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The 8 Skills Successful Leaders Need In 2018

Melissa Williams, CEO Learning Dimensions Network After a conversation with Leadership Dimensions Managing Partner Janet McCulloch, we have been reflecting on the topic of leadership. Let’s face it, being a leader today is a challenge. As we enter 2018 our world is more competitive, complex, globally connected (with speed and immediacy) and customers are more informed, and therefore demanding. Goal posts shift regularly and we work across-cultures, sometime with ambiguity and lack certainty. In the past, change was not as constant, and whilst the pressure to perform has always been there, but the speed at which this performance is now expected is unprecedented. This made me reflect on what’s changed in leadership and what the modern leader needs – distilled down to the top 8 skills that you’ll need to be a successful leader in 2018.

1. Change is the new normal

Change is now constant, and leaders are now expected to also be change managers. Gone are the days where a centralised HR team would manage all the ‘people stuff’. Now leaders are required to take on functions such as performance management, wellbeing, conflict management and mediation, training, and in many cases, recruitment of staff. Often leaders are promoted due to their ‘technical brilliance’, not their HR skills, yet this is now a core competency of today’s leader. In Australia, The Fair Work Act was designed to simplify and make transparent how we operate at work which helped with the decentralisation of HR departments. In turn, this created an environment where leaders at all levels are often made accountable for the intricacies in the Act and how this can or can’t be interpreted on a day to day level. This is a big ask if you are new to HR!

2. Smarter not harder

The old, ‘work smarter not harder’ has been replaced with ‘work leaner and more efficiently’. Enabled by better technology, leaders are now working with fewer resources coupled with higher expectations. We often hear leaders struggle with knowing how to do this. The reality is, it is a hard ask to adapt to this mindset, yet it is possible.

3. The ability to get lean

Organisational structures are flattening and doing away with more middle management. Therefore, a leader needs to know exactly where their authorities start and finish in terms of budget and finances, yet the expectations of their broader roles may be more ambiguous. Many organisations have moved to a matrix style operation where cross-functional project teams are formed. Effective leaders then need to focus less on authority and more about building cross-functional teams, sharing and collaboration.

4. The need for connection

With a significant increase in social media and overall virtual connectivity, the workplace has become a primary IRL (in real life) community for some people. A leader’s ability to create teams and increase participation and inclusion in diverse teams is directly attributable to people’s satisfaction at work, with a direct impact on people’s productivity and the organisational bottom line. Being able to foster, manage and grow cohesive connected communities, both online and in real life, is a vital skill for the modern leader.

5. Watch your words

With increased visibility on the impact of workplace bullying, leaders have tended to become far more aware and cautious about the nature of performance related conversations. In some cases, this awareness has led to a reluctance to have challenging conversations related to feedback and performance improvement. However leaders are expected to understand and implement the difference between managing performance and feedback vs discrimination, bullying and harassment and ensure they manage this balance effectively.

6. Safety starts from the top

Similar to HR,we find work, health and safety (WHS) is decentralising and is now a significant expectation of all leaders. Even if “Safety” isn’t part of your title, as a leader you’re responsible. In fact Queensland has just legislated to bring in Industrial Manslaughter laws ensuring negligent employers personally culpable in workplace deaths. Our sister brand, Safety Dimensions, who specialise in safety leadership, offers programs that focus on safety as being part of everyone’s role, not just those at the top. However just like the HR component of a modern leaders role, effective WHS requires an understanding and an ability to integrate this knowledge into day to day behaviours of your people and the organisations processes.

7. Human beings vs human resources

Emotional intelligence, mindfulness and compassion – these are words and skills that have made their way into part of the definition of leadership skills. A leader is expected to be self-aware and be able to effectively see and manage reactions in others and balance their EQ versus IQ to reach the optimal management mix.

