Life changes and so does leadership
Just about a year ago I relocated from the suburbs of the fourth largest city in America to the countryside. This has been a life-altering journey, filled with potholes and other unexpected happenings. It made me think about the number of life changes we go through and how we adjust, whether they are in business or personal situations.
Here is my journey.
For 20 wonderful years, I enjoyed the amenities associated with suburban life. I lived in a very nice neighborhood and was in close proximity to professional sporting and cultural events. We enjoyed excellent areas to shop in and the life associated with living close enough but not too far away from things we enjoyed. We always had dreams of a slower pace of life in the country, though. Then it happened.
My wife, who was reared in the “country”, found a place… one that would enable her to commute to her job, but be far enough away from the sometimes hustle and bustle of the ‘burbs. My vision was similar to hers, but mine, when stacked against reality, wasn’t balanced. However, we found a place in an unrestricted area just about 50 miles north of where we resided. And things changed rapidly.
Moving from a neighborhood type lot and surroundings presents a very unique set of challenges. For one, I now carry a pocketknife. Not so much for protection, but, rather, it seems one must always cut things when residing in the country. I also spend much time either blowing debris with my lawn blower or burning debris when done. I also now worry about watering things that I never had to before because I had a nice zoned sprinkler system. I wasn’t concerned about rainfall totals.
I also quickly learned the tools that fit well in the suburbs are not adequate for larger acreage. A good example of this is lawn equipment. My 20 inch-wide self-propelled mower served me very well when I lived on a smaller property but was totally inadequate (and exhausting to use) on a larger tract of land. Accordingly, I had to purchase a 42 inch zero turn riding lawn mower to accomplish a simple task such as mowing. And then there are the trees. For many years I had a 14-inch chain saw that I used at my previous home and it was perfect. Today, though, I use a larger one because sometimes I have to either cut up fallen trees or actually cut them down, something I never had to do before.
The bottom line is my life has radically changed from just one year ago. I have had to learn how to adapt to a new environment and a new way of life. This begs the question of how each of us needs to learn to adapt to a new way of doing things in the organizational world.
For example, the rapid pace of technological change has affected each of us. Fifteen years ago, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn did not exist. Now all of these are ubiquitous in our lives. If leadership discourages employees from using this technology during work hours, then it can be pretty-much-guaranteed people will find a way around these restrictions. As a result, leadership will create an unhappy environment for its employees. It’s no wonder that about 79% of employers are having problems retaining people. It’s also no surprise that Gallup keeps reporting employee engagement remains low.
Therefore, leadership needs to adapt to a new way of thinking and new ways of getting work done.
Command and control are pretty much dead but somehow live on, perhaps in a zombie sort of way. So are rigid organizational lines of authority that continue to dominate the work environment. Leadership just hasn’t gotten around to reading the memo of these major changes and corresponding impacts.
There is a tsunami about to hit our shores and we simply need to be prepared for it. If we don’t, we probably won’t be in business for too much longer. A newer generation of workers, the ones who have grown up with technology, are just about to become the majority of the workforce. The new workforce will simply not accept judgmental things such as the yearly Performance Appraisal that many of my generation grew up with. Are we prepared for these challenges? I think not.
Studies have proven leadership is too ingrained in old thinking and methods. Organizations remain too steeped in inertia to move forward. For example, neuroscience research strongly suggests Performance Appraisal is anachronistic in nature and even the best performers are negatively affected by this annual ritual.
Having said that, there are many new age techniques we can deploy to avert issues in the workplace. Isn’t it time we, as leadership, adapt to a new way of viewing things and more importantly a new way of handling things? I fully believe the workplace challenges of today and beyond can be overcome, but leadership will have to surrender some long-held beliefs that inhibit execution.
My business partner and I keep telling organizations that one cannot lead a 21st-century workforce with 20th-century techniques. We simply need to understand that things have changed then move to adapt.
Just as I have had to do.