What are signs that leadership isn’t doing well? How can HR foster strong leadership?
An organization’s success is often tied to its leadership. Canadian HR Reporter spoke with Sandra Edwards, an authorized representative at Crestcom in Mississauga, Ont. providing business leadership development training.
Q: How important is effective leadership for an organization’s success?
A: “It is critical because if the owner or president doesn’t have the tools or doesn't care about their people, then they’re setting them up for failure. You're not born with these tools, they are taught skills. When you invest in your people, then they have confidence and feel empowered. They're grateful, because now they're satisfied and engaged in what they're doing and understand the value they bring to the company. It's so important to give people the tools they need to be successful.”
Q: What are some traits of good leaders?
A: “Good leaders put together their vision, their core values, and their mission statements with their teams, and they live it and breathe it. They make sure they're in touch with their people. They have a safe environment to bring ideas to the table, generate innovation, and they always want to hear what people think. You can see it the minute you walk into a company — you can see the engagement, the spirit, the passion that they're able to cultivate and cascade through the organization.”
Q: What are signs that leadership isn’t doing well?
A: “Number one, high turnover. People cannot exist in a culture that doesn't have engagement, motivation, rewards, and takes everything for granted. People don't look at you, they don't smile. You can see that they're totally unengaged.
“It’s costly to have high turnover. And this can affect customer service. If they're not looking after the customers, they start losing them. Our perspective is lifetime customers, external and internal — we want to retain our people and let them know the value they bring in, and they in turn will want to look after external customers.
“With great leadership, their teams are excited and they tell their friends. And their friends start asking, ‘Do you have any openings at your company?’ So they're selling their brand. The leaders become the brand of the company.”
Q: What should HR’s role be in terms of supporting leaders and culture?
A: “It’s a powerful role. HR can sit down with a manager, work with team members, and orchestrate learning for people that are not going through higher-up training. You might take a department and say, ‘This group of administrators hasn't been exposed, so we're going to have a lunch-and-learn for them so they are champions in the organization.’ VPs of HR, directors of HR, and HR managers should all be part of the program.”
Q: What can HR do to encourage and foster effective leadership?
A: “Good companies generally have development plans. HR teams have to take charge of talent management in the onboarding process, because that first three to six months can make it or break it. HR professionals are instrumental in ensuring that the onboarding process is strong.
“They can set up development plans and get feedback from new hires: ‘Where do you see yourself in two to five years, what's important to you?’
“For existing team members, HR works with managers to ensure that their people are satisfied with what they're doing and motivated. If you're not getting feedback on a regular basis, this is where people get unengaged. HR needs the tools that will keep the engagement and productivity high and turnover low.”
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Q: What type of training can develop good leaders?
A: “Nobody can train everyone at once and, actually, it's not as effective if you do. If you say, over the next couple of years, ‘These are the groups that I want to go through,’ that way you can do it economically, but also get the impact of giving people the responsibility of their role to develop the team that reports to them. They do that in conjunction with HR because HR is involved in the program from day one.
“For HR, when they have the tools to help in the development of their teams, they not only can see what it takes to be a great leader, but they can meet the challenges that come through change. It's a changing world and you can't treat everybody exactly the same. The course you took 20 years ago, for three days, is not going to cut it.”
Leadership effectiveness can have a profound impact on workplace culture, say experts