8. Managing stress

With the changes outlined above, and the societal and family pressures our world places on us, there it’s no wonder that we have seen a significant increase in stress related illnesses in the workplace. A leader in today’s work environment is expected to notice symptoms of stress in ourselves and others, and know what steps to take. A leaders role is not to be a counselor, however they are expected to notice changes in behaviour in others (and themselves) and provide support in order to reduce the negative stress.Often the symptomology is not always ‘loud’ in terms of a persons behaviour. This means in the busyness of our day, taking the time to identify these symptoms and know what to do about it. Companies should have an expectation that staff will conduct themselves with professional maturity and emotional intelligence – even if someone doesn’t have the official directive of “Manager” or “Leader” in their title. We’ve noticed the trend in organisations to upskill ‘everyone’ to be leaders from the bottom up and this approach does make sense. However, from one leader to another, let’s face it, these expectations are exhausting. The demand to be a ‘people/change/organisational expert as well as being good at your ‘day job’ is relentless. However the simple reality is these 8 key challenges will only accelerate as the world gets smaller, technology increases and expectations for instant results intensifies. There is some good news. Whilst there is no miracle pill to developing a leader, there is an understanding that learning and development has adapted and changed to support the demands of being a modern leader. The rise in vocational training in Management and Leadership for those in professional jobs as well as trades is a testament to this change and I believe will continue to increase as the demands continue.

For more information on the content of this article or our Nationally recognised leadership and management qualifications, please contact info@safetydimensions.com.au

The big dry: How cultural values drive action in adversity

The big dry: How cultural values drive action in adversity

Drought Swimming Hole

In parts of Queensland and New South Wales, the past 14 months have been the driest since records began to be kept in 1900. For some farmers, this is their fifth or sixth consecutive year of drought and dry conditions, with many struggling to survive.

North-west Victoria and eastern South Australia have also experienced well below average rainfall. In the west, rain in the last few weeks has eased drought conditions, although some areas, particularly east of Albany in the state’s south, remain dry.

Since stricken farmers first appeared in mainstream media a few months ago with desperate calls for help, the public has dug deeply, with rural charities reporting a significant surge in donations from everyday Australians.

Corporate donors – Woolworths, Telstra, Toyota, Qantas, the major banks and more – have also come aboard, pledging multi-million dollar financial support and relief. The cumulative effect of the attention has led to a more extensive response to the crisis by Governments, both federal and state.

The cultural idiom of mateship

Since most people wish they had more money, not less, why do so many members of the public give theirs away to help strangers?

Many believe that giving affirms important values and allows us to feel good about ourselves as ‘Good Samaritans’.

More locally, it may reflect the Australian cultural idiom of mateship, stepping up to help those in need, a concept that is central to the Australian culture.

In this context, coming together to help people is what being Australian is all about – once you learn about issues facing people you don’t know, you help them in any way you can, however big or small.

Applying the learning to leadership

The response of the public to the plight of farming families offers leaders a cue to effecting positive actions in their teams.

From the big dry, we can see that people have reacted strongly because the need of the farmers has directly connected to common values. The consequence is that people have undertaken positive actions willingly simply because they want to. How can we apply this same principle inside the workplace to effect desired behaviours at work?

Values reflect what an individual feels is important in their life and is a key driver into why someone behaves as they do. A person’s values vary from individual to individual, and are influenced by many, many factors. Individuals, organisations and indeed countries all have common values by which we live, and are often known as an innate internal code of conduct.

Australian values are reflected in statements such as “when the chips are down we dig deep”, “support the Aussie battler”, “don’t kick people when they are down”, “give them a fair go”, “help a mate” and “look after our own first”. These are all statements we have heard in relation to the farmer’s situation. And, if you look closely at each statement you will see they link to values which resonate universally around our country and move people to act in support.

Similar to a country’s values, organisations also operate by a set of values (written or covert). Often high-performing and long-term employees’ values align to their employers’ and this is a significant reason for their strong performance and longevity. Creating a values alignment offers leaders the greatest opportunity to effect cultural change. Or, put another way, knowing how to influence a team member at the values level is often the greatest motivator to change behaviour. This is something we work extensively with on our behavioural based safety programs as we understand the importance and significance of blending behaviour change with a “what’s in it for me” at a values level.

For more information on our values and behavioural based safety leadership programs, visit our safety programs page.

How you can help

Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale program supports farmers and rural communities across Australia by providing support and delivering hay and essentials for those who have none left. What difference can you make? A lot.

At Safety Dimensions, we feel passionate about helping Australian farmers. Since we believe this is a really worthwhile cause, we thought we’d pass the information on to help spread the word and show how your donation could make a difference.

