30 June 2022
No longer can leaders make decisions solely through a financial lens. The impact on environmental, societal and governance concerns also must be satisfied.
To succeed under this scrutiny, our Head of Solutions Strategy EMEA, Roy Diggory, advises leaders to use scientifically proven techniques to navigate tensions and make better judgements.
“Leaders are constantly bombarded from all angles,” Roy explained, as a panellist at Management Today's Leadership Lessons Live conference. “They are being told to perform today but innovate tomorrow. They're told to meet targets but look after wellbeing on their team, and to acknowledge the value of individuals, while looking after fairness for everyone.”
And the post pandemic climate has only added tensions – including sustainability, hybrid working, wellbeing, respect, ethics, and reputational risks.
With so much landing on their desk, leaders often try to solve a tension quickly and in doing so focus on one side of the tension, such as hurrying through tasks and projects rather than giving junior team members time to learn.
Meanwhile, they tend to ignore the other side of the tension and hope it goes away. Inevitably, the pressure doesn’t disappear, and, in many cases, the problem gets worse.
The rise in large-scale movements such as #metoo and Black Lives Matter are forcing organisations to rethink how they respond to sensitive issues happening in society. But many leaders lack the tools to make the right decision.
Roy said: “It's becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to deal with moral concerns and we're seeing a lot more polarisation.
“For example, when dealing with diversity and inclusion, leaders are having to interpret the pace at which things are changing, with some in their organisation believing they’re going too fast, and others believing they’re not going fast enough.”
This polarisation among leaders and employees divides the workforce and creates a toxic culture.
“Leaders are going to need to do what we talked about in our research, something called attunement. It's the leader’s ability to navigate these tensions and use their knowledge and experience to respond to the context.
“For example, how do they pause and notice what's going on? How do they make sense of those situations, choose the right solution, and intentionally act?
“So, that they're actually taking time to think through how they respond and make better judgements when they face these tensions. Rather than rushing to make a quick decision.”
Research shows that good people are more likely to do bad things when they perceive decisions are made unfairly.
A study at a manufacturing plant found that when employee wages were reduced by 15% thefts rose by 5%. When another group of employees received the same pay cut, it was sensitively handled and thoroughly explained. Consequently, thefts only increased by 2%.
Roy explained: “Fairness is really critical to making these decisions, but when handled unfairly, businesses can create a lack of morality within the organisation.”
Everyone makes mistakes but the fear of ‘cancel culture’ can make even the boldest leader fearful of making contentious decisions.
Rather than hiding from the backlash, Roy advises leaders to be curious and actively engage in conversations about the mistakes made and make better decisions in future.
Roy added: “There’s a motivational interviewing technique called ‘roll with resistance,’ where you talk to people, ask questions, and understand what the issues are.
“The risk for leaders is they take tokenistic actions, where they just do something and think I'm done, or they display moral licensing.
“Instead, they should genuinely want to engage with these conversations. The more that leaders tell stories, have dialogues, and show they're on a journey to learn about these sticky dilemmas, the more they're going to be able to respond authentically to these challenges.”
Learn how to equip your leaders with the skills to succeed by exploring our scientifically proven leadership development solution.