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5 Ways to Grow as a Leader in 2020

At Elsey Consulting Group, we work with organizations of all sizes—startups to Fortune 50—across a variety of industries. Although each organization has its own unique culture, we’ve compiled the following 5 ways all leaders can grow in 2020 for success at work and in life.

1. Understand yourself – What are your strengths? Opportunities? What motivates you to reach peak performance in work and life? What is your personal mission—your “why”?

Successful leaders are self-aware. They know who they are and what they’re about. They lean into their strengths and design a work environment that aligns with their overall life mission, purpose and passions. They also know how to adapt their own behavioral style to meet the needs of those they lead.

Take some time in 2020 to self-reflect. Consider taking a research-based assessment (e.g., DiSC, StrengthsFinder, etc.) to gain insight into your behaviors and uncover potential blind spots. Also, ask for feedback. You may be surprised by what you learn.

2. Listen and empathize – The business world is full of pressure to find quick answers to make quick decisions. This environment can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings and mistakes…not to mention a lack of trust.

Improve your listening skills in 2020. Eliminate distractions and give others your full attention. Make eye contact. Ask questions for clarification. Take time to understand what others are telling you before jumping in with advice.

Also, recognize that we are all humans who respond emotionally first, rationally second. Allow those emotions to be expressed so your employees can work through them. Suppressing emotions only leads to unproductive behaviors that will require a great deal more of your time to manage.

Listen. Empathize. It will ultimately lead to more trust, engagement and productivity.

3. Set SMART goals – As a leader, it’s your job to set goals—whether at the divisional, departmental or individual level—that are aligned with overall company goals.

According to the 4 Disciplines of Execution, breakdowns in execution occur for one of the following reasons: 1.) we don’t know the goal, 2.) we don’t know what to do to achieve the goal, 3.) we don’t keep score or 4.) we are not held accountable.

Avoid these mistakes in 2020 by communicating what your team is looking to accomplish this month, quarter, year and beyond, co-creating action plans, keeping track of progress, following up and holding each other accountable for actions and results.

Also, avoid setting too many goals. Instead, focus on the wildly important, ensuring they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART).

4. Develop others – The business case for employee development is real. By developing your employees, you can improve performance by up to 25 percent.

Managers who are effective at employee development also have employees who are 40 percent more likely to stay at their organization, 37 percent more satisfied and 30 percent more committed.

When was the last time you discussed your employees’ career goals? Career paths look different for everyone. In 2020, hold regular career conversations to learn what your employees aspire to and how you can support them.

Also, delegate for development. Chances are you have things on your plate that you’re hoarding simply because it seems easier to do them yourself. Those tasks may be just the right challenge for one of your employees—not too easy, not too hard. In other words, “Goldilocks tasks.” Delegate in 2020, helping your employees find that sweet spot of maximum satisfaction and contribution.

5. Share feedback in the moment – The cost of waiting until a formal review and/or never sharing feedback is continued poor performance, dissatisfied clients, surprise when the review finally takes place and potential turnover. No one can improve without understanding their strengths and opportunities. Water what you want to grow; prune what you don’t.

Let feedback flow in 2020. Really lean into positive reinforcement for best results, sharing praise and recognition when you catch your employees doing things well. Share constructive feedback as needed to help them continue to develop and improve.

One way to create an environment where your employees are open to receiving feedback is to model the way. Ask for feedback often. Listen carefully and give thanks when received. If you disagree, avoid reacting right away. Take time to sort out what you’ve heard before following up as appropriate.

2020 is a new year. In fact, it’s a new decade. It’s a great time to develop or hone the above skills in order to become the leader you aspire to be.

Wishing you a happy, growth-filled new year!


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