Monthly Archives: October 2016

Businesses Need to Change Their Leadership Style

Well, it´s official. 23,000 people from 21 countries deem 2016 to have been a bad year for the world according to a new YouGov survey and most Americans and Europeans are pretty pessimistic that things will improve in 2017.

We are certainly living in tumultuous times with an increase in nationalism and ideological extremism.

Here are four key trends that will have an organizational impact this year and beyond.

1. Robotics

The media is full of apocalyptic stories about robots taking over our jobs. Studies such as Deloitte and Oxford, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BOAML) and Boston Consulting Group predict that 35-47 percent of jobs currently carried out by humans will be automated by the next decade. A Bank of England study suggests up to 80,000 million US jobs will be displaced, and automation will threaten 77 percent of jobs in China and 69 percent of jobs in India according to a World Bank report.

If predictions come true, future generations of robots will be less clunky, more artificially intelligent and living alongside us in offices hotels and homes, giving us legal advice, delivering our pizzas, working in our factories, nursing us and beating us at board games. Even Wall Street trading jobs will be displaced by “servers running trading algorithms.”

This Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be without consequence. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, predicts a rise of technological resentfulness and Neo-Luddism where “anti-technology movements will be active in the U.S. and elsewhere by 2030.”

2. Uber-nomics and the gig economy

I was in Brazil recently and I ordered an Uber car. Uber has been operating in Brazil since 2014. The twenty-something driver is typical of the modern worker: in the mornings he studies, in the afternoons he drives for Uber and in the evenings he works as a swimming instructor.

Welcome to the gig economy. There are currently more than 55 million Americans freelancing which is 35 percent of the US population. This People Hour Survey predicts that by 2020 one in two of the working population in the UK and US will be self-employed.

These new ways of working are also bringing traditional forms of resistance. Trade Unions are demanding better pay and conditions for contract workers and New Zealand recently outlawed zero contract hours. Moreover, traditional sectors that are impacted by the shared economy are taking to the streets. 2016 saw a steady rise of protests by traditional taxi drivers against the uberisation of the taxi business.

3. The ascendency of the millennials

By 2025, the millennial generation will make up 75 percent of the workforce according to Brookings research. A recent GALLUP study indicates that millennials are the most likely generation to switch jobs and that 60% of millennials are open to new job opportunities which is costing the US economy $30.5 billion annually.

It seems the millennial generation are also particular about their working environment. An Accenture survey discovered that only 15 percent of 2015 US college graduates aspired to work for large companies, choosing instead to work on their own or for smaller organizations. Moreover, millennials embrace the concept of informal management styles, flexible working and continuous learning.

4. Deglobalization and the rise of anti-establishment views

There has been a steady shift of anti-establishment sentiment, starting with the Arab Spring and continuing with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.This represents a swing away from established elites toward “insularity and nationalism”. This may continue to play out on the European stage with the possibility of the Front National leader Marine Le Pe winning the presidential election in France this year.

Resistance to a globalized world order seems to be an ideological factor. The Economist reports, “As globalisation has become a slur, nationalism, and even authoritarianism, have flourished.” The post-war ambition for a globalized world order seems to be waning, especially with China “increasingly turning inward for growth”.

The shift toward protectionism and tariffs will have a profound impact on global trade and companies will need to make urgent strategic reassessments in this highly volatile environment.

Responsive leadership

In this era of displaced labor through technology and the shared economy, organizational leaders need to urgently respond. They need to revise strategies and business models, redesign organizational structures and patterns of working, rethink how they resource humans and machines, manage unprecedented degrees of staff resentment and conflict and work out levels of R&D investment and training on the hoof.

Organizational leaders are going to have to be more adaptive and decisive in their decision-making. At the same time, organizational leaders need to be consistent and clear-headed. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, John Coleman explores the need for organizational leaders to balance agility and consistency. This hybrid of responsiveness and responsibleness is the 2017 World Economic Forum theme at Davos.

Implications for developing leaders

Traditionally, leaders are developed pyramidically. New entrants are assessed for their leadership potential and they access job group defined leadership training programs when they hit the grade. These programs are traditionally classroom-based, programmatic interventions that are designed using skills and competencies.

Recent research labels this the horizontal approach to developing leaders. The problem with this approach, is that it fails to develop responsiveness and adaptiveness (the very qualities that leaders need to face the modern challenges).

Future leaders need to think and act outside these presuppositions. That horizontal glass container needs to be smashed to allow a more pluralistic approach to developing leaders where leaders learn to think and act for themselves. Commentators call this vertical learning.

Here are three vertical learning approaches to help develop responsive leadership:

1. Personalized learning

Organizations need to abandon their obsession with top down, programmatic, mass-produced leadership development training. It is expensive and ineffective – – Rajeev Peshawaria calls it, “the great training robbery.” Programmatic training should be replaced by personalised learning where development needs are individually identified ideally in partnership with the supervisor.

2. Experiential learning

Organizations should ditch theory-based, classroom approaches to leadership and focus on “living laboratories”, such as work-based learning, job shadowing, supervised leadership assignments and business simulations that replicate the everyday work context.

Related: Boardroom blues? Try experiential learning.

3. Learning to learn

Rather than imposing skills and competencies that reinforce predetermined notions of what makes an effective organizational leader, it is better to teach the leader how to learn to be adaptive and responsive. Providing tools for the leader to self-appraise emotions, personality and the way they handle such things as change and conflict can help them understand their preferences; and introducing tools such as scenario planning and systemic thinking and cultivating a passion for ongoing learning can all contribute to self-directed, vertically developed leaders who disregard traditional decision-making models and adapt and respond in the moment.

