Chances are your company will be led by a group of middle aged men with 30 + years of experience. The vast majority of established companies tend to be. Most won’t use or understand digital tools and they will struggle to understand why and how social media can used to grow their brand, sales and networks. They will be quite set in their ways, used to thinking and doing things in a certain way and change, new innovative ways of operating and motivating others will seem very inconvenient. Lets just say they won’t embrace change!
Don’t for a minute think that I am not advocating the importance of experience (it is very valuable) but if this is all you have chances are you are being or are about to be taken out by an up and coming company that embraces diversity of thinking.
I work with a diverse range of established companies across many industry’s and it staggers me the amount of linear “group think” that needs to be disrupted. That age old culture killing quote “Thats the way we have always done it” which extrapolated out leads to “we get the same results….over and over again” is alive and well.
Working with diverse Boards, reading the latest leadership research, attending Singularity University, Institute of Director training and teaching young leaders at both the University of Florida & Canterbury, I know that the inclusion of young smart people of various genders, ethnicity and backgrounds will lead to better ideas, execution and outcomes. So what can you do to rid yourself of the “Male, Pale & Stale” brigade? A few ideas;
- Disrupt your own business as usual in a good way by including younger people in key projects and planning sessions. Challenge thinking, have robust conversations and debate.
- Bring externals into your team to change dynamics and conversations. Clients, consultants, students, people from outside the industry. This will lead to different outcomes.
- Find talented young people who can reverse mentor by teaching older, experienced leaders their way of thinking and why they might think the way they do. Get them to share the tools they use and why they believe what they believe.
- Ensure your next hires bring new ways of thinking and working to the organisation. Recruit for it, have a robust process to ensure you don’t bring on yet another clone who believes what you believe is the only approach.
- Make ongoing education around change, technology and leadership a major part of the culture of your organisation and senior leadership team. Build on the formal education of the 1990s with ongoing learning, skills training and frameworks.
- Get closer to your clients. If they are increasingly diverse and changing then you also need to be as a company and team to adapt and succeed in the future.
- Be wary of the new data driven, technology savvy start up. They can really hurt you and will be a common & increasing threat over the next few years. A sobering message delivered by Singularity University was “Your biggest competitor in 2025 will be a start up company in 2024.”
Stay nimble. Ensure you lead your organisation to change adapt and pivot to ensure it thrives in the future.
About this time every year for the last four years I have sent out a two question survey to over 200 CEO’s. These are senior leaders not only in my own network but across all of our consultants networks also. This year (as he did last year) our business partner John Spence also sent the survey through his US & global network of US based Chief Executives and business experts.
The results of this survey are a barometer of how senior business leaders are feeling & what they are facing in todays dynamic business environment. As you can imagine a huge amount of information was provided and it took some time to distil the information & to identify the patterns. Here are the results of this years survey;
Question 1: What were the three biggest leadership lessons you learnt in 2016?
- Change is constant & becoming even more so. This has increased the need to make faster decisions & to effect change faster. An interesting pattern was that some felt that resistance to change within their company can actually be due to ambiguity i.e. the lack of clarity on what needs to change which can result in people resisting the change.
- The culture of the company is a critical success factor. Many felt there was a need to act fast to preserve the culture, there was a need to have a culture of high trust between those in the team. It was important to attract & retain people who fit the culture of the company on the team. A culture of coaching & teaching team members to get better in their role was an emerging trend.
- Effective communication is critical to success. It needs to be clear & simple. Issues arising need to be confronted with urgency.
Question 2: What are the three biggest challenges you will face in 2017?
- Leading in continuing change and managing the tempo/pace of this change. Leading “culture” change as companies look to change how they do things. The challenge of proactively staying ahead of change rather than being reactive to it.
- Staying profitable whilst navigating the uncertainty created by ongoing change, global influences, political uncertainty and the impact of global markets.
- Understanding what clients really need. Understanding the opportunities in the market. The challenge of standing out as a brand and getting cut through with important marketing messages.
As you can see there are some big themes around the challenge of leading in ongoing change & the impact this has on culture and profitability. Without question the modern CEO is a change leader and this will be a continuing trend as disruption and complexity increases over the coming years.
Those leaders who are constantly up skilling themselves, keeping abreast of the emerging technology, building resilient leaders within their company will be able execute and thrive in the future. Those who fail to adapt fast enough will not do as well, if they survive at all.
You can look back on last years results (and previous years) to compare trends by clicking this link.
It has been a busy and exciting year to lead in business and there will be no shortage of challenge in 2017. I write this in Atlanta as I wait for my return flight to New Zealand having just spent some time working with clients in Florida and New York. The world is now a very complex & connected place – connected by technology, systems, relationships and markets.
The role of a leader is to lead change with certainty and we look forward to continuing to support our clients as their Strategic Execution Partners as they seek to simplify their business.
I wish you a Happy New Year.
Are you slaying dragons?
We use this video on our Executive Leadership Program. It nicely tells the story of the soft (EQ) skills that are so important as a modern business leader. In fact to move beyond transactional type management and to develop as a leader who can adapt, flex and grow a business in todays disruptive environment these are the skills to develop.
It constantly amazes me how many professional leaders don’t invest in their own ongoing professional development. Those who do achieve a major competitive, they consistently out perform competitors by having a highly engaged confident team delivering exactly what clients need. They pivot through disciplined execution to stay ahead and they are highly profitable.
They have clarity.