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3 ways to overcome modern leadership challenges

Oct 20, 2023
By: Robert H. Zondag

For many, the end of pandemic shutdowns was meant to be a return to normalcy. However, for financial institution leaders and managers, it’s turned out to be a complicated return.

Institutions continue to face significant challenges in managing and leading people, including a continued competitive talent market, an exhausted workforce and fierce pressures to control costs while growing sales in a questionable economy. Managers and employees alike are pondering if we are in an economic downturn or, if not, when it will come.

How can leadership respond to these challenges and remain an employer of choice amid a tight job market?

Here are three ways your financial institution can develop more effective leadership and culture:

1. Keep a forward focus

Today’s managers need to be focused on the long game.

What happens after we acquire the “right” talent? The answer is fostering strong relationships at all levels of your financial institution; relationships that can stem the uncertainties of the current economy and job cycle.

And with hybrid and remote work becoming normative in all organizations, the manager’s role has changed. The role of the manager now has a greater emphasis on building aligned, positive and ethical professional relationships.

2. Understand psychological safety

A key concept coming forward in the new paradigm is psychological safety. Consider psychological safety as a foundation for management within your institution.

What is psychological safety?

Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor and author of “The Fearless Organization,” first coined the phrase “team psychological safety.” The concept was formed during her work in hospitals exploring the link between error-making and teamwork.

Team psychological safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that it is okay to express ideas, admit mistakes and speak up with questions or concerns. And all this communication is freely made without fear of negative consequences from leadership or peers.

3. Create a safe workplace culture

In our current workplace, with uncertainty and exhaustion often prevailing, it is important for leadership to evaluate the level of psychological safety in their culture and management. Do workers believe that they won't be punished or humiliated for speaking up, voicing concerns or making mistakes?

We are facing a uniquely challenging workplace environment — economic uncertainty, technological shifts and recovery from a global pandemic have all taken a toll on how both leaders and employees see themselves and their talents. Your management needs to focus on curating a more psychologically safe environment so that their teams can face and overcome these challenges.

As a foundation, curating your financial institution’s psychological safety can contribute to:

  • Increased engagement and motivation: Team members who feel that their contributions matter and that they’re able to speak up without fear of retribution are more likely to be active participants in their work.
  • Better decision-making: Helping team members feel comfortable voicing their opinions often leads to a more diverse range of perspectives being heard and considered. This is especially true as organizations seek greater diversity in talent than earlier generations.
  • A culture of continuous learning and improvement: Team members that feel secure in sharing their mistakes are also more likely to learn from them.

Leadership for today and beyond

More than ever, leaders may need to be less business line focused and more human focused. For today’s environment, managers and leaders will need to become specialists in why their team does what it does if they want to help their people achieve the results your institution is looking for.

Ultimately, leadership is about intentionally curating the work environment to influence behavior and influencing behavior is what achieves goals.

How Wipfli can help

Good leaders don’t just develop skills, they develop people.

Wipfli can guide your leadership in creating the kind of culture that supports teamwork, innovation and your top talent. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you grow empowering leaders at your financial institution.

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Robert H. Zondag, CTP
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