Employees are increasingly looking for ways to support environmental and social causes with their careers. Climate-responsive leaders can use this trend to empower teams to ignite sustainable transformation.
Employee satisfaction and engagement suffer when staff lack meaning and purpose at work
Coaches can help leaders engage their teams around shared values and goals
Engaged and collaborative teams improve company performance and attract top talent
Amidst global challenges, employees want work to be part of the solution
Employees around the world are concerned about the future. The 2022 Gallup State of the Workplace report details how destabilizing factors like climate change, political instability, inflation, sickness, and natural disasters increase employee stress and decrease engagement. The global survey reported that only 21% of workers felt engaged, and most said they felt hopeless about the future and found no meaning in work. Deloitte’s 2022 global survey of Gen-Z and Millennial workers found that after cost of living, young workers were increasingly concerned about climate change. However, these workers were more likely to report choosing jobs or staying with companies with a strong environmental and social impact aligned with their values.
Wisdom Weaver Mark Topley describes how businesses can increase employee engagement by recognizing their values. He explains that despite growing uncertainty, leaders who respond to increasing climate awareness will “be able to retain people with things that are not just about money. The businesses that can do that, I think they will succeed.” Workers want to see change and expect their companies to be part of the solution. A 2020 census in the UK found that 72% of multi-generational respondents were worried about the environment, and 82% of employees were unhappy with their workplace’s methods of addressing climate change. In Asia-Pacific, 77% of youth want green jobs, outpacing the rate of green job creation.
“One of the challenges leaders will need to navigate carefully is people can go anywhere, and they will jump ship. If we can get them through this next period of high energy costs, high cost of living, and give them some sort of sense of the future with the business, then we will be okay.”
Successful leaders build strong teams through coaching
Low employee engagement harms productivity, but Gallup argues that leaders hold the key to reversing this trend. In their State of the Workplace report, Gallup concludes that good managers are especially impactful when they are “better listeners, coaches, and collaborators. Great managers help colleagues learn and grow, recognize their colleagues for doing great work, and make them truly feel cared about.” This approach includes listening to the call for climate-responsive leadership in business.
“Most people that come for leadership training development understand the landscape has changed dramatically. Their teams are putting pressure on them to make the change to become more responsible…anything that gets people engaged and passionate about the business is something they pay attention to.”
Leaders can influence and inspire others through active engagement and personal and group development. Wisdom Weaver Nadine Gudz shares how leadership involves strong collaboration and personal empowerment. “I’ve been doing some work lately on leadership development and drawing on concepts like Henry Mintzberg, who writes and practices ‘community-ship.’ We need leadership and community-ship, this idea of collective leadership. Leadership today really needs to be about building up others and creating the conditions for lots of us to take action and to feel supported taking action.”
Climate-responsive leaders are collaborative
In line with the growing demand for corporate climate action and climate-responsive careers, organizations are looking for ways to measure and report their ESG (environmental, social, and governance) performance. Mark explains how leaders can work collaboratively with their teams to create a shared vision for ESG impact. He reflects, “the more you can engage your people meaningfully with your ESG strategy and show them that you value their input, the better. It’s like any board-led strategy: unless you’ve got buy-in at the grassroots, it will only have limited impact and effectiveness. The real beauty is if you can get that message and then empower people to make choices…the success of it ultimately is about behavior change, and that requires vision. purpose, values.”
When leaders engage team members, the entire group benefits from pooling diverse experiences and talents. Wisdom Weaver Arisa Kishigami, a thought leader and consultant on sustainable business and investment strategies, shares that diversity can help enhance climate-responsive leadership. In her experience working with companies to enhance their sustainability plans, she notes that when companies “build an executive team with diverse backgrounds …they are more flexible in their thought process in [the way they] think about how to combine business and sustainability into one process.”Echoing this thought, Nadine shares, “collaboration, to me, is really at the core of this because I think a lot of our sustainability challenges, not one discipline or sector or industry, will be able to solve this. It’s necessarily collaborative and systemic….I think thoughtful collaboration that incorporates the diversity, equity, inclusion lens is very necessary for this work.”
Coaches can work with leaders and teams to co-create sustainable business initiatives by:
- Supporting senior leaders to establish an open dialogue about sustainability goals and practices throughout the organization, including mid-level and entry-level employees
- Helping managers develop and practice coaching approaches that empower team members to develop sustainable leadership skills
- Supporting managers to celebrate incremental progress toward sustainability goals and define ways to celebrate achievement, including employee rewards and recognition
Coaching Empowers People
Coaches, especially ESG and sustainability coaches, work with leaders and teams to identify shared values and establish goals for climate-responsive leadership and business. To lead continued transformation, however, managers will need the skills to communicate change and equip employees to adapt and thrive as new needs arise. Sharing her experience working with managers, Lim Pei from the Collective Change Institute reflects that the leadership pipeline often promotes high performers without equipping them to engage with teams of people. In her work with managers, she helps leaders to identify how guiding and developing individual team members can support organizational success.
Managers who lead through coaching approaches facilitate collaboration and growth by modeling open and respectful dialogue, supporting individual and team development, encouraging team members to take initiative and ownership in their roles, and acknowledging achievement. Gallup’s Boss to Coach program is a resource that uses a strengths-based approach to help leaders identify and develop team members around their abilities. This approach can also facilitate collaboration by identifying how each individual can contribute unique perspectives or talents to achieve a goal.