Leadership Challenges

We Live in a Changing World – How fast is your world changing?

By CEO Anders Piper

Many people talk about the big change and refers to the digitalization that happens and although it does change the way we work, digitalization has been ongoing for many years, and is for sure not the only change happening.

Here are some of the changes we see happening and these are all related also to the challenge of being a leader.

By Anders Piper, Managing Partner, PSQ-International

We are soon one full year into the Covid-19 pandemic and the world has paid a very high price for this so far, and it’s not over, yet!

Although some companies has been able to turn the crisis into growth and financial success, most companies are loosing vast amount of money and whole industries are threatened on their existence, so saying that there are positives connected to this is perhaps a bit daring, but for sure we can see some learnings that has come out already, and for sure, more will emerge as we move forward and learn how to navigate even better under these circumstances.

In the past 20 years we have seen stress growing as a global phenomenon! This in particular after the financial crisis in 2007-2012, where many companies utilized the opportunity to cut layers of fat in their organizations. This left fewer people to do more, and at the same time, having to deal with a constant growing amount of information and decisions that has to happen faster to keep up.

During the lock down many companies, who normally would not allow their employees to work from home, realized that they had to. For many it came as a surprise that the employees actually were capable of delivering a decent effort working from home, and many reported a feeling of being more efficient, due to less distractions and for those not threatened to get fired, there has also been reports of much less stress. The losers were people with a high need for social participation, who found themselves depressed due to lack of company. Conclusion must be, that companies can benefit from establishing a more flexible approach to how people work, integrating the best from both worlds.

A major challenge for many companies was, and for some still is, that managers has not been prepared for this kind of leadership, revealing that the problem lies not with the employees and their commitment, but rather in an outdated leadership control system, where leaders do not trust their employees to do the work without the God (leader) being present. A true paradox is that many leaders can and will work from home when hey have to concentrate and be efficient!

When talking to candidates and coaching clients about their situation and needs, it has become very clear to me, that companies faces a new challenge, which is the new knowledge in the employee, that they actually can work and perform from home. This means that employers will experience an increased demand for this and has to prepare mentally for this, both with their existing employees and also in particular with new hires, who will see the lack of this opportunity as a negative when considering a job change.

We cannot change evolution, but we can prepare to support it. In essence this means two things; employees has to be taught more about self-leadership, as this is not a natural skill as many leaders think, and secondly, we have to continue teaching and coaching leaders in how to manage virtually and how to empower their people and use trust and support as dominating leadership tools.

How much have you done to secure your leaders for the inevitable future?

It is of no surprise that expectations change from generation to generation. Older employees will say “The young generation are lazy and not willing to work as much as we do”. Working hard is for many the recipe for success, but working smarter, not harder is an even better success, so hard work in itself, should not be a measurement for success. It is rather a fast track to stress and burn out and as such, not the most recommended way to work or lead.

Generation X are the people now in their mid-30s and up to around 50. They have seen a tremendous amount of change. They were the leaders in the first technology explosion. These people were the young workers back when the internet was just gaining speed, so they expected to have more flexibility. Gen Xers prefer to work independently with minimal supervision. They also value opportunities to grow and make choices, as well as having relationships with mentors. They also believe that promotions should be based on competence and not by rank, age, or seniority and this was a clear pattern break from previous generations and caused some conflict back in the days.

Generation Y also known as millennials is generation that grew up with the internet and smartphones and who cannot imagine life without them. They expect everything right now. They are used to getting their needs met quickly. For some Millennials, they’re content with selling their skills to the highest bidder. That means unlike Boomers and to some extent GenX, they’re not as loyal. In most cases, they have no problem jumping from one organization to another. They want to work in an environment where they can collaborate with others. Flexible schedules, time off, and embracing the latest technology to communicate are also important for Gen Y.

Generation Z focuses on inclusion. In previous decades, issues like the gender pay gap, racial equality, and marriage equality marched into the spotlight. For Gen Z, these topics are not historical landmarks in a decades-long cultural conversation—they are norms. Generation Z grew up with changes to political presidents now being both black and female, they saw the LGBTQ community expand into prominence and helped as the #MeToo movement was launched and celebrated. Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date. They expect to see this diversity and inclusion in the workplace. While the environment was the number one social issue for Millennials, studies show that equality is the top issue for Gen Z.

The blend of experience and need for new technology and knowledge combined with changing gender roles in the workforce, calls for diversity, in order for you to succeed. This means that the demand on the leader of today and tomorrow is on the rise, as it is  still your responsibility to make every employee, regardless of their generation, feel engaged. You also need to integrate them into your company’s culture and make them feel valued.

As much as we talk about the need for diversity and the requirements of the organization to embrace diversity, a much less discussed topic is polarization. While we see changing roles and more multicultural workforces, the world is becoming more and more intolerant.

Political and religious intolerance has accelerated, and clashes are seen daily from all parts of the world. The latest wave is the “I’m offended” trend, where any disagreement now will lead to people throwing the “I’m offended” flag into the ring.

There is a huge difference between being harassed and not agreeing and saying that you are offended as the first response is rather a sign of intolerance for other peoples right to hold an opinion different from yours.

