27 Tools Business Leaders Should Know About
When you think of tool, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you think of power tools, or tools for cooking? The oldest known tools are stone tools dated 3.3 million years old and found in Lomekwi, an archaeological site in Kenya.
As business leaders, you have an incredible number of tools at your disposal. You have tech tools and office tools, tools to improve communication (like personality assessments) and tools to open communications (letter opener or more recently, a mouse and keyboard for email).
And recent advancements in technology Technological advancements have given us the tools and the power to bring people closer together. Professionally and personally.
With so many tools out there, how do you know what your options are? We did some research, and we asked our own leaders and organizational psychologists what their favorite tools are. Here’s what we found that leaders deem essential:
Personal ToolsProductivity & Presentation Tools
What is productivity? We all know what a productive day does and doesn’t feel like, but sometimes it’s hard to define. It comes down to the effectiveness of productive effort. Basically how much are you getting done compared to the amount of effort you’re putting in. The great thing about tools is that they help increase our productivity. We can do more with less effort. Some productivity tools that came up as favorites among leaders include Glip, Click Up, Trello, EverNote and Asana. A lot of these tools increasingly offer mobile apps so that you can still check in on the go when you’re not in front of your computer.
Leaders are often called to present their ideas, findings or results to others. Most people know PowerPoint, the presentation tool in Microsoft Office, but some Office alternatives are gaining popularity. Tools like like Google Slides or Prezi.
Leadership Development Tools
Leadership development tools exist to help you recognize your strengths, blind spots, biases and more. With them, you can develop your self-awareness. Then you can better understand how you’re similar or different from those that you’re leading.
Personality assessments like the CPI 260 are often used as leadership development tools because they help you see how others perceive you, without having to ask them (the CPI 260 tool was also called "freakishly accurate" by Business Insider). Other tools like 360 tools actually ask those around you what they think of you to try and help you better understand yourself and how you’re perceived. One of our leaders mentioned the Benchmarks 360 Survey from CCL being especially helpful.
Leaders at the highest levels often face more stress, pressure and particular challenges that other lower level managers and leaders don’t face. In this case, being part of a C-level organization (CEO, CFO, CMO) or other “mastermind group” targeted at that specific position can be very helpful. Members often share challenges that others in the same position (but at different companies) can relate to and often find solutions and resources together.
Team ToolsThere are so many team tools out there. In fact, many of the personal productivity tools above also have a team component that dips the proverbial toe into the project management arena. Given this bountiful group of tools, we’re skipping productivity tools here (see the above ones in the personal section) and instead focusing on team tools with three goals in mind: communication, team development, and people management.
Teams that do best communicate often and openly. There’s an inherent level of trust necessary in order for teams to work well together. But we’ll save trust and similar topics for the team development section. Instead, we’re starting with what teams need to be able to work as a team: communication and collaboration.
Here’s a good article that lists some of the virtual collaboration tools out there (recommended by one of our own leaders).
We can probably all agree at this point in our mid-pandemic-virtual-work-world, communication tools have become critical. And personality influences virtual team work and communication. As far as communication tools, there are video conference tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans. For more intimate engagements, chat and video communication tools like Skype, Slack, Blackboard Connect and, iMessage seem to be favorites. And let’s not forget about leaders communicating information to the whole company, whether that be via email (Outlook) or Sway, or through intranets, such as Facebook for Business.
The best way business leaders can connect with their team is through effective, thoughtful communication. Although some teams are a mix of remote and in-person employees, the key to making the team feel connected and comfortable is to find a communication method that works well for everyone. But keep in mind that the way you prefer to communicate may not be the way your team prefers to communicate. Take a look at this recent webinar to learn more about the critical role of communication within teams.
People & Team Development Tools
Every person comes from a different background full of experiences that are unique to them. Understanding each person’s personality, strengths and blind spots can be helpful to you as leaders as you determine the best methods to connect with each person. Different methods and tools will help you build an understanding of the people on your team and how that might be similar or different from you. Learning what motivates, excites and how to connect with your people will help that person be their best and feel fulfilled in their professional life.
Personality assessments can help identify these. From diving in to understand personality, you’ll figure out what they may need from you as a leader. Knowing characteristics for each member of your team, you can work with them to best communicate and understand their needs in an individualized way.
You can start with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is often used as the foundation for helping teams and individuals understand each other. From there, you can look through other lenses to better hone your leadership skills and connect with the member of your team. Some tools, like the FIRO assessment, were specifically developed to enhance team’s effectiveness.
Other models focus on leadership in relation to the team, and resources such as The Leaders Window: Mastering the Four Styles of Leadership to Build High-Performing Teams and the various books on leadership by Patrick Lencioni (all of them are great, but specifically worth mentioning The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues) have gained high praise from leaders around the globe and over many years.
One last tool for developing your team that’s free and takes nothing but time? Our organizational consultants highly recommend connecting with people on a personal level. Checking in to see how people are doing is critical for manager-employee relationships but also for connecting as a team. How? Ensure that at least some portion of a team meeting and individual 1-to-1 meeting has a check in and personal updates.
People Management Tools
Another top tool for leaders is the use of software that can connect an employee with access to all the resources they may need. Human capital management software comes with everything you need to make your team members feel supported by company leadership and have all the information they need pertaining to their job in one convenient space.
In addition, employees and their leaders have the ability to view and analyze insights on different career development opportunities, learn new work-life balance tips, and plan for scheduling and availability management all in one place. This eliminates potential confusion on both ends and leaves team members feeling secure, as they have instant access to all of the information they need to perform their responsibilities.
Popular tools in this arena include both software and SAAS offerings. These platforms handle everything from payroll and benefits to career development and performance management, and each platform comes with their own strengths.
Lastly, we know the amount of choices of tools can be overwhelming. Some third party sites like G2crowd and Capterra are like Yelp for software tools, and can come in handy when reading real reviews compared to company testimonials.
Although there are many different tools available for business leaders, finding the ones that fit the needs of yourself and your team is what’s going to best improve engagement, efficiency, productivity, and make you and your people happier.