circumstances, any gesture from a superior can go a long way in motivating a team member, and even supporting their overall health.
Ask for feedback
Feedback is critical to being a flexible leader, as it will help you understand how your team is responding to your leadership. Perhaps your hands-off methods of managing your team have been causing some teammates to fall behind. Or, maybe your daily check-ins have been impeding workflow. Without inquiring regular feedback from your team, you’ll never know how to adjust, or that you need to adjust in the first place. Schedule routine surveys, or conversations that give employees the opportunity to reflect on what does or does not work for them, so that you can become a better leader for them and pivot when necessary.
Being clear and direct in your expectations for your team can avoid a lot of conflicts down the road. Be sure to periodically reiterate or adapt those expectations as well to reflect the changing needs of your team and the needs of your business. You can master communication even further by providing recognition and reinforcement to reward and motivate employees. Showing public appreciation, offering incentives, or even rewarding teams with a free, unexpected meal or gift card can go a long way in keeping them engaged and productive while working from home.