Change & Innovation
So why are so few giving it to them?
The future is here and the world is desperate for a new kind of leadership. Companies need to be increasingly adaptive and nimble to stay relevant in today’s market. The demands of an increasingly younger workforce are requiring massive shifts in the way we think about everything in business. Leaders today can’t just focus on the ‘what’ of business and succeed with traditional strategies and business know-how of the past.
Traditional hierarchical organizational structures have been replaced with matrix-like structures. This requires leaders to be skilled at communicating and adept at influencing others who may not directly report to them. Leaders are confronted with the necessity of building a collaborative, diverse work culture that empowers and engages employees. Their prior leadership approach of directing and telling doesn’t work well in this new environment. The workplace reality becomes ever more emergent, ever less static. And the leaders that are increasingly taking the helm – Millennials – simply aren’t getting the development that they want – and need.
The leadership gap and shortage crisis is real. Several studies have found that crucial leadership skills in organizations are insufficient for meeting current and future needs. Fortunately, millennial leaders are hungry for the learning and development opportunities that will prepare them to lead tomorrow’s businesses. Gallup has reported that Millennials value development more than other generations do, and Bersin by Deloitte found that Millennials rate L&D as the #1 job benefit, more important than healthcare, cash bonuses and even flexible working hours!
Unfortunately, supply is not meeting demand. Seventy percent (70%) of millennials report that they are receiving no leadership development whatsoever. None. A study conducted by Brandon Hall Group in 2015 found that only 20% of organizations identified the Millennial leader group as critical for development over the next 24 months. This has created a significant leadership gap.
Most companies simply aren’t prioritizing the leadership development of Millennials. They are the leaders who will make or break not only the future of individual companies that they lead, but also our collective future. It seems to me like they are worth investing in.
Enact offers a variety of programs focused on developing Next Generation Leaders. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Is your leadership development strategy keeping up with current organizational challenges or do you find that you’re stuck on a perpetual treadmill of reactivity? Business is moving faster than ever and the strategies used to attract, develop and retain leaders that can deliver results must be as adaptable as the leaders they are meant to serve.
Many companies are completely restructuring their leadership development strategies to become more current. In Deloitte’s most recent Human Capital Trends Survey, 61% of companies surveyed reported that they have updated their leadership strategy in the last year or are currently doing so.
How do you determine if your leadership development strategy needs an overhaul? How do you ensure that it is delivering the impact, creating the pipeline and cultivating the leaders your business needs to thrive in the future? The answer is first to determine whether your current strategy is reactive or proactive.
Reactive: designed to identify and address problems
Proactive: designed to identify and propel opportunities
The immobilizing cycle of reactivity:
If you currently have a reactive leadership development cycle, here’s what it might look like:
- Identify organizational pains are tied back to leadership incompetency
- Identify leadership ‘problems’ and the leaders that have them
- Brainstorm ‘solution’ to problem and implement it
- Hope that somehow everything improves, while waiting for something else to break
- Experience organizational pain tied back to leadership incompetency
- Repeat until the system is beyond repair
The ‘problem’ with this cycle is in the word ‘problem’ itself. If your leadership development strategy is designed to simply identify and fix problems, then you’ll be stuck repairing problems forever. Your dreams of one day having something that ultimately is ‘better’ will never be realized, because you can’t improve something that you’re fixing. You can only get it working as well as it was designed to in the first place.
Consider now a proactive leadership development strategy. Here’s what it might look like to have a
Mobilizing Cycle of Proactivity:
- Identify leadership trends, necessary leadership capacities and promising leaders
- Identify leadership ‘opportunities’ and build off of their existing strengths
- Dream, create and implement innovative strategies
- Collect consistent feedback data and measure impact
- Tweak the new operating system as needed with small updates that keep it current
- Repeat as you watch your company soar above the competition
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we scrap our problem fixing mentality all-together. But what’s becoming clear is that in the increasingly fast and complex reality, the problem fixing mentality isn’t going to help us create the systems and strategies needed to develop the leaders needed to navigate the emergent future.
Quite simply, the strategies we develop are designed to answer the questions that we ask them to address. So which of these questions is at the root of your leadership development strategy?
