Posts Tagged ‘VUCA’

Workforce Changes: Future Head Scratchers

Consider this. It’s 2025 and the world we knew 6 years ago has changed dramatically.  The workforce no longer hinges on hierarchies and what worked in the past.  It’s about what could be possible and new agile systems schematics.  Data Analyst has toppled Dentist as the top job and Tech Ethicists are highly sought after.

And those are only a smidgen of what I imagine will be different in the 2025 world of work.  We’ll be scratching our heads as we think back on some illogical and inane practices, unwritten rules and beliefs we worked by. 

Here are my top 5 head scratchers on the workforce and why they’ll seem absurd in the near future:

1. Why was there an invisible barrier between employees and leaders?

I get it – executives are busy people. In the past they opted to put their faith and time into a tight circle of people surrounding them.  So how could they possibly tap into the ingenuity lying below them? They often didn’t. 

Conversely frustrated experts and innovators weren’t able to affect the value chain without ruffling feathers trying to leap over their manager to access senior leadership.

There’s a reckoning now with Millenials and Gen Zs; they’re unimpressed with hierarchies and prefer cross-functional relationships within an organization. They expect access to whomever they need in order to work collaboratively and achieve results.

We’re more comfortable now with flatter organizations and less hierarchy with glass ceilings in between.

2. Why did we believe high performers automatically made good managers?

It’s an easy assumption to make. If an employee proves to be a superstar in their role as a subject matter expert and sole contributor, why wouldn’t they make a superstar manager?

Did we ever get that wrong. Finally we realize that leading and inspiring others requires it’s own unique expertise. And, most people don’t come with the natural aptitude to be successful managing others. 

Companies invest in their managers, ensuring they have the critical people skills to guide and nurture their teams to success.

Companies have figured out the path to healthy employee engagement: having a specialized stream of people managers, whose only or primary role is the responsibility to develop, lead and motivate teams of people.

This also enables experts to become functional managers focusing on what they’re good at, without the added stress of human resource related issues.

3. Why did we believe employees be required to manage people to get a promotion?

This organizational policy always baffled me.  Sure, in theory it may have seemed like a good idea as a way to build soft skills and get a different perspective on leadership. But like head scratcher #2 above, it ran the risk of demoralizing both the manager and their direct reports.

A 2011 CareerBuilder survey revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of new managers felt underprepared for their new responsibilities and a staggering 58(%) reported receiving no management training.

The result? Gallup’s recent workplace survey found that almost half of all employees left their jobs because of their manager.  This begs the question: why have this policy when the potential for failure is 50%?

4. Why did we believe there was only one way to solve a problem?

For years we followed tradition. When success followed a certain approach to our work, we continued to rely on that method. Sure it may have moved us forward, but the kinds of challenges that are emerging don’t always lend themselves to “old think”.

I remember being referred to as a “maverick” by my supervisor because I challenged the status quo.  I was always looking at new ways of getting buy-in to change and looking at possibilities rather than “tried and true” methods.

With increased globalization, complexity and ambiguity, we’re in a time of disruption: everything we know to be predictable is on the chopping block.

This means addressing challenges in new ways. Whether it’s how we work, how we developing new insights to inform decision-making or shifting our focus on new technologies.

5. Why did the 9 to 5 work schedule ever last so long? 

Just ask Camilla Kring why this was never a good idea. Founder of Denmark’s Super Navigators aps, she’s on a mission transform the industrial work culture towards one that’s more flexible.

Her research on our personal circadian rhythms debunks the long held beliefs that to be successful we need to be an early bird. That’s great for certain people, but the rest of us may have family dynamics, work methods and biological rhythms best suited to working later in the day or evening.

Think about it. Are companies supporting flexibility more likely to have engaged and happy employees? Apparently yes according to Kring.

But that’s not the only reason for workday flexibility. With globalization, many of us need to be available to work with clients and colleagues in other time zones. It’s a 24-hour world; being able to adjust our schedules is now a necessity.

The Future is Now

As we move ahead in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complexity, ambiguity) world, questioning the status quo is required. Being open to possibilities, collaboration and asking “what if?” will become the norm in order to solve challenges and ignite new approaches.