What Buy-A-Bale donations go towards:

Hay – 5 x $20 bales feeds 1 cow for 1 Week.

Diesel – Every $4.40 transports hay 1 km anywhere in Australia.

Water – Every $250 delivers 11,500 litres delivered to a farm within 100 km of the collection point.

Hampers – Every $52.50 buys a hamper for a farmer through their local supermarket.

General Donations – Help keep our wheels moving. Give what you can, every $10 makes a difference.

$5700 buys a single-trailer load of hay.

$9500 buys a semi-trailer load of hay and transports it to an affected area (up to 900km).

Want to contribute? To find out more and donate, visit Buy-a-Bale

More from our blog

National Safe Work Month: A moment is all it takes

No industry should be unsafe to work in and no death or injury is acceptable. And, because the whole community bears the financial costs of poor WHS, a safe and healthy workplace benefits everyone. Work-related injury and disease costs the Australian...

read more

National Safe Work Month: A moment is all it takes

National Safe Work Month: A moment is all it takes

No industry should be unsafe to work in and no death or injury is acceptable. And, because the whole community bears the financial costs of poor WHS, a safe and healthy workplace benefits everyone.

Work-related injury and disease costs the Australian community $61.8 billion in a year*.

This is why, during October each year, Safe Work Australia asks workers and employers across Australia to commit to building safe and healthy workplaces for all Australians.

The theme for this October’s National Safe Work Month is ‘A moment is all it takes.

While a safety incident can happen in a moment, and in any workplace, a moment’s forethought can prevent harm.

This year, commit to taking a safety moment every day in your workplace.

This could be as simple as spending five minutes every morning talking with your team about the hazards and risks in your workplace, and how to prevent harm.

For more information, visit Safe Work Australia: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/news-and-events/national-safe-work-month

Source*: The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2012–13

Want to transform your organisation's safety culture?

Safety Dimensions offers accredited and non-accredited leadership training for leaders, safety professionals and employees
to support organisations to effectively deal with safety performance challenges.

We can train anywhere in Australia and our programs can be customised for your workplace and industry.
Call 1300 453 555 or email info@safetydimensions.com.au

National Safe Work Month: A moment is all it takes

No industry should be unsafe to work in and no death or injury is acceptable. And, because the whole community bears the financial costs of poor WHS, a safe and healthy workplace benefits everyone. Work-related injury and disease costs the Australian...

read more

More from our blog

Leading change: How leaders can foster the embrace of change

Leading change: How leaders can foster the embrace of change

From the chrysalis, the beautiful butterfly is born. From the acorn, the mighty oak grows. Change is one of the few certainties in your life. It can be unexpected. It can feel disorientating and unwelcome, it creates disruption and pushes us out of our comfort zones. It can lead people to feel afraid of what the future holds.

Rather than resisting change, which is often futile anyway, people that have learned to embrace change are often better able to capitalise on the opportunities that inevitably follow in change’s footsteps.

In this article, we list 3 good reasons why people should embrace change as an important trigger for personal and professional growth – and how leaders can create the environment where change is embraced.

Reason 1. Embracing change is less stressful than fighting it

As an individual, you might not like all changes that come your way. This too is a fact of life. Instead of looking at change in fear, turn your thinking to the opportunities that follow in change’s wake. Every change is a turning point – you may not be able to control your environment and the change that goes on within it, but you can control how you manage it.

As a leader, you need to set the expectation with your team that change is inevitable. By setting expectations early, you avoid team members from feeling blindsided when change occurs. If you set your vision as a dynamic, evolving organisation, your team will be better prepared for shifts that happen.

Reason 2. Change can be habit forming.

At an individual level, every time something in your life changes, so do you. Who wants to live a completely staid, predictable and boring life? Progress is the outcome of change, not standing still. People that manage change well, especially career or role changes, understand that each change brings new skills, new knowledge and new opportunities. The days of staying in one job for life are long gone. Whether you change within your company, or move to another, there is no negative stigma these days with pursuing a career that is in line with your interests, values and skills.

As a leader, it’s important to be honest with your team. Even when change is positive, your team will immediately think “how will this affect me?” If the change is negative, don’t pretend it’s positive because your team will see straight through it. Give your team time to absorb the changes being undertaken and invite them to ask questions. It will take time to move the team in line with change, especially if it’s difficult changes that are being implemented.

