How To Roll Out & Measure Leadership Behaviors In The Digital Age

7 mins

How To Roll Out & Measure Leadership Behaviors In The Digital Age

In the days following the release of MIT Sloan’s “The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age“, one of its authors, Douglas Ready, Ph.D., participated in an interview.

While introducing the purpose behind the playbook, Dr. Ready recalled a need to better understand what defines great leadership in a changing world.

His interviewer responded, “It seems like we’ve been talking about this forever, and yet so many people remain stuck.”

"That’s exactly the point.” Ready replied.

Ready and his colleagues collected the views of over 4,000 people in 120 countries, conducted dozens of interviews with C-suite executives and focus groups with up-and-comers in order to pull together a playbook that moved past lists of target behaviors, uncovered perilous trends, and implored faster action, a sense of urgency, to closing what his team refers to as ‘awareness gaps’, ‘capability gaps’ and ‘resolution gaps’.

The cumulative effect of those three gaps, the report says, keeps many organizations stuck in a state of cultural inertia – “…slow, unresponsive, stodgily siloed, densely hierarchical, and excessively focused on short-term returns.”

The rest of the report is a must-read. But it's time to address the need for speed in leadership development for the digital age.

It’s time to push out old behaviors and cultivate new behaviors, and the processes of the past are far too sluggish. They feel comfortable and familiar, but they aren’t working – and they’ll never work again.

Countless articles (including the MIT report) list ‘eroding’ behaviors that need to see their way out, and ’emerging’ behaviors that need to become commonplace – like authenticity, transparency, collaboration, empathy, and inclusion.

Further, more data is becoming available regarding the different leadership behaviors needed for remote leaders vs. office-based leaders, and how leaders can nurture psychological safety regardless of their proximity.

How long are you going to wait for the leaders of your company to step up and exhibit the clearly defined behaviors that will create employee engagement and business impact?

You can help them get there - faster - by delivering their own progress data to them.

They’ve taken workshops, completed coursework, participate in monthly 1:1s, and (if your company’s still doing them) make it through the annual performance reviews.

But in the months between, they’re wondering “Am I doing this right?”
And you’re wondering if they are, too.

It’s important to both of you – and to the company – for them to get this right, quickly. So why are there weeks between data sets?

It’s the digital age, but their feedback process is locked in the ’80s.

Continuous feedback is the key to removing blind spots and self-deception ensnaring your leaders, and challenging them to rethink and retool their approach.

To make it in a digital economy, you and your leaders need more data on how their behaviors are impacting the business, and more frequently. You can only get that with continuous feedback.

Step 1: Collect frequent feedback on each leader’s alignment to specific behaviors.

Forget the one-off workshops – when done correctly, continuous feedback frequently reminds leaders of the behaviors your company values.

Each week, ask each leader’s peers, managers, and direct reports how frequently that leader reflects each behavior.  Make sure that their answers are anonymous – this is one way you can nurture psychological safety with the feedback process itself.

Tip: Avoid requiring written responses. Feedback providers know their writing styles give them away, and often hold back on giving honest answers. Instill psychological safety by using a multiple choice format instead.

Step 2: Give each leader access to their feedback data.

To make it in the new economy, data should be flowing throughout your entire company – particularly talent. No more locked up spreadsheets that only one or two people ever see. Pop that hood and share data continuously – in a psychologically safe way, of course.

As feedback data rolls in, each leader gains insight into precisely which behaviors they excel in, and which ones they need to reflect more often in order to achieve the ’emerging behaviors’ required of them in today’s digital age.

Over time, leaders can visualize how their efforts are being perceived by their closest co-workers on a weekly basis. No more guessing, no more crossing fingers, no more kidding themselves – they know exactly how they’re coming across every day, and precisely how to improve.

Step 3: Reward and recognize leaders with high feedback scores.

Ask them how they were successful. How can you replicate their success across other teams? Is there an opportunity to pair one leader with another for mentorship work?

Ideally, you’ll be able to compare performance data for top leaders and bottom performers to understand the impact of leading edge leadership behaviors on employee engagement, team performance, market competitiveness.

Remember - observable behavior change and measurement is key.

Your leaders will develop new habits faster and more effectively when provided with intuitive leadership habits and frequent feedback. Ideally, the feedback process you employ will be easy, frequent, accessible, and psychologically safe. Doing this will help you operationalize faster behavior change – and communicate its impact on the business – for every employee at your organization.

This article was originally written in 2020 during the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, but the principals remain the same. If your leaders are still struggling to adapt, reach out to the team at Rhabit. We'll be happy to share how we have supported organizations in building highly adaptable leaders throughout this era of change.

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