11 Leadership And Management Challenges: The Future of Work And How To Cope
Joe has just been promoted. With 10 years of sales experience under his belt, he is now head of sales for his company.
Meaning, he’s transitioning into a management position. It’s no surprise this comes with some key leadership and management challenges such as,
- Not meeting his sales target of the year
- The company’s declining revenue streams
- Managing a team of individuals who don’t think like him
Like many new managers, Joe also finds it hard to transition from being ‘one of the guys’ to holding a more authoritative position. On top of it all, he wants to prove himself to the board.
Does this sound familiar?
While these challenges are so-called ‘traditional’, for you new managers out there there is a whole new set of leadership and management challenges that are cropping up today.
The global pandemic has changed the commercial landscape – possibly – forever.
How do you prepare for the future of work? Understanding and then tackling these new leadership and management challenges may be exactly what you need to succeed in this new role.
What are the challenges of leadership today?
There are many leadership and management challenges facing you today. These can be broken down into three parts:
1. Leadership challenges facing the global economy
This includes the future of work post-pandemic and how you can cope in the face of disruptive new trends.
2. Leadership challenges in the workplace
How do you get technology on your side? How do you be a leader that respects both culture and productivity?
This includes managing a remote working culture while driving team collaboration.
3. Personal leadership challenges
In this part, we’ll discuss the psychological challenges that you face. Shifting from manager to leader and coach is all about behavior change.
11 Leadership & Management Challenges And How To Prepare For The Future Of Work
“Transformational leadership is a leadership style in which leaders encourage, inspire, and motivate employees to create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the company.” - CIO
Leadership challenges facing the global economy
1. Navigating Widespread Disruption
- The use of AI in many sectors of business has grown by 270% (Gartner, as quoted in Forbes).
During this time of digital transformation, it’s imperative that managers:
- Lead teams through change.
- Help teams accept new ways of working.
Today, you’re navigating widespread disruption across practically every aspect of business operations.
All thanks to a number of notable workforce changes that are here to stay, e.g.,:
- Remote working.
- The use of artificial intelligence.
- New technologies.
- The shift from designing processes for efficiency to designing for resilience.
How do you cope?
Understanding these challenges is key to overcoming them. And overcoming them is key to getting your team members on board with those changes.
Here are a couple of quick ways to get your team on-board, especially as a new manager:
- Celebrate your team’s accomplishments
- Get to know your team culture
- Take part in team activities to help build a relationship Set realistic and clear objectives
- Have an ‘open-door’ policy
As a new manager navigating widespread disruption, it’s also important you keep your finger on the pulse, stay ahead of global changes, and embrace disruption.
2. Remote Productivity
- 57% of SMEs believe remote work is here to stay (smallbiztrends).
During the height of the pandemic, media sources were bursting with reports that the widespread shift to remote working had massively boosted productivity.
But is this really true?
More recent reports suggest that only around one-third of workers are more productive at home. Others have found that remote working can lower job satisfaction and motivation, which in turn can have a negative impact on productivity.
This is a problem for leaders: Your team productivity reflects on your performance.
How do you cope?
If you’re searching for tools for managing remote teams that will boost productivity immediately, there’s a lot of innovative technologies out there that can help.
But during your search and discovery, you need to remember that your tools have to cover a broad set of bases.
In other words, they need to not only work to directly drive productivity from home workers but also improve and enhance the remote working experience to raise motivation.
And in layman’s terms – zoom just doesn’t cut it anymore. The rising popularity of Slack is one way that reflects the need for connection and contact during remote working.
The human element is vital here. A humanistic, connected leader is more likely to be at the helm of an effective, productive team than a leader who mistrusts remote workers, micromanagers, or takes a command-driven style.
Leadership challenges in the workplace
3. Board-Level Communications
- More than 20% of the workforce could work productively from home 3-5 times a week (McKinsey).
With the rise of remote working, it’s clear that not everyone has had a seamless transition from home to remote.
Reports show that senior executives are most likely to have the infrastructure to be able to move operations to the home environment, which means that many c-suite execs are now working from home for at least some of the time.
How do you cope?
As a manager, not only do you have to design a communication approach for the board, but for a board that’s now home-based.
The need to communicate both ‘upwards’ and ‘downwards’ has always been a major challenge for new leaders.
Now, you need to tailor these communications for a board that’s also based out of the office has been added to the mix.
To succeed, build a board reporting framework that:
- Keeps the c-suite updated.
- Effectively communicates messages using remote technology.
