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Why Great Leadership is Paramount to the Future of Work

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As state and local governments move toward a hybrid, work-from-anywhere model, they will need to create more agile organizations.

The pandemic has dramatically transformed how state and local government workforces operate, with work moving from inside the office to employees’ homes.

Work is now about more than where employees complete their tasks. Today, how work gets done is equally important. As state and local governments move toward a hybrid, work-from-anywhere model, they will need to create more agile organizations. Navigating this change will require the right strategic vision and implementation — and that all starts with effective leadership.

Effective change management — and change leadership — will be critical. However, you can’t approach change in the same way you’ve traditionally done so in the past. Change is not a one-time event, but rather a continuous process. As a leader, you must now “lead through change” every day. Here are some best practices for how you can accomplish this.

A Roadmap for Effective Change Leadership

To successfully guide their teams through transformation, effective change leaders simultaneously must focus on both “the what” and “the how” of the change they are trying to implement.

The “What”

Lead with compassion: Tell your team their health should be their priority and to take time off when needed. You can reinforce this message by modeling this behavior yourself and by constantly communicating with empathy and compassion. Change is difficult, so take the time to recognize employees who have helped your organization navigate this change in ways both big and small — whether it’s highlighting an insightful best practice from an employee during an organization-wide meeting or offering small incentives like a gift card for a free coffee or lunch.

Create a compelling story: Great change leadership requires you to combine facts, logic, illustrations and experiences to create a clear vision for change and to build buy-in with diverse audiences and stakeholders.

Activate your networks: Leaders can’t enact their vision alone, so it’s also crucial to engage the right people at the right time to scale your leadership strengths. This could be department heads or managers who evangelize your message and rally rank-and-file employees around the mission when there are inevitable roadblocks.

Drive agility and create an enabling environment: You can drive agility by prioritizing what’s important to ensure the pace of change is manageable within your organization and creating a “safe to fail” environment where open feedback is encouraged.

Manage political dynamics and challenge viewpoints: Along the way, you’ll also need to manage internal dynamics and address tensions and competing business priorities that operate as barriers to change. Good change leadership requires confronting these conflicts head-on and designing an optimal path forward based on new information or considerations.

Sustaining outcomes: Change requires sustained effort, so you must create mechanisms to manage your talent, measure progress and reinforce changes when necessary.

The “How”

Big transformational change is emotional and requires high-touch support, so once you have a framework for your change effort, you’ll need to shift your focus to tactics and implementation.

Create targeted and effective communication: Silence creates fear and uncertainty, so take the time to over-communicate with team members, especially in the early stages of your transformation. This could take the form of a weekly, virtual all-hands meeting, newsletter or dedicated email from your leadership team.

Encourage face time: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports to touch base and encourage them to do the same with their own teams. During these meetings, ask about pain points. Provide guidance, but also collaboratively strategize ways to address these challenges as they arise.

Be accessible and actively listen: Change should never be one-directional. Encourage your team to reach out with questions and create a channel for them to do so, whether it’s setting aside time for Q&A during all-hands meetings or creating an email distribution for your leadership team to assemble and monitor employee input and suggestions.

Harness technology: Use video as much as possible to enhance connections within your team. In a hybrid work environment, some of these connections can get lost. However, much of human communication is non-verbal, so using videoconferencing tools can improve how your team engages with one other.

Set expectations, but be flexible: At the outset, it’s important to let employees know what you expect of them and the support you can provide to help them succeed in this new environment. This may mean implementing tools that automate parts of their work, leveraging talent from other teams to relieve pressure while you sort out the optimal work schedule for team members, and reviewing workloads and reprioritizing assignments.

Embracing a “New Normal” and Leading Through Change

Leading a hybrid team and helping them navigate complex change is never easy. But leading with empathy, curiosity and humility can help your organization stay the course and be resilient even when change gets difficult.

Most change initiatives fail because leaders haven’t really bought into them, and this sentiment shows in their commitment and consistency. However, if you develop and communicate a clear vision, formulate a strategy that aligns with this vision, and visibly model it through your behavior and actions, your organization will be well-positioned for the future of work and successful change.
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