It’s an interesting time to be a business leader. Recent research shows that 25% of employees are considering a job change, while 60% of leaders are still feeling daily burnout. From hospitality to retail, many industries are facing record labor shortages. In the title industry, an unprecedented real estate market is creating hesitancy for homeowners and hardship for agents. After such massive uncertainty on a global scale, risk aversion feels almost instinctual – and, as leaders, the easiest route may feel like the one that leads back to the status quo.
It can be downright frightening to disrupt the norm when it comes to your company – and disruption is not always positive. Like anything else in business, disruption has to be approached strategically. Unique challenges, however, often demand unique solutions, and being willing to go against the grain can uncover new opportunities and help your company stand out to both employees and customers. Organizations that are more innovative generate 11% more revenue and 22% more growth than those that tend to stick with tradition. Below are four ways leaders can buck the status quo and create positive change for your customers, company and community:
1. Listen to your gut – and your consultants.
It’s just a fact: you’re going to have to take risks in business. At some point, you will need to make a new hire, launch a product, make changes to a long-time service or make another decision that brings risk. You can make decisions that will set you apart by trusting your gut about the things you’re the expert in and reaching out for guidance on the things you’re not. Don’t be afraid to stand up for the vision you have for your company, but also be open to admitting what you don’t know — and accepting that you can’t know everything. There’s a reason that 60% of CEOs at growing companies work with coaches and consultants. When you have trusted advisers to collaborate with, you can approach every decision with the benefit of a wealth of perspectives and expertise.
2. Focus on the humanity.
Regardless of what your industry is, people ultimately make your business run. The people who work in it, the people you partner with and the communities that comprise your customers – all are integral to your success. Always look for opportunities to build and facilitate relationships well beyond the moment of transaction. Eighty-two percent of consumers want more human interaction, and nearly half say they pay close attention to how a company supports its community when making purchase decisions, so being a visibly positive force in yours should be viewed as both an ingrained responsibility and good business sense. A culture of giving back has also been shown to increase employee productivity by as much as 13% while simultaneously improving collaboration. Consider creating a role at your company for a designated community ambassador who is always looking for new sponsorship and volunteer opportunities for your team. When you take the time to build connections with the people who interact with your business, you also build customer loyalty, a positive reputation and high employee retention and morale.
See also: 7 ‘Laws of Zero’ Will Shape Future
3. Leverage your differences to build a balanced team.
It takes a lot more to run a business than just knowing your industry; you have to be willing to seek out other perspectives, detailed about hiring the right people and dedicated to building a great culture. Instead of thinking about the ways you don’t fit “the mold” of leadership, focus on how you can build a balanced team where one individual’s weaknesses are balanced by another’s strengths – including your own. Having a background that doesn’t fit neatly within your niche isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it means you bring an outside perspective to the table along with a layer of expertise that your competitors likely don’t have. Combine that with the right hires, and you end up with a team that is well-rounded and brings a deeper level of value to your customers.
4. Reconsider traditional hierarchy.
A traditional hierarchy has been the norm in most businesses for so long that it’s rarely questioned, but, if you want to build innovation in your company, you have to apply it at every level. Hiring self-starters, trusting their expertise and giving them space to thrive fosters an entrepreneurial spirit that is key for inspiring ideas and higher collaboration. Hiring motivated people – and trusting their expertise -- allows both your team and your company to prosper: Employees who feel trusted by their leadership have 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement and 40% less burnout. For leaders, giving employees more ownership and less day-to-day oversight results in more time spent on strategic business planning and development.
The road less traveled
There are a million different paths to leadership, along with an intimidating number of pitfalls to avoid. It’s the ones less-traveled, though, that can lead to the greatest journey and the best reward. From startups to small businesses to large corporations, the companies (and leaders) that veer away from the norm end up making the most impact – not just on their bottom lines but on their employees, industries and communities.