Allan Ryan presenting at Facebook

Join the dots. How to be a better leader

Steve Jobs famously said, 

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

So after talking to our network of experts and reviewing the research, I’ve been joining the dots. And here are my predictions for success in 2023.

The most important dots…

My advice to leaders is that success will come to those who implement three actions:

For example: Recently we completed a Hargraves Coach program with a leading Australian food supply company. Our primary task was to improve engagement across teams. And a Culture Amp survey before and after measured success.

The outcome was an average 27 percentage point increase across relevant questions.

To improve engagement in and across your teams, start with our latest TeamPlay. Share it with your managers to help them create a sense of connectedness with their teams.

Strategies to help you be a better leader

After reviewing the research from leading companies, these points resonated:


Foster a Growth Mindset

Microsoft has seen a positive turnaround since Satya Nadella became CEO. The focus has been on a growth mindset and learning.

“Every person, organisation, and even society reaches a point at which they owe it to themselves to hit refresh—to re-energise, renew, reframe, and rethink their purpose.” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.

A growth mindset underpins Hargraves’ tools and programs. “The learn-it-all does better than the know-it-all.” Satya Nadella


Develop a new style of leader

Swoop Analytics identified a new “hybrid working leader” who engages in reciprocal relationships on Yammer and Microsoft Teams while actively working with shared content on SharePoint. These leaders set the benchmark for effective leadership behaviour under a new flexible working style.

“The addition of sentiment and growth measures to our community performance measure identified many large, diverse, thriving communities. These communities are likely bridging the socialisation gap created by remote working. Notably, many of these thriving communities are “purpose-driven”, discussing topics including environmental sustainability, LGBTQIA+ support, and COVID-19 vaccinations.”


Support managers who are struggling

“When it comes to hybrid, managers need extra support…to help their team take ownership of their unique style of getting work done.” Gallup 

According to Gallup, employees who strongly agree they feel connected to their culture are:

  • 3.7 x as likely to be engaged at work.
  • 5.2 x as likely to recommend their organisation as a great place to work.
  • 37% more likely to be thriving.
  • 68% less likely to feel burned out at work always or very often.
  • 55% less likely to be looking for a job.

Notably, Gallup’s analysis finds that managers are experiencing the hybrid workplace differently than other roles within an organisation. For example, hybrid managers feel less connected to their company culture than remote or on-site managers. They also feel less connected than hybrid leaders.

Why might this be? In the past, managers often leaned on other managers in their peer group to help them navigate challenges — and those peers may not be as available as they were in the office. As a result, accessing resources, social or otherwise, may be more challenging. In other words, managers are likely missing peer and organisational support, even as they support their team’s transition into the hybrid workplace.


Build connectedness intentionally

“Maximum impact of employee connectedness on talent outcomes sees a 37% increase in employee performance and a 36% increase in employee retention.” Gartner

Separately, Gartner’s Culture research shows that 76% of HR leaders feel that hybrid work challenges an employee’s connection to organisational culture. I.e., only 1 in 4 employees are connected to their organisation’s culture.


Enable people to learn and grow

“More and more employees want to work for organisations with integrity and purpose, and at the same time, they crave growth and development opportunities that fulfil, challenge, and motivate them.”

When employees feel that their organisation embodies these values, they’re 27% more likely to have higher engagement scores and 23% more likely to stay working for more than three years. Qualtrics


Focus on a coaching leadership style

A coaching leadership style (CLS) is a valuable leadership theory that “supports and challenges colleagues, intending to help them achieve individual development goals” (Berg & Karlsen, 2016). It works best when managers want to help employees build lasting strengths and when employees are open to feedback and willing to learn.

This coaching style is recognisable through its commitment to partnership and collaboration. Leaders behave as coaches, communicating well, enabling creativity, and motivating and allowing staff the autonomy to make decisions and do a good job. Short-term firefighting is replaced by longer-term strategic thinking (Berg & Karlsen, 2016).

Such leadership is highly valued in today’s workplace, which is often flatter and less hierarchical. It replaces the “I say, you do” approach that is largely unsuited to the modern environment encompassing hot desks, remote work, and flexibility (Eden Project, 2018).

There is a clear distinction between CLS and transactional management. The former encourages listening, supporting, and helping, while the latter suggests telling, deciding, and controlling (Berg & Karlsen, 2016).

Coaching leaders are more successful at introducing ways of aligning personal and organisational goals while developing shared accountability and success (Eden Project, 2018).



Tools make work easier

Hargraves has developed a suite of tools to help you achieve these outcomes. For example, a long-term member of our community requested help to improve engagement scores across several teams working flexibly in Sydney, Brisbane and country areas. We applied the following tools:

Collaborizza – for team-building and stronger relationships, including our Six Pillars of Collaboration model.

Flow Conversation Cue Cards – to guide meaningful conversations that improve engagement and performance

Hargraves Coaching – to support team leaders as they help individuals develop new skills to thrive in a hybrid environment

The results were outstanding, including a 30 percentage point increase in the response acknowledging the opportunities for skill development and 38 percentage point increase in acknowledgment of support for flexible working.

Culture Amp Hargraves Coach Employee Engagement Survey

How do we support leaders?

Our approach is different.

We don’t assume. We start with open questions and tools that empower everyone to speak up and understand the real issues. And we’ll equip you with the tools and skills to unleash your full potential and create an environment where everyone can thrive.

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