Stacey Ashley is a High-Performance Leadership & Coaching Expert. With over 30 years’ experience, Stacey has helped 1000’s to develop their leadership competence, confidence and credibility. She is the author of three # 1 Amazon best-seller books on leadership, including the newly released “Show Up21.” Stacey has four international Stevie awards, including Coach of the Year 2019, has been nominated for the Telstra Business & Women’s Awards 9 times and in 2018, she was named in the Global LinkedIn Top Voices.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Stacey shares her view on emerging leadership trends in Australia and some of the ways leaders can reinvent employee experience for the new hybrid reality of work.
What are some of the trends around leadership that you have observed in Australia during this year?
Some of these trends might not be a big surprise but one thing that has happened is that humanity in leadership has acquired a bigger focus. It’s accelerated the trend that we want leaders who deal from the heart, show kindness, are human, are authentic, and can be vulnerable. What has also become important in the last two years is the ability of the leaders to be really able to connect with their people and understand how they are and how we can really support them as they balance their lives under changing conditions.
Another big really important trend is recognizing the importance of the communication aspect which really leads to connection. This is much needed when people are working in dispersed geographies and different flexible working schedules. It has been interesting to watch leaders have been able to replicate that in-person influence online by utilizing technology. Also, leaders had to take a much more strategic approach to making decisions given that they had to act with limited information many times in the last two years.
Newer work models have emerged in 2021. What do you think are some key characteristics which emerging leaders specifically need to possess to lead successfully?
When it comes to emerging leaders, it is really important as a leader that you transition out of doing things to leading them.
It’s also about creating an opportunity of trust-when you are trying to transition a team member to a leadership role. You can’t micromanage things-so you have to make them really clear about roles and responsibilities as well as the expectations that you have of each other. Hence leaders need to be able to coach their people, empower them, particularly when now when we are not working side by side in the office. Now that we are spending more time physically apart, we need to bring out the best in people by coaching and mentoring them.
Also, mastering the technology is key so that it does not get in the way of communication or connection. Hence the ability to influence and negotiate through these remote mediums is in very valuable. Lastly, you need to be visible as a leader; your team should feel your presence even if you are not in the same room.
What are some of the old paradigms that leaders need to let go to be in sync with our changing realities?
A lot of historical barriers have been broken down around working from home or working in flexible arrangements.
But I still feel there is a little more work to be done to foster the right kind of trust. As a leader, I need to understand what can help me to trust my people working from home. So we do need to let go of the urge of watching over or see everything.
Secondly, technology orientation needs to change. Leaders need to acknowledge the shift from face to face meetings to online meetings and not resist the change. Because this is a long game and we can’t wait till we get back together. So leaders have to think about the purpose of these meetings and how it can be replicated online or in a blended way.
While technology is helping break hierarchy, leaders also need to let go of it and be open to tapping all of their people and their ideas rather than relying on a hierarchical process that takes time.
Lastly, they need to shift the focus from the number of hours their people work to the outcomes they create. So appreciate the contributions by people not the number of hours they spend on zoom meetings. Being really open to supporting people’s preferences on how they work and when they work is something leaders need to focus on.
What are some of the ways leaders can reinvent employee experience for the new hybrid reality of work?
One of the most powerful things that leaders can do to improve and elevate the employee experience is to ask the right questions and really listen. Listen to what the employees want and need and see what you can do facilitate that. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer but what has become really clear in the last 18 months is that people have put into perspective where work fits in with the rest of their lives. Hence the employee experience is a big contributor to that equation. So there is a great need by leaders and organizations to be very deliberate and proactive about finding out what the employees need in order to enable them to be brilliant contributors.
So leaders need to be curious, and wanting to find out what is it that can make the difference to our people.
With businesses striving hard to bounce from the crisis, what do you think is the future of leadership in a virtual world?
One of the things I talk about is that everybody is a leader- first you lead yourself, and in this environment, it’s critical. This is one big shift we all need to make. In addition, we also need to be very conscious of helping people to develop the skills that will allow them to really execute self-leadership. Leaders will have to be very visible, very proactive in their communication, take a more holistic approach to leadership and take your responsibility seriously.