To improve these lines of communication on a personal level, you should also:
- Be truthful and realistic
- Keep it simple
- Be proactive with feedback
- Build a personal relationship with members on the board
- An estimated 42% of jobs lost during the pandemic are gone forever (The Times).
4. Managing a Remote Team
It’s no secret that organizations have become more flexible in terms of their working policies over recent years.
Why? Out of necessity.
Yet, for others, the widespread shift to remote working has caught many off-guard.
Many managers weren’t prepared for this acceleration – having received little to no training in how to effectively manage a remote team.
The thing is, managing a remote team is very different from managing a face-to-face team.
But this is often easier said than done. Major companies like Amazon, Apple, and Adobe have now switched to long term remote working, witnessing the benefits of their remote workers during the pandemic.
But instead of offering 100% remote worker conditions, Amazon, for instance, offers 2 days of remote work per week. Apple has now recently retracted its 100% working from home policy to introduce a more flexible approach.
Adding the need to introduce a hybrid model if some workers are still in the office, it can be a lot for any new manager to get their head around.
How do you cope?
Get to grips with some strategies to help you become more effective with your remote team.
If your company can productively work from home, maybe its time to shift completely, while still retaining flexible meeting rooms when the need arises.
Offer the choice for employees to return to work or stay home once the restrictions are lifted. Make working from the office a safe and health-compliant environment. Facilitate home office spaces if this is the choice your employees align with.
In short, you have to listen to your employees needs while being flexible, adaptable, but have structures in place to fall back on.
5. Driving Team Collaboration
Slack’s USP is team collaboration, with a focus on company culture versus productivity. Hence their name ‘Slack’.
Collaboration between team members happens naturally – organically, you could say – within the physical workplace.
Unlike in an interactive setting you usually don’t stare at your own face when having a conversation with someone.
Or, how many weird WIFI pauses have we all had to navigate that just don’t exist in face-to-face conversations?
But although interacting with colleagues in remote settings is a little strange, it’s imperative to create opportunities.
And since this doesn’t happen as organically, this is an area that you as a leader have to actively facilitate.
How do you cope?
- Build positive remote work collaboration habits for your teams.
- Make it easy and natural for people to work together and collaborate (even if they are not working from the same location).
Research shows that how teams collaborate from home is different to how they collaborate in the office.
E.g., Microsoft reports that longer meetings are being replaced with more regular shorter meetings and that social meetings have grown rapidly.
You should work to build and reinforce good remote collaboration habits across your team. Once you’ve set this foundation, it will be possible to tackle one of the biggest issues of working from home, ensuring:
- Driving overall success
Internal leadership challenges
6. Building Trust
Read 'how to stop micromanaging your team' by HBR.
- 85% or people say micromanaging negatively affects their morale (fingerprint for success).
Trust has become one of the biggest leadership and management challenges to arise in recent times. Research into this area suggests that,
‘A perceived loss of control and sense of being taken advantage of may be experienced by a manager as employees disappear from the manager’s daily gaze’.
Does this ring true to you?
For those of you who have a naturally directive, ‘helicopter’ management style, you might find that it’s growing increasingly more difficult to keep track of every team member at all teams.
Don’t worry – you’re not alone.
How do you cope?
To tackle this challenge, you need to study, analyze, and deploy some of the best strategies for maintaining and building trust in remote teams.
Why? Because when trust becomes an issue, unrealistic expectations begin to creep in.
Perhaps you’ll begin to expect that your team is available constantly between 9-5, always sitting at their computer, twiddling their thumbs waiting for your call.
Something that not only isn’t reasonable – don’t forget that distractions can happen – but could put the work-life balance in jeopardy and create even more stress.
In short, study, apply, and role-play what you’ve learned to practice what you preach. As Krauthammer’s consultant Szymon Rompczyk puts it,
“Give trust versus micromanaging. Because when you do, you’ll see bigger rewards from delegating than taking on yourself. Trust your team by motivating the end result.”
7. Handling Previously Unseen Personality Types
Your team consists of many different personality types that each require an individual approach.
This might not be news to you. In fact, you may already be building a leadership and management style that is adaptable and works for each member of the team.
But then disruption happens: With the shift to remote working, a whole new set of personality types is emerging.
How do you cope?
Managers need to adapt again in order to:
- effectively handle these personalities and,
- minimize the risk of conflict in the team without being in a position of face-to-face communication.
While there are many possible new character traits that could emerge when your team moves from the office to the home, these can usually be categorized into four different remote work personality types:
These types thrive in on-site working environments – but may struggle in home situations.