Reason 3. Change can be habit forming.

Travellers learn to embrace diverse cultures, changing the way they see the world. Their mind is expanded by these new experiences and the “travel bug” is simply the habit of wanting more of it.

People that experience change more regularly learn flexibility, adaptability and to prioritise change as a positive way to build experiences, knowledge and skills. In other words, the more you experience change, the more you get used to it. Just as habit is the result of a repetitive situation, when change is a normal part of a team’s working life, they are more likely to embrace it.

As a leader, you work in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Leaders who can plan for change and remain dynamic, and who listen to and adapt quickly to a changing environment, are the ones who remain successful.

How Leaders can prepare for change

The process of change can be highly disruptive in the workplace. Knowing the predictable reactions to change and how to prepare for them can significantly reduce both the distraction and the negative impacts of change and improve the engagement and uptake of all those affected.

Our sister division Leadership Dimensions offers a 2-day program on Leading Others Through Change that covers human reactions to change, consistent messaging, how to support fearful staff and more.

Download the course outline: Leading Others Through Change >>

In planning change initiatives, it is important to consider the time it takes for people to transition, to learn new skills and to move through the emotional journey associated with change. Change can feel overwhelming and leave people feeling exhausted.

Leadership Dimensions offers a 2-day program on Preventing Change Fatigue that covers identifying the symptoms of change fatigue, planning for the impacts of change, developing personal coping mechanisms and more.

Download the course outline: Preventing Change Fatigue >>

When change is transformational, organisations experience a fundamental shift in “how things are done around here”. Engagement, buy-in and behavioural change are key to the change success.

Leadership Dimensions offers a 2-day program on Building Commitment to Cultural Transformation that covers the readiness for change, influencing skills, cultural change process and tools, engaging hearts and minds and more.

Download the course outline: Building Commitment to Cultural Transformation >>

Visit Leadership Dimensions

Want to elevate your leadership capacity?

Safety Dimensions offers accredited and non-accredited leadership training for emerging leaders. Through our training, you’ll learn how to effectively communicate, set clear priorities, build team cohesiveness and implement operational plans and continuous improvement.

Want this program customised for your workplace and industry?
Call 1300 453 555 or email info@safetydimensions.com.au

More from our blog

National Safe Work Month: A moment is all it takes

No industry should be unsafe to work in and no death or injury is acceptable. And, because the whole community bears the financial costs of poor WHS, a safe and healthy workplace benefits everyone. Work-related injury and disease costs the Australian...

read more

New Family and Domestic Violence leave entitlements, from August 2018

New Family and Domestic Violence leave entitlements, from August 2018

In response to an increasing focus on reducing domestic violence, new leave entitlements are set to take effect from 1 August 2018 to enable  all employees, including casuals, to be entitled to 5 days’ unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence.

In a recent ruling the Fair Work Commission said “retaining employment is an important pathway out of violent relationships. Conversely, a lack of financial security has an adverse impact on the ability to recover from family and domestic violence. Absent an entitlement to unpaid family and domestic violence leave, employees will be reliant on the goodwill of their employer to obtain the leave necessary to deal with the various issues arising from family and domestic violence while remaining in employment.’ The commission decided not to require employees to access their available paid leave entitlement before accessing unpaid family and domestic violence leave. The leave covers employees that need to make arrangements for their safety or the safety of a family member (including relocation), attend urgent court hearings, or access police services.

An employee may take unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence if the employee:

(a) is experiencing family and domestic violence; and

(b) needs to do something to deal with the impact of the family and domestic violence and it is impractical for the employee to do that thing outside their ordinary hours of work.

Provisions for Family and Domestic Violence Leave will be part of most employment Awards come August 1st 2018.  Human Resources, Work Health and Safety and Learning and Development departments will need to align to this change, including updating company policies and making staff aware of their new entitlement.


The Fair Work Commission:



More from our blog

National Safe Work Month: A moment is all it takes

No industry should be unsafe to work in and no death or injury is acceptable. And, because the whole community bears the financial costs of poor WHS, a safe and healthy workplace benefits everyone. Work-related injury and disease costs the Australian...

read more