How Shall We Manage Our People in the New Era?

Everyone seems to talking about how different life is today. The world has changed dramatically. It is changing rapidly every day and will continue to look different in the years ahead. Europe is going through a drastic crisis and much worse is expected. China is growing rapidly and will one day eclipse the US to become the world largest economy. Other markets, such as India and Turkey, are referred to as "future" countries. Online sales, social networks, virtual teams--these are the topics and trends we hear about every day.

How does it impact us and the managers in our companies? How should we react to these changes, what is the best management style to move forward, how can we build the winning teams in these uncertain, fast-changing times?

These and many other questions jump every day to our heads. What kind of leadership is the best for the future, which management style suits a fast-changing environment best, what should we focus on and how shall we change in order to adapt?

To begin, a leader must be able to set up a strategy which she or he believes will bring the company into long-term success. It has to be communicated clearly and strongly in every corner of the company. It is important everyone understands the direction in which the company will move in the coming days, weeks and months. This is the key condition to accomplish the company goals and targets. But, leadership is not just about persuasive communication skills. Good leaders also pay attention to how their message is interpreted by their employees. Do they understand your strategy, do they like it, do they believe in it? It is important to hear what the reaction to your vision is. A leader must give people a reason to be motivated and engaged; they need to feel they can influence and contribute. No one likes to just get orders and fulfill them. If your people don't support and believe in your strategy, it will never become real, it will never be working the way you want it to.

How can you assure your people are engaged and will try to deliver their best performance? By nature people are active, they want to learn and they need to feel their situation is improving. A good manager should capitalize on this. Managers have more to do with enabling the happiness and productivity of the people who work for them than anyone else in the organization. If you are able to motivate your people well, they will go far beyond compliant behavior, or threshold performance, to deliver top performance and fill in this "engagement gap". By engagement gap, I mean the difference between the effort which must be reached to gain a competitive advantage and the manager's ability to get the majority of the employees to commit to the effort. The manager sets the tone for dialogue and enables or prevents a productive, engaged, and fun work environment.

Some managers are surprised to learn that the main reason their direct subordinates are demotivated is the manager herself. The way a manager communicates and delegates-- his management style – are the most important ways to influence an employee to be motivated and working with engagement.

Another thing, in addition to the strategy, vision and engaged staff, is the ability to build a team, a strong team, a winning team and a diverse team. My opinion is that the diversity of your team should be at the top of the list for your success. And, by diversity, I refer to not only gender, but things such as the age and seniority of your staff, international versus local expertise, local versus foreign and different types of personalities and leadership styles.

You have to respect what talents your people have and talents which they do not have. Every team requires many different skills. No one player is the best at everything, and winning requires each player to understand their specific role, the roles others play, and how they all need to fit together to work. Things only go well if everyone understands and is comfortable with their role, knows the roles of others, and has some understanding of how it all fits together. You will be able to create a winning team if you value the different roles of your people and you try to bring them together in a way that allows good chemistry to form—that's when good things happen.

Consider also having enough innovators on your teams. Innovation not only helps to move things forward, it creates a competitive advantage. Innovation is the key driver to moving the economy forward. The world is changing fast and rapidly; we actually don't know what's coming in the future and we need to be ready not only to accept change, but, of equal importance, to make change happen. In the 21st century leaders will need people who are able to think out of the box, people who will challenge the status quo, people who are creative and people who will ask them WHY? Good leaders appreciate people who ask this question because it can demonstrate interest in their job and in the company, and good leaders utilize these opportunities to give their questions and suggestions serious consideration.

Last, but not least, I would stress authenticity. Authenticity in leadership builds trust, which gives a leader the power to persuade and influence behavior in a naturally acceptable way. Trust is the most important asset in your company; without trust you will not succeed. Yes, it can take a long time to create trust in your organization, but good leaders know it can be lost very quickly and when it is, it is often impossible to regain. Therefore, keeping promises should be rule number one for a leader. To keep promises, you must be able to make the promises as well. Be open and talk the language people understand. If they approach you, talk to them and make understandable what the next steps will be.

If you make a mistake, never hide it. Your people should know they are allowed to make mistakes, but they have to learn from them. Talking openly about your own mistakes is another way a leader builds trust and creates a mistake-tolerant, growth-oriented environment.

In closing, I would add that proactive communication is fundamental for trust and overall success. You need to keep your people continuously updated, motivated and engaged. They need to understand where the company is going, and they need to understand all your decisions. To me, there is never too much communication in a well-run company.

The world is changing rapidly, but don't forget you're running a marathon, not a sprint! And, finally, don't forget to have fun—laughing can be a very productive force in a work environment.