10 Essential Management Lessons From 2022
We thought this year was going to be a step up from the last three years, after coming out of the pandemic. But instead, things have just snowballed – from social upheaval, to (multiple!) political meltdowns, and market crisis… And that’s just in the UK!
All in all, leaders have taken a real knock this year. The UK, for example, once heralded for producing the most stable governments, has seen two collapse this year. Mark Zuckerberg saw 70% of Meta’s value drop due to his focus on expanding his less than profitable Metaverse, whilst his board has insisted they return to focussing on the social media platform. ‘Crypto-king’ Sam Bankman-Fried was found to have funnelled funds from FTX into other business ventures, which all collapsed and led to his arrest. The list continues…
Throughout the chaos, business schools and their experts in leadership have continued to provide a pathway to better management practice. So, no matter how 2022 has left you, maybe now is the perfect time to reflect on the type of leadership you’re bringing to the table, ready for 2023.
We’ve summarised our top 10 lessons from research and academia this year, some of which may come to a surprise…
1) Learn from the best – no matter how far away they are
Lifelong learning is for everyone, not just employees. Key insights this year by WU Executive Academy and Alliance Manchester Business School into the management styles of space industry leaders highlighted their most effective management traits which should be replicated back on Earth. Making sure your work is collaborative, well resourced, with a secure supply chain puts your business in a strong position, whilst your own leadership style must reflect not a jack-of-all-trades, but instead someone who can trust in the varied expertise of their team. The study shows that teams should be built of experts in their own respective fields, and effective managers are experts in leading, encouraging and combining these talents. Teams of astronauts are deliberately built to include members with carefully crafted roles and expertise on any given mission. Replicating this in an earth-bound organisation leads to more efficient and effective work.
Having a range of thought and talent is not the only form of diversity that will benefit your team, however…
2) LGBT-friendly = more productive
The world cup in Qatar certainly brought back into light the treatment of LGBTQ+ people outside of western countries, but research by Aalto University School of Business crossed this with business track record. Assistant Professor Jukka Sihvonen found that not only do employees in a business with LGBT-friendly policies tend to be more productive, but their company’s stock market valuation is likely to be increased. Key here is that LGBTQ+ friendly policies are worker-friendly policies, and these are what will retain your employees. Ensure that your businesses’ working environment is a friendly and open space for all, not just exclusively for LGBTQ+ people but inclusive of them too.
Don’t think however that diversity initiatives are always synonymous with inclusive ones, because you would be wrong…
3) Consider the long-term needs of all to be truly inclusive
While sometimes our intentions are in the right place, research from Durham University Business School shows how diversity and inclusion policies can sometimes backfire and hinder your workers. Professor Jackie Ford along with other researchers, found that to be effective leaders need to truly understand what ‘inclusive’ means for their own business, taking care and advisement to shape policies that support the workers who need it whilst not excluding everyone else. Trying to find that sweet spot of balance between helping those who need it, without making them feel more “other” than they already might, and without making other employees feel like they are off your radar is incredibly tricky. Thankfully Professor Ford and her team have some sound advice.
Making sure managers are aware of their teams’ emotions, and good communication is really key, as we all go through bad times at work but also at home.
4) Regularly check in with your employees
This may seem obvious to some managers, but to others this may feel like stepping across the line into micromanagement. They would both be wrong. We’re not talking about simply checking in to make sure your employees are keeping up with their work – whether from home or in the office. We mean taking the time to check in with them personally. Research from Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business shows that personal problems at home can hamper creativity at work. Any good manager knows that creativity is vital to business growth and success, so to ensure your staff can be as creative as possible in their work, the researchers advise checking in with employees and giving them the confidence and space to share something they may be going through in their home lives can actually help them deal with it, as well as allowing for their creativity to thrive. Managers must have empathy and display their human side. Simply demanding to know if everything is OK won’t work – but taking the time to open up conversations on a regular basis, listening and understanding can help employees to become more forthcoming.
