The world is advancing rapidly. We now live in cities that have built in intelligence. We can take tests that inform us about our genetic make-up. We can speak every language in the world with ear buds that can translate in real time.
Almost everything around us is in a constant state of progress, and this progress is delivering results. These advancements make life easier, more efficient and give us the possibility to do more in less time.
Yet, there is one part of our business world that is resisting the wave of change – our leadership. Despite the wide array of technological advancements, traditional HR and leadership practices, still reign supreme. A vast majority of companies still insist that their people enter the office at 9am sharp, and don’t leave until 5pm. They still insist that everyone has only 25 days holiday, no more and no less. They still insist that everyone come into work, even if it’s just more convenient for someone to work from home. They still insist on having annual performance reviews. They still insist on hour-long meetings. And they still exist on a very status-driven, hierarchical organisation. There are signs that these practices are causing serious issues in the work place.
A recent CEB survey showed that 60% of new managers fail in their first 24 months. A 2016, Grovo report found that 90% of companies report finding and developing good leaders as an urgent challenge. TINYpulse, in 2017, reported that employee engagement was in decline. Indeed, these statistics indicate, not only are leadership practices stagnating, but that this stagnation is turning into a crisis. The signals are clear, our management practices are outdated, and new managers moving into those positions can’t fit in an outdated model.
So why is this happening?
It’s a case of old habits die hard. Most of the people in key management positions are people that started their business life in the old world. Not only this, but they achieved success in that world. However, this isn’t simply a case of people doing things ‘like they’ve always done them’. We’re talking about very successful and intelligent people that know how to succeed in the corporate world. The problem here isn’t a reluctance to change leadership practices, it’s that the route to change isn’t immediately obvious.
Most of the innovation in leadership practices is happening in the start-ups of the world. This has created a mindset that these new practices are suitable for start-ups and nothing else, certainly not large, international corporates. However, this mindset is dangerous and incorrect, and here’s why.
Why is this a problem?
The workforce of today and tomorrow won’t stand for outdated leadership practices. In 2017, Powwownow found that 70% of workers feel that a job offering flexibility makes it more attractive. Moreover, Gen Z and Millenial workers enjoy personal development and regular feedback. Simply put, policies such as 9-5 hours, restricted holidays and annual reviews don’t cut it for today’s workers. This doesn’t mean that big companies, with traditional leadership policies will suffer a worker shortage – actually it’s far worse. Instead, they will suffer a shortage of skilled, talented and hard-working people. These companies will see mediocrity spread throughout their organisation, while their competitors will be soaring with the most talented workers on offer.
So, how do we rectify this situation? How can companies drag themselves into the modern day and implement innovative leadership practices?
They need to change the way they lead.
Leading in 2019
The first changes come in mindset. Leaders now need to view their people as exactly that - people. Gone are the days where people can be treated like human resources. The best companies of today understand that each of their people have a busy and complex life, that extends far beyond the four walls of the office. They understand that, due to mobile technology, people are always switched on to work. If they receive a call at 10pm, they will probably answer it, and you can be sure they’re checking their emails on the weekend. The lines between work and personal life are blurred, if not invisible. If they have a problem at work, it goes home with them. Equally, if they have a problem at home, it comes to work too. The leaders of today need to deploy genuine empathy on a daily basis to ensure that their team is happy and well. Every company needs a genuine policy of care for their people – this isn’t innovation, this is simply being human.
Once this is established, they can begin to innovate their leadership practices.
LEADERSHIP INNOVATION #1 – REGULAR PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
People now expect their employer, and their leader to be an agent of development for them. This requires regular feedback, meaning the time of annual reviews are over. It’s simply ludicrous to expect anyone to be able to evaluate an entire year’s performance in one short meeting. These days, leaders and companies need to implement a system where performance is reviewed on a weekly, if not daily, basis. The good news is, there are plenty of platforms that help manage this type of system – TINYpulse being one of them.
LEADERSHIP INNOVATION #2 – ELMINATE HIERACHY & STATUS
The days of ruling by fear are over. We now live in a world, where people respond well to a safe and caring work environment. People need to feel safe in their position, so that they can begin to own the role their way, and start to express themselves. This requires the removal of overstated hierarchy and status. There is now no value in leaders demonstrating their status through imposing unnecessary rules – this causes dissent, or worse apathy. Instead, leaders must show themselves as equals to their teams, and make it their one aim to create a healthy environment within which their team can produce their best results.
LEADERSHIP INNOVATION #3 – MAKE MEETINGS MORE EFFICIENT
For a long time, meetings have taken up too high a proportion of the working day. Today, the potential productivity is far higher than it was 10 years ago. The advance of technology means that collaboration and communication can happen in real time through the day, without needing everyone to sit in the same room together. This doesn’t mean you should cancel all meetings, as face to face time is still important. However, the need for many hour-long meetings is no longer. Cut down the meeting time, and let everyone get more done.
LEADERSHIP INNOVATION #4 – SUPPORT YOUR TEAM WITH THE BEST TECHNOLOGY
Millennials expect the best technology. These people have grown up using the latest tech, and they expect it at work too. The patience for old, dysfunctional or slow technology is at an all time low. Moreover, the best technology means better collaboration possibilities, higher levels of productivity and more possibilities for creativity. If your company wants to attract the best talent, and keep your rising stars, you need to supply them with the best tech. This will help them reach that top performance you’re looking for too.
LEADERSHIP INNOVATION #5 – TREAT SUPPLIERS AND CLIENTS LIKE PARTNERS
Speciality rules in today’s world. The world needs experts in every niche. This is why your company is likely to be working in collaboration with many different companies right now. So when you’re working with specialist companies, whether they are suppliers or clients, treat them like your partners. Be open and fair with them, and try to understand their business practices. These companies provide a wonderful learning experience for the members of your team. It gives them an opportunity to learn about another company, business model and industry. These practices and sharing can be brought into your business, and can be a constant source of innovation.
The Tide is Changing
The tide is changing, and the future of business is already upon us. The only thing left to catch up is leadership. Those companies that have innovated in this area are already winning. Take a good look at your business and the way your leaders lead. Do you have leadership practices that would attract the best talent of today and tomorrow? If the answer’s yes, then don’t rest easy. Keep pushing forward, and stay ahead of the curve. If the answer’s no, then make the change today, or you’ll lose the battle tomorrow.
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