The present day workplace is changing at a rapid pace. The traditional set up of a few years back that comprised of a set of organized and structured physical work area routines along with the well laid out organization interaction and process norms, have become archaic. In some cases, even ceased to exist.
In its place, is rapidly emerging a workplace structure that is everything but structure. With bombardment of information and ideas from all directions, an external marketplace that is evolving at an unthinkable pace and most importantly a workforce that is energized with chaos and clutter, the key values that are revered today are agility, nimbleness, adaptability, multi-dimensional etc.
How does Leadership operate in these times? After all many leaders (at least majority), belong to an structured era of the past – that was structured, organized, hierarchical, orderly and are desperately trying to cope up with the new era. How do they stay relevant?
As I think of it more & more, I figure there are these 5 must do’s (IMHO), that leaders can do, for starters:
- Not judge the new era from a distance. Dive in. Seek help and internalize: The way of this new era is that of being continuously alive to multiple dimensions at any point of time. The millennials (the key players of this era) like more energy, conversations, ideas, collaborative environment, doing more. When all of this happen at the same time, it may look immensely disorganized and disoriented to leaders (or anyone who likes a bit of planning and order). While the urge to bring in a more organized way of doing things would be high, the advisable approach would be to learn the new way. Understand how the new flock do things. Roll up their sleeves and participate in conversations (as much as possible). Listen and observe intently to figure out what’s going on. Appoint mentors from the new generation to help decipher their thinking and ideologies.
- Embrace Technology: This is oxygen. The world is driven by technology (Devices, apps etc.). More and more technology seeping in at an unthinkable pace into our workplace to make our lives more connected, collaborative and portable. Apathy for technology will only affect one’s personal brand adversely, as that will carry the risk of the leader being perceived as a derailer or roadblock to the Future of the Workplace. With the world moving towards the cloud & mobility, it’s imperative for leaders to be proactive in understanding and learning how their worlds will change. While being tech savvy wasn’t a “must have” till some years back, it is so now.
- Being Social: Let’s face it. Social ecosystem is here to stay. While it was just another place to showcase oneself till sometime back, now it’s the space to create global communities to accelerate learning, business, collective intelligence and collaborative thinking. For today’s workforce, it as mandatory to be on top of what’s happening around the word in their domain, real time. These ideas and information, seamlessly flow into conversations and aid the collective intelligence Leaders who aren’t aligned to this world, find it (or may find it), difficult (and intimidating, at times) to comprehend the energy and context. On the contrary, a more socially active leader, has the advantage of not only being aligned to this world, but also being a proponent to the new age thinking. It does create an inspired climate.
- Being patient and tolerant: In my experience, I find a lot of leaders being restless trying to cope with the pace, the multi-dimensional thinking, the seemingly disorganized way of operations, the constant buzz of conversations, the seemingly lack of focus and deep thinking moments. It is and will be challenging. It’s a transformation – more of an adaptive one, where leaders have to almost discard their existing core and build another one. While the primary accountability of the leadership still remains the same – making critical strategic decisions, the environment surrounding it has changed. It will require a lot of patience and tolerance, to adapt to this changed world that may not align to one’s personal beliefs. For example: Simple transformative instances of adjusting to modern open and flexible workplaces, or getting used to people doing multiple things during meetings over multiple devices (responding to mails, tweeting, etc.), or warming up to meeting conversations with a flurry of energetic and fast paced ideas being thrown,… can be demanding for leaders who are used to having an agenda and an organized routine to their meetings. Instead of thrusting order, the key will be to embrace the chaos – with patience and tolerance.
- Ask & Listen: This is an era of conversations. Leaders need to be conversation creators, providing opportunities for the energetic minds buzzing with ideas to constantly express their thoughts. This isn’t a generation that will warm up to the “one-way tell and direct” style. This is an era where hacking is the way to do things – pose a question, let the minds around storm and hack a solution. A leader’s role is to Ask the most relevant and pertinent question (or pose the most burning problem), and allow the system to work on it. It will be critical for the leaders to push themselves into suspending their POV’s and ideas, and patiently listen to the multitudes of thoughts and solutions. It will be critical to divorce the “it doesn’t work that way” mindset. This will be the single biggest trait of a leader that can energize, inspire and galvanize a modern organization to do unthinkable stuff.
The modern day workplace or as T.A.McCann, founder of gist.com puts it in this short video, the Future of the Workplace is a fascinating evolving landscape. Concepts like multiple jobs across a working lifetime, having fun @ work, work life balance no longer there, retirement would no longer exist, do your best effort at all times, connecting and reaching out to others who share a common passion on a particular topic / goal with you, learning as a key driver of working together effectively, etc. etc. would be helping redefine how we view AND live our workplace(s). And all of that thanks to the emergence of culture, tools and technologies within the enterprise and beyond!
Leaders must be at the forefront to enable this change. As McCann puts it – the future of work is Learning and doing something for someone else and not for oneself alone. Onus lies with the leaders to role model that. Cheers!