Creating this space for employees is important, as is making sure you’re promoting the right kind of working environment…
5) Incentivise the right behaviour
You might think that rewarding presenteeism is a successful way to discourage absences from work – but you would entirely wrong. Research from the Frankfurt School of Management and the University of Cologne highlighted that attendance bonuses, whether an extra bit of cash or additional holiday, conversely leads to greater absences for a business. When put in place, attendance bonuses create a change in workplace culture and actually make absences just that little bit more acceptable. Instead, the study advises managers to better consider how they incentivise their employees – bonuses should do more than reward already reimbursed behaviours – such as simply turning up. Bonuses should be about rewarding the extra work put in.
Instead, try boosting their purpose and fulfilment in the work they do, which might be difficult to do if managers have set hard-to-reach performance targets.
6) Pay attention to individual skill-sets
Many organisations implement performance target as a mechanism to incentivise greater work – setting a benchmark across the board for staff to reach. But a study this year by Professor Christoph Feichter at the Vienna University of Economics and Business demonstrated that setting equal goals for everyone fails to drive business growth, as individual workers are encouraged to react to company-specific targets rather than working on their own areas of improvement. Not only is this ineffective, but Professor Feichter points out that such target-setting often inadvertently includes bias which reflect the manager’s own experiences in meeting goals, rather than focusing on the skills and motivations of the individual staff members they’re being set for. This can cause a negative reaction from employees. Tailoring targets to reflect the specific goals and areas of improvement for each individual will instead encourage the best performance amongst workers.
Discussing individual goals and performance targets can undoubtedly get personal, requiring managers to possess a certain level of empathy.
7) Embrace your emotions
Gone are the days of being the stern, cold, and emotionless boss; the managers who are more open and aware of their emotions, are the ones that use them best to their environment. Director of Executive Education at NEOMA Business School, Stéphane Dubreuille, and the CEO and founder of Hinton Partners, Lara Hinton, both found that leaders can create more trustworthy work environments for their employees by being more self-aware of their own emotions, as well as addressing them. This not only benefits employees, but managers who do so are actually more resilient throughout turbulent times. When feeling happy about their results, sad about an unexpected curveball, or nervous for a big pitch – managers should disregard the stiff upper lip and share their feelings with their teams as their emotions can encourage a greater level of trust amongst them.
Sometimes though, it’s not your business that makes us emotional but current affairs….
8) If you’re commenting on politics, make sure its constructive
Has politics ever been more polarising than now? Regardless, social and political issues are no longer the concern of just governments, but now also of business too. More and more people look to solely engage with companies that align with their own political beliefs. Christoph Cewe, a Masters in Management alumni from ESMT Berlin, surveyed European CEOs to find that those leaders who sided in favour or against specific political parties or personalities were more likely to alienate some of their employees. On top of that, if leaders chose to comments on politics, they have to also be prepared to take action too. Managers should ensure that, if they chose to take a stance as a leader, they do not alienate specific political factions whilst also ensuring that their actions are true to their word.
But including political stances constructively is not the only other field you may not have thought of embracing in your business.
9) Get spiritual (no, not religious)
Spirituality may be the last thing you had in your business plan, but Professor Sharda Nandram of Nyenrode Business University argued this year that it could be the most important. She highlights that greater spirituality in business leads to three key areas of growth: creativity, connection and satisfaction. There is so much to the research here but, to cover its main focus, embracing a high sense of spirituality allows for stronger connections between and within your business and team. Managers should spend time considering what Professor Nandram refers to as the “integrated whole”; who their team members are, what their potential is and how they fit into the wider business.
Nandram’s work here considers Eastern philosophy. But, in general, making sure managers have a wide range of knowledge to pull from can be a great way to begin to grow a company both domestically and internationally.
10) Hiring immigrants enhances your company’s knowledge
Looking at US businesses, Professor Jonas Puck from the Vienna University of Economics and Business highlights the key to their success has always been down to the immigrant worker, and it’s east to see why. Staff who come from different backgrounds, and locales bring with them different ways of thinking and working, which managers can harness. By providing an open and friendly working environment, managers can utilise their employees and lean on their experience. As a result, they may find a way of doing things they hadn’t thought of before – and that sets them apart from the competition.
These of course are not the only results and conclusions business schools have come to this year, but they present a fantastic point to begin with.
So while we hope 2023 will be an improvement on 2022, at least no matter what happens you can be making strides with your business management.