We are living in tumultuous times and organizational leaders need to be able to respond to this. We need to break the horizontal glass that contains and defines our leaders and develop them more vertically to be the adaptive and responsive organizational leaders that the World Economic Forum covets.

Tips to Embracing Thought Diversity

Sure, we all recognize that we should create and act on strategies for change. We have countless meetings about them and talk them to death. Then what happens? Nothing. All those ideas vanish about as quickly as it takes to get up from the table and shut off the video feed. The end is like a Purell for ideas. The main reason? Not laziness. I believe many people want the change they seek and would like to act. The problem is most people just don’t trust themselves enough to take the first steps and define their strategies. This is the basis for accountability, and they would rather be held accountable to others’ expectations than their own.

This is also the basis for courageous leadership, which we need in times of prosperity and adversity. Good times, bad times, it doesn’t matter: Leaders cannot wait until those around them begin to take the actions that they are hesitant to take.

But they can’t just act. Leaders also need to develop an ability to take calculated risks by seeing around the corners up ahead and thus lead by example, allowing their people to do the same. Yet most leaders they don’t, because they lack diversity of thought. They refuse to allow all people on their teams help define strategies and directions. They expect them instead to comply with the company directives.

This is why even the most innovative and disruptive companies can be more like-minded than we think. They focus only on what inspires them and makes them comfortable. When I work with companies, I always want to see how the people in the room respond when there is genuine discomfort. Whatever they are considering – from diversity and inclusion to global sales strategies – I make them think about uncomfortable truths and embrace them.

For the first hours, there is always uneasiness but soon they open their minds and become vulnerable enough to see the truth: that focusing only on what inspires us and thus what we understand and are comfortable with reinforces like-mindedness and creates cultures that expect everybody to act the same. They see this in how traditional approaches to initiatives like diversity and inclusion typically promote and result in the exact opposite of inclusion: marginalization and victimization. That’s why the conversation about diversity has not evolved – and this is true not just about the conversations surrounding diverse populations but all people: They have become dialogues around like-mindedness rather than the power of individual contributions.

As a result, initiatives like diversity and inclusion as currently defined in the workplace and marketplace are solving for the wrong things and silos between groups are widening. To change the conversation, we must get beyond diversity and embrace the diversity of thought.

You must allow diversity of thought not just of population touch your business and leadership every day and serve as your competitive advantage to stimulate new growth, attract new talent, and generate new marketplace opportunities.

Here are eight steps leaders can follow to embrace thought diversity in the workplace and marketplace:

Focus on the things that disrupt us not just the things that inspire us
Give up control and allow people to have influence
Allow individuals to define the business not the business to define the individual
Stop being comfortable with the words that create no tension
Align the company values to reflect the realities and goals of the people in your workplace
Challenge old templates and ways of doing things
See vulnerability as a strength
Break down silos between departments

Think you are embracing diversity of thought? I invite you to take my “Diversity of Thought Assessment” by clicking here. The free assessment measures your ability to be open-minded enough to think differently in your quest to achieve workplace and career goals through different pathways and approaches.

Know About Poor Employee

A recent Gallup study found that a high percentage of managers around the globe are not meeting the need of their employees; actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2:1.

Low engagement not only drains companies of morale but also limits their ability to retain “A” level employees and holds back profits. It’s easy to sit back and blame managers for low engagement, but that ignores the underlying systemic causes. Your manager is one of your most valuable resources and the conduit to assuring your established goals and behaviors penetrate the entire company. So, rather than point blame, let’s put our managers in the position to ignite employee engagement by understanding the following concepts:

Managers are not the problem.
Our own inefficiencies and bureaucracies are the problem. If we put the manager in an organization that is designed (intentionally or not) to maintain the status quo, kill creativity, and fear decision-making, why are we surprised when the manager exhibits this behavior, too? The “micromanager” is often a symptom of an organization that is perfectly designed to generate this result by not promoting a culture of empowerment nor giving the manager the tools and training to develop his or her team. Blaming the manager ignores the real issue: many businesses operate using antiquated “command and control” philosophies.

Businesses fail to articulate organizational clarity.
Managers often are vested with responsibility but lack proper authority or the tools to execute on the company’s strategic objectives. At this point, managers justifiably are confused and frustrated, and that spills to the front lines. Once again, the problem is not with the manager per se; it’s with the company’s failure to consistently communicate structures, values, and accountability and appropriately empower its managers.

Your training stinks.
Some companies offer little to no training in how to develop managers, clearly communicate, promote accountability, and lead. And again, is this the manager’s problem, or is it a problem in how they are developed? Consider that many managers were promoted from front-line positions due to their work ethic and technical competencies. These attributes don’t necessarily prepare someone to manage people in today’s business environment. The hiring of managers via promotion from within will work best if there is an accompanying plan to develop the high potential employee into an effective leader. Somehow, many of us have bought into the contrast between a “leader” and “manager.” In reality, our best managers are leaders. Are we making the appropriate effort to teach our managers how to lead, or are we just focusing on technical skills?

Managers need to be empowered.
Today’s manager is the key to ensuring that your culture permeates throughout the entire business. They ensure that all employees are aligned with the company’s values, strategy, and mission. Today’s manager looks beyond technical skills and key performance indicators to ensure that unwanted behaviors are eliminated from the company (i.e., lack of empowerment, status-quo thinking, and micromanaging). Today’s manager establishes trust at the foundation of all relationships.

Appropriately trained and aligned managers are vital to the execution of the company’s mission and to the development and engagement of employees. So, next time you see a manager blamed for lack of employee engagement, you must ask: Do we have a poor manager working at our company (and we might), or is this a by-product of an organizational failure to properly train and empower our managers?