Are you already scratching your head?

Why 3 Key Shifts Need Hidden Powers

I recently had the privilege of hosting Day 1of the Women’s Executive Network’s 2018 Wisdom Mentoring Program. Given carte blanche to develop a full leadership day, my intention was to provoke the attendees to realize how their leadership and hidden powers are critical in light of 3 massive and key shifts changing our world.

The attendees were women holding senior or executive positions in primarily male-dominated industries. Think oil and gas, manufacturing and international consulting firms.

These smart and outspoken leaders patiently indulged me in painting the picture of what’s underpinning the confluence of change happening now and expected to accelerate over the next 2-5 years. The impact will be not only on our work, but also on businesses’ ability to adapt and, how we as a society choose to respond.

I’m talking about Industry 4.0, the inter-generational workplace and #TimesUp.

If you don’t know much or even heard about these 3 key shifts, it’s time to get on board. Industry 4.0 alone will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine. Think big data, artificial intelligence or self-driving cars. It’s the bridging of physical industrial assets and digital technologies in so-called cyber-physical systems. It’s already here; humans just aren’t ready for it.

We’ve been talking about the inter-generational workplace for over ten years. Now we have Generation Zs filling positions. Millennials expect flexibility, diversity and ethical business practices. Generation Z expects the same and more: mainly, a self-actualized workplace culture. The Gen Z employee wants regular feedback, access to all levels of the company and to feel personally valued. This means power not situated top/down; rather, power that flows down, up and across.

#TimesUp is the third significant phenomenon. For centuries women have been relegated to subservient positions. It’s taken women of the Hollywood machine to break the silence of behavior both men and women have always known exists. #TimesUp is the recognition that women will not tolerate inequality and harassment in any industry. This will have huge impacts on ways we communicate and who sits in the C-Suite offices.

With these key shifts on the table, I proposed it’s time for women leaders, to bring out their “hidden powers”.

I’m talking about the characteristics we have in spades but don’t necessarily bring to our work. The women attendees dug in and came up with lists of values, behaviors and ways of being they don’t show up with at work.

I was met with complaints of, “my male colleagues speak over me in meetings”, “I’m called aggressive if I stand up for myself”, “it’s so hard being the only female at the board table”.

I don’t doubt the challenges these women face. What I’m suggesting is to change how we, as women, show up. We may work in male defined structures, but if we consider the 3 key shifts in front of us, we have compelling reasons to change the book on leadership.

We’re moving into a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Businesses will embrace agility, speed of change will be the norm and innovation and failure will be paramount. Employees will need to feel they matter and their work has meaning.

Four themes emerged through the hidden powers discussion:

  • Empathy
  • Inclusion
  • Vulnerability
  • Resilience

Now, I’m not suggesting men don’t have these same qualities – they do!

In a recent HBR article, authors Tinsley and Ely pinpoint that it’s actually organizational structures, company practices, and patterns of interaction that position men and women differently; this creates systematically different experiences for them.

We’ve created narratives over the years that reinforce gender stereotypes; the real explanation for any sex differences that exist in the workplace is context.

With 3 massive shifts in our midst, it’s time to let go of ancient directive management behaviors and bureaucratic structures where few hold the power. It’s critical to replace them with values and behaviors that support, not disenfranchise, people.

Since the 1990’s Daniel Goleman and others have been proselytizing Emotional Intelligence. That we need leaders with self-awareness, empathy and self-regulation has taken hold, and yet, it’s not enough.

For women in leadership positions, stepping up and promoting their hidden powers will generate learning for both genders. This can influence a shift in context, thinking and behavior from gender bias and stereotyping to one of inclusion and equality.

As we embark on the agile corporate landscape, we’ll need an antidote to the lightening speed, innovate/fail/adapt/change processes of cross-functional teams. We’ll need teams supported by senior leaders who are not only empathetic, but vulnerable, support failures and successes, understand and support inclusivity and create climates of resilience.

We may be heading into a future of artificial intelligence and robots, but as the women of the Wisdom Mentoring Program discovered, it’ll take very human actions and qualities to support people into this new era.