“What are the problems we need to fix?”
– or –
“What are we going to create together?”
Ultimately, we get what we ask for. The answers to these two questions are undoubtedly different, and lead to two very different destinations.
Lack of employee engagement in to America has been a highlighted issue for years. US companies lose an estimated $550 billon per year due to productivity lost from disengaged workers (Gallup). Alternatively, companies find themselves needing to innovate more and more quickly in order to stay relevant amid today’s rapidly changing market. True innovation requires the crème de la crème of engagement – creativity. Unfortunately it takes a lot more than an invitation or encouragement from management to harness the creative power of people.
Psychological safety and trust are the most fundamental preconditions for creating a culture that is conducive to the creativity that powers innovation. This is because when people don’t feel safe, they simply don’t share their ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes; the very things that fuel innovation. Here are the terms defined:
Psychological Safety: The belief that no one will be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, mistakes or emotions
Trust: (relative to safety) The belief in the reliability of others to create a psychologically safe environment
Unfortunately, most companies and teams rarely take the time to determine what creating a ‘psychologically safe’ environment means to people. All too often, the norm is complete inaction based on an invalid assumption that ‘people should instinctively know how I need to be treated to feel safe’ and ‘we should instinctively know how to treat each other in order to feel safe’. The reality is that human beings are so complex and dynamic, each with our own unique experiences, backgrounds, attitudes and perspectives that the potential for people working together and just ‘happening’ to feel safe is very small.
An alternative view would have us believe that ‘we do not instinctively know how to treat each other in order to feel safe’, and therefore need to take time to intentionally create an appropriate atmosphere. The process outlined below is meant to be a simple and incredibly effective way to identify, create, and hold each other accountable to agreed upon behaviors that help ensure that people feel safe to speak up with their ideas, questions, concerns and mistakes. This process works well for teams of any size, and can be equally as effective for individual relationships as well.
Step 1: Identify the atmosphere that you want to create together.
Great teams don’t just happen, they’re designed. You wouldn’t expect your team to be productive without a clear vision for their product/service, so you can’t expect that they’d be harmonious in their behavior without one either. Simply ask the question “How do we want to be together?” And let conversation fly, and narrow down the list to the most important and agreed upon.
Step 2: Prepare for when things get tough
It’s easy to be aligned when you’re talking about creating a fun, creative, harmonious atmosphere, but it’s important to ground your vision in the reality that there will always be challenge and conflict when people work together (and this is a good thing, since the rub is where some of the best ideas come from). Ask the question “How do we want to be together when things get difficult?” (because they will).
Step 3: Define the terms
Sure, most people are going to sign on for creating a ‘respectful’ atmosphere, as an example. But it’s important to note that respect looks very different to different people. So does fun. And everything else. Take your conversation deeper by asking “What do we really mean when we say…” for each of the words/phrases agreed to in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Step 4: Create agreements
Once you’ve identified the environment you want to create and have clarified the terms to ensure everyone is talking about the same thing, it’s time to create the agreements that will help ensure that such a space is created. Ask the question “What agreements do we need to make in order to ensure we create the environment/atmosphere we’ve identified here?”. It can be helpful here for people to identify real/mock situations that may come up and have a discussion or role play around it in order to make the agreements more real.
Step 5: Stay Accountable
This is an amazing exercise that will have very little impact if there is not some real commitment to the agreements and a system of accountability. Simply ask the question “How are we going to hold each other accountable to these agreements”. This particular conversation tends to be a great idea generator – you may find that with the safety you’ve created in the room that you already begin to tap into the creativity people to come up with some very innovative ideas for this!
Innovation is fueled by human creativity, and being creative in a collaborative atmosphere requires a certain amount of vulnerability. We can assume that everybody wants to feel safe, creative, able to make mistakes and share their ideas, but we must not assume that people instinctively know how to create an atmosphere that allows everyone to feel that. Each of us is responsible for creating the world around us, the exercise shared in this article is a good start to an inclusive conversation that can help your team collectively design what’s needed, together.
Are you working to create an intentional culture that is trusting and innovative? Can we help you achieve your goals? Contact us at email@example.com for more information.