The start of the new year can be a natural time to focus on leadership development as employees and employers ask themselves: Where do we want to go next?
Part of our work at Blu Ivy Group in helping organizations define, develop, and implement Employer Brand strategies includes working with industry leaders to design and align their leadership journey. Leadership is a core driver and success factor in creating extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands, and high-performance cultures.
In our ever-changing world of work, some of the questions that we hear organizations asking are:
- Can we create a human-centred approach to leadership within our organization?
- Can we develop differentiated leadership strategies and initiatives that help us attract and retain our diverse talent needs?
- How do we create a culture of authentic and inclusive leadership for all employees on our team?
Not only do we believe that designing a human-centred approach to leadership is possible, but we also believe that a human-centred approach to leadership provides powerful scaffolding that supports your employer brand and is a core ingredient to creating and maintaining a more inclusive high-performance culture.
Leadership is all about relationships: the relationship that you have with yourself (self-awareness) and the relationships you have with others to move towards a common goal (effectiveness). A human-centred approach to leadership aims to find the balance between who you are, how you show up, how you move forward, and what you want to accomplish.
When creating or refining a human-centred approach to leadership you want to guide your organization to intentionally focus on five core areas:
- Focusing on the here and now
- Tools and space that promote self-awareness
- Presence and reverence for the whole person
- Intentional and measurable action
Does your organization have the desire to create a more people-first approach to leadership? If so, these five questions will help guide you forward.
1. What work are you currently doing to identify and address any organizational blind spots that keep you stuck?
Leadership growth and organizational change always start from the same place: the here and now. Many organizations have the desire to help leaders grow and change but this growth can be short-circuited if you’re not addressing the current cultural norms and practices that show up every day right now.
What’s really going on inside your company right now? Is your current culture open to change or is your organizational mindset and practices unconsciously stopping or blocking your attempts for growth?
One of the most important starting places for creating a human-centred approach to leadership in your organization is undertaking a current state analysis to help understand and bring to light any of the deep-rooted beliefs behind ‘how we do things around here,’ the unwritten rules of your C-Suite team, and norms around how individuals get ahead in your organization.
Taking an honest and vulnerable look at the ‘here and now’ can be deeply uncomfortable work, but it’s necessary if you want to build your leadership practice on a firm foundation. Think of this step as your organizational excavation work as you embark on your human-centred leadership journey.
2. What is your organization doing to help increase self-awareness and internal growth for your team members?
Self-awareness or emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills to help leaders develop. When you become more self-aware, you start to see the connections between who you are and why you do what you do.
What tools, training, and focus does your organization provide to help team members better understand the motivations that underscore their thoughts, habits, beliefs, and actions?
How are you building self-awareness into your leadership development journey? Are you creating the intentional space and tools so that your team members can safely start to understand some of the personal blind spots or autopilot tendencies that may be holding them back?
A human-centred approach to leadership provides tools, time, and presence to help team members see, know, and compassionately understand themselves on a deeper level.
3. How can your organization move towards whole-person development plans?
Leadership growth doesn’t exist within a box. When moving towards a human-centred approach to leadership, you need to look at and work with the whole person.
Accenture’s ‘‘Net Better Off’ research from 2021 helped to quantify that ‘what matters most to your people works for your business.’ Their research found that 64% of a person’s potential – defined as their ability to use their skills and strengths at work – is influenced by whether or not they feel their work is leaving them ‘better off’ across these six fundamental human needs: Financial wellbeing, Emotional & Mental wellbeing, Relational wellbeing, Physical wellbeing, Purpose, and Future Employability.
We lie to ourselves and each other when we pretend that we can separate and isolate the different aspects that make up our lives. We also hold ourselves back and hamper our creativity, productivity, and wellbeing when we attempt to restrict ourselves from bringing our entire lived experience into how we show up at work.
Within your organization, do you prioritize time for individual presence and connection? Does leadership development in your organization address and work with the full spectrum of what makes us human? Or does your leadership development focus primarily on career growth without acknowledging the depth, complexity, richness, and uniqueness that make up the full ‘whole person’ experience of your team members?
This can be an opportunity to open up and redesign your career development plans to become whole-person development plans. Whole-person development plans are grounded in a reverence for the individuals that you work with and require the time & space to create trusting relationships with each other.
A human-centered approach to leadership meets people where they are right now and invites all of them to the table.
4. What are you doing to drive hyper-personalized leadership development?
One of the biggest reasons why leadership development programs don’t achieve their desired results is that they take a one-size-fits-all approach. Taking this approach can ignore positional differences, multi-generational differences, cultural context, systemic organizational challenges, current and past lived experiences, and much more.
How do your leadership development strategies and opportunities reflect the needs of the various employee resource groups across your organization? What about the different generational needs of your workforce? Do all of the individuals in your organization have a set of individualized leadership goals and metrics?
Part of a human-centred leadership journey includes working with your team members to co-create highly personalized, whole-person development plans that include leadership dashboards to measure individual and organizational leadership goals and metrics.
Human-centred leadership is nuanced, contextual, and hyper-personalized. A human-centred leadership development journey prioritizes opportunities for presence, connection, and a hyper-personalized approach.
5. How do you promote and encourage failing?
Leadership growth needs to be grounded in self-awareness, presence, connection, and action. You don’t grow without stumbling forward. The action part of this equation can feel great, and it can also be messy, uncomfortable, vulnerable, and can feel unsafe if you’re not used to experiencing change. Many individuals have a desire for growth but also hold an unrealistic belief that growth comes without change. This is where many of us get stuck.
How does your organization create a psychologically safe container for all of your people to fail forward? Do you recognize and celebrate failed attempts? Do you reward team members who try new ways of being or doing but may miss the mark? Have you created intentional spaces within your culture to talk about the messy parts of growing forward?
A human-centred leadership development journey is focused on self-awareness and is grounded in action. A human-centred leadership approach creates space for self-reflection and balances this space for team members to fail and grow forward.
In the months ahead, we will continue the conversation of creating a human-centred leadership practice within your organization. We’ll share strategies, tools, learning, and insights that we’re experimenting with here at Blu Ivy Group and that some of our courageous clients are bringing into their organizations.
As you work to build a more inclusive human-centred or people-first leadership for yourself and for your organization I encourage you to start by giving yourself space to ask the big leadership questions as you start this year.
Who are you?
Who do you want to be?
When the answers to these personal questions align with your employer brand and internal culture you create better human connections, strengthen your business output, and you start to create a better future for us all.
Here’s to a great 2023.
VP, Client Strategy & Experience
Blu Ivy Group
Blu Ivy Group is a global leader in employer branding, organizational culture, and recruitment marketing. We help organizations across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors build extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands, and high-performance cultures.
From C-Suite to Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition leadership, we partner with our clients to transform their organizations and design the most compelling workplaces of the future.
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