The “I’m offended” wave came as a result of the #MeToo campaign which clearly showed the world that woman around the globe has felt abused and harassed, which of course is not to be tolerated. But from there it continued to a second phase, where men and male leaders and politicians could be victims of false #MeToo accusation as a mean for revenge or political gains.

On the religious side of things, we see clashes in the international scene and religious groups using terror as a mean to get heard. These groups represent by no means the general population inside any religion, but their actions lead to more distance between people of different beliefs, who then subsequently become even less tolerant to beliefs of different origin.

Just as with the need for diversity and diversity management and leadership, the polarization is a topic we have to take more seriously and look at what we can do about it, from a corporate perspective and from a leadership perspective. At the end of day, so many companies have values stating respect, but intolerance is disrespect for other people’s values and beliefs and as such a huge threat to respect and diversity in the workplace.

Ever since the entre of computerized help in the workplace, we have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of available information. In the last two decades the internet has doubled this amount and speed to degrees never seen before and of course, all this influence decision making. We need to understand things faster and because we have access to much more information, our brains often have to process much more information at the same time, and this creates increased pressure on leaders.

Technology is the reason for this new pressure, but at the same time, technology gives us so many new opportunities, that for sure we shall not look back, but rather embrace technology. However, as leaders, there are consequences we need to consider. Increased amount of stress is one of the most significant signs of this increased pressure, where more and more people find it hard to keep up.

We would expect older, not so technology obsessed people to be more prone to stress, but we also see this trend even in very young people. Generation Y and Z, although they have grown up with all this technology, they have also gotten so used to it, that switching it off is unimaginable to them. This leads to a 24/7 mentality where there never is any time, where the brain can rest fully and on top of that more and more information has to be dealt with.

For sure this is a leadership and perhaps even more so, a corporate culture issue that have to be addressed!

With the increase of automation and digitalization, requirements to education and training is on the rise and it is becoming difficult to find qualified workforce. The lack of competent people creates a new problem, which is retention. Not only do we have to deal with the fact that it is hard to find qualified employees, but we then also have to struggle to keep the ones we have.

Having internal training programs is one of the many roads to circumvent this challenge. Not only can you do continued upgrade of your staff, but you can also attract employees from the outside, looking for employers who emphasizes organic growth. On top of that, continued training of your existing staff will also benefit retention, as people seem to value this more than most other fringe benefits.

Qualified people, no matter their professional field or level, will always be in the search light of recruiters and competitors and loosing an employee is a costly affair, often making the cost of continued training and education a small sacrifice. Yet, we still see many companies who are reluctant to train their people or who are satisfied with taking those the “others” can’t use.

As a training provider, we love to see you send your people to our trainings but remember that a structured approach to on-the-job training is one of the very best ways to succeed and then using external training as a supplement to secure the success.

The awareness of consumers rights and the environment is something that governing bodies around the world is taking more and more seriously. This awareness ranges from simple protection of consumers health to taking action against the global warming and also social compliance in regard to minimum wages, work conditions and child labor.

Rules and regulations from authorities leads to increased amounts of procedures that employees have to comply to. Protecting your employees from getting harmed, also plays a bigger role and this means that not only do we have to focus on quality but also safety.

Very often do we see that organizations issues procedures with the very best of intentions but have to struggle to get the needed compliance. The reason for this schism is found in the nature of the organizational setup. The procedures for productivity come from one department, the quality assurance procedures from another and the safety procedures from yet another department, all working on securing their own area, but not coworking on making things that can work hand in hand.

In the middle of this we find the leader and the employees, who have to make decisions and actions and who, from time to time have to accept, that these procedures slow down their work and/or prevent maximum performance. Conflicting procedures or communication can be very demotivating, and it is interesting the demotivation seems to be the only common denominator amongst people with low performance, people who are involved in work related accidents (LTA and/or near miss) or people who produce with reduced quality.

By some experts Digitalization is supposed to be the biggest change going on right now and by some, seen as the biggest leadership challenge we have. I would argue that this depends which geographical area you are in and what industry you operate in.

There is no question about the impact the continued digitalization. We see major changes in how we buy goods and how we define our lives and digitalization influences our lifestyle and the way we work, and for some it is a concrete challenge and threat to the wellbeing of their business. For those who understand how to operate in this environment, digitalization is a huge opportunity and perhaps even “just another tool in the toolbox” where as for people who have to transform their business to adapt, it can be a real challenge to understand and cope.

When the personal computer entered the workspace back in the 80’s, we saw the same patterns, but perhaps more on a personal level, as some rejected the use of the PC and never became friends with them. This time, it is about the way we do business and because of that, it also becomes how we do leadership. How do we embrace the possibilities of digitalization and use these tools and technologies in our leadership and how do we cope with the speed of change that follows digitalization?

The sum of all the above is that the employees of your organization today needs better leaders who can guide them through all these challenges. They need leaders who can act as beacons for them and leaders who can inspire and motivate, rather than dictate.

Organizations still need to understand that leadership requires adequate time to lead the people in the organization. Organizations need to understand the requirements of the new generations and they need to understand that management is the allocation of tasks and resources, but leadership is creating engagement and motivation to succeed.

The solutions we offer, are all tailored to meet the challenges of todays leader. They are based on state-of-the-art research and methodologies and we teach our participants how to handle the above challenges in a successful and rewarding way.

For more information on how to improve your leadership go to Integrated Leadership Solutions