Understanding these personalities creates an opportunity to develop a leadership style that helps them succeed.
Train your knowledge to build out your leadership agility, and show diversity in how you manage your team.
8. Leading For Tomorrow
- 66% of managers report losing sleep over work stress (Apollo Technical).
It’s no secret there is a gap between what you as a manager are already doing, and what you still need to do.
While tomorrow’s challenges may not be as extreme as a global pandemic, we can expect that it will come with its own unique set of issues and obstacles that must be addressed.
Leading for tomorrow – i.e., making efforts now to address these potential challenges – is essential for building resilience and being prepared.
How do you cope?
A renewed focus on leadership is so important for leading the workforce of the future.
Leaders need to find effective ways to juggle:
- managing your team as it is today,
- trying to develop your leadership style and implement small changes to future proof the approach and ensure it works just as well tomorrow.
Focusing on leading a team – rather than simply managing it – is one way to make this happen. In other words, put the needs of your employees first and give them what they need to succeed.
9. Shifting From 'Business' to 'People'
- Only 85 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men (HBR).
Have you been working to shift from your directive management style to a more flexible approach?
If you’ve just been promoted to your managerial position, there’s another sphere of influence that will shape how you do things: Your people.
How do you cope?
Putting your people at the center of everything you do with a humanistic management style approach allows you to:
- maximize productivity,
- prioritize human resources.
An IBM Institute for Business Value study COVID-19 and the Future of Business states that,
‘Placing a renewed focus on people is more important than ever in a world of work where many employees are working outside of traditional offices and dealing with heightened personal stress and uncertainty’.
Taking a people-centric approach will boost satisfaction, motivation, and productivity even at challenging times.
You’re here to coach your team to perform at the best of their ability. If you listen to our Krauthammer consultant Szymon Rompczyk,
“If we practice what we preach, leadership is all about engaging others and motivating others.”
10. Be Positive, Humble, and Confident
The challenge for many new managers is how to develop the internal leadership skills that see you:
- Rise above conflict.
- Manage expectations.
- Lead with confidence.
How do you cope?
A positive attitude is something that your co-workers will mirror. For example, how often do you see managers praising the result?
This is a good practice. However, if the result isn’t met (e.g., KPI uplifts), then the positive praise goes out the door.
Instead, you should be praising the effort to motivate the result. At Krauthammer, we believe in saying YES to the person and NO to the behavior.
If a result isn’t met – this isn’t the fault of a team member. You need to instill confidence in your individuals, pinpoint the behavior that resulted in failure, and change your attitude from praising the result to praising the effort.
11. Transferring Workplace Culture to the Home
The importance of company culture is becoming increasingly apparent, and many leaders have been working hard to develop a great culture amongst their teams that:
- supports workers,
- motivates them,
- and makes them want to succeed.
But through this, a new challenge has emerged; The need to transfer this culture to the home working environment.
But with the natural misalignment between business and employees created by remote working, company culture is at serious risk.
How do you cope?
Google has the best company culture, according to staff, but is most notably praised for its in-house mentorship programmes.
Today’s managers must know how to build and improve culture in remote teams by leveraging tools, employee feedbacks, and continuously optimizng the working from home situation.
Gallup notes that ‘culture can be understood as “how we do things around here”, but right now, the “how” is changing daily -- and in some cases, forever’.
People who work from home think their team members care less about them. They feel less recognized for their contributions (research supported by Gallup).
This means you need to continuously validate your co-workers to change this behavior. Invest in your culture, and your individuals will continue to produce results.
Adapting to change
Today, you’re not only expected to handle your typical management tasks like supervising teams, making decisions, and managing operations.
You now have to do so within environments that have been rapidly evolving thanks to the rapid pace of digital transformation.
Plus, you need to do all this while leading teams of remote workers.
It can be difficult enough making the switch from being an employee to a managerial function.
As we’ve seen throughout this article, there are a special set of new skills every manager needs to succeed in the modern workplace.
These are primarily rooted in the agile methodology that allows leaders to adapt quickly to different people, and different situations, when needed.
Building these skills now is important for succeeding tomorrow.
Future-proofing your management style
These new leadership and management challenges may be frustrating to handle all at once.
But they also provide a unique opportunity for you to adapt your leadership approach now to increase the chances of success tomorrow.
We may be living through a highly challenging decade. But at Krauthammer, we strongly believe that leaders can learn from it, grow from it, and use it as a driving force behind their excellence.