Written by Jaquie Scammell.

Leadership is even harder now than it was in the past. There’s been a shake-up of brand and channel loyalty in response to post-pandemic life, and financial results are under constant pressure as customers feel the pinch and shift spending patterns.

Clever leaders need to innovate and change their offers to meet customers’ needs. But there are other factors that are putting leaders at risk of burnout and of missing their financial targets – and it’s all related to the people stuff.

Grumpy customers and ultrasensitive staff

Customers are grumpier, and staff are ultrasensitive, which means leaders need to get really good at the human stuff. Are you afraid to speak your mind in case you upset or offend someone? Are you reluctant to ask staff to stay back, work harder or put in extra effort in case you’re blamed for bullying?

It’s tricky for leaders who must do more with less, and it’s tricky to keep customers happy. If I were to generalise, I would say that customers expect more value for their money, and employees expect more money for less work and effort, and so we get a customer service circus. It’s like walking on a tightrope. The customers carefully seek maximum value for minimal cost, while the staff combine a desire for higher compensation with an expectation of reduced workload. Both parties must maintain their equilibrium, delicately navigating the thin rope of compromise. Any misstep could lead to a fall into the chasm of dissatisfaction and unmet expectations.

Leaders are the glue holding it all together – but how well are they holding themselves together? Are we seeing a generation of leaders who are likely to burnout? Here are 5 key areas of expertise that will help any leader minimise burnout and maximise results by changing how staff work, and therefore how they serve customers.

1: Create safety and support wellbeing

You want to create psychological safety and physically safe environments to create trust. Your teams expect their leaders to acknowledge their concerns; or at least, to have their concerns legitimately heard. This is the foundation of psychological safety. Of course, that’s not enough: you must also then act. Eradicating identified problems and proactively building a better workplace culture will create a more amicable, professional and psychologically safe workplace. And when you take care of your people, they’ll take better care of your customers.

2: Empower decision-making

Empowering your staff’s decision-making and fostering innovation is fundamental to their motivation and resilience. Distinguish between rules that cannot be broken – that involve decisions that could be detrimental to the organisation, such as ignoring a safety procedure – and rules that can be bent if necessary. The more empowered your staff feel, the less dependent they’ll be on you as the leader.

3: Inspire emotional intelligence

The leaders who will survive and thrive in these times are monomaniacally focused on strengthening their teams’ emotional intelligence (EI). If EI isn’t intentionally taught, praised and measured in your business, this is most definitely an area for focus and development. EI is a set of skills that help people identify and express emotion in themselves and in others, enabling them to regulate their own emotions and equipping them to motivate others through theirs.

Our society is delicate, and it’s our relationships that will keep it strong and healthy – if we have a healthy relationship with our emotions. We need employees who can self-regulate!

4: Build teams and connections with your staff

Employee isolation can negatively affect mental health, particularly for those who live alone or don’t have a good support network outside of work. Ideally, you want to be getting your people together often for various reasons – getting people together physically in a LIVE face-to-face environment will supercharge connection. Online gatherings are super-useful when you have a geographic spread, however, and getting people together online is better than not gathering at all. A connected team helps people feel a sense of belonging and strengthens social cohesion and social intelligence.

5: Create a vision and communicate a purpose

The word ‘work’ is associated with different things by different people; perhaps with a sacrifice, some form of effort, an identity that they hold on to, their contribution to the world, or an effort for something they want down the track or made in the service of good and of others. The clearer we are about our relationship to work, the easier showing up for work can be on the more challenging days.

Invite your teams to see their work and efforts as contributing to something far greater than their own interests. One of the best ways to communicate your visions is through telling stories; the best way to measure how well people live the company’s purpose is to see what stories are being told. Decades of experience have taught me that these five key areas will enable a safer, calmer, happier and more productive environment in your organisation.

Jaquie Scammell is award-winning author of The Future of Service is 5D, Service Habits (2nd ed) and Service Mindset, keynote speaker, thought leader in the field of service leadership and CEO and founder of ServiceQ.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Taylor Photography.