5 things the new age leaders must do to stay relevant


 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Feedback is always positive


Recently I was speaking to a leader and discussing her feedback style. She was highly self-critical as she reflected on the same. Off late, she had been getting into too many conflict situations amounting to her feedback being rejected. As we spoke, we went over a few instances and she replayed the mental video tapes of those.

While listening I noted that she used expressions like “you were rude”, “what’s wrong with you”, “you need be show more technical depth”, “you never talk on calls”, “You have been a poor role model of being punctual to meetings” etc.… to surface all that was wrong. What followed these expressions were a bunch of refutations or negations, from the other end, as the recipients expressed their vehement disagreements. Majority of these conversations weren’t leading to any constructive result and ended adding to the increasingly deteriorating team dynamics and diminishing leadership credibility woes.

Present state:

As we sat reflecting over this situation at hand, I scribbled a diagram (being the visual person I am) on the board to depict the visual depiction of the conversation.

Feedback From

The diagram showed that the information flow was between A (feedback giver) to B (recipient), with A identifying B as the issue – the overt use of the term “you” in the above statements. While from A’s Point of view, she has expressed her displeasure clearly, from B’s point of view, what’s coming is a barrage of personal attacks. And true to human psyche when there’s an attack there needs to be a defense. Thus, the refutations and negations.

Couple of things happen here:

  1. This mental model, certainly doesn’t create a safe climate of reflecting over a developmental opportunity and operates one the foundation of A trying let their steam off on B (B is the issue).
  2. Backward focused, almost with the objective of putting the blame on the table and circling around that

Proposed Future state:

As we discussed more on how we can approach it differently and make the environment safe, I made a slight change to the above diagram by adding a third circle C.

Feedbact to

The diagram shows a third circle – the Issue. So in this state both A and B stand together on one side of the table and look at the issue with the same lens. So instead of a statement like “You have been a poor role model of being punctual…” it may sound like “last 4 meetings/calls there was a delay in your joining in. How can we ensure you are there on time?”.

Couple of things happen:

  1. This mental model clearly operates on the principle of a safe environment and respect – nothing wrong with B, however there is a situation at hand which needs attention (Issue)
  2. Forward looking – putting the issue on the table and figuring out a solution to overcome the same
  3. The high respect allows both individuals to listen more, thereby resulting in a constructive confrontation

Majority of the feedback that happens, isn’t one as there isn’t anything being fed. Most of the time the “giver” ends up expressing their dissatisfaction or anger (thinking they are delivering a feedback). A slight shift in the mental model and preparing the right language that separates issue from the person, can go a long way in boosting an inspiring culture of learning, listening and being respectful.

 

What does it take to be a thought leader?


Being a “Thought Leader” is a common phrase exchanged in the Corporate environment in the modern times. Especially in the modern social ecosystem context everyone has a POV. Sometimes just having an idea or POV is perceived or misconstrued to being a thought leader in the concerned space. In the space that I work, I often tend to get invited or my opinion / POV is sought at a certain recurring regularity, and I do hear the phrase “Thought Leader” being used (sometimes too liberally), as a prefix to my name. I have struggled understanding what it really means – What it takes to be a true Thought Leader? What correlation does it have to the concept of Personal Branding? Is there an investment that one needs to make to keep the Thought Leader brand alive…..

While browsing through Glenn Llopis’s blog I got an opportunity to download an e-book on this, and it a fascinating read.

<Excerpts from the e-book, Why a Personal Employee Brand will save your career – and your workplace, by Glenn Llopis>

1. Define and Manage How Other People Experience Your Personal Brand.

Before you can become a recognized thought leader, you must define and manage how other people will experience the following four characteristics of your personal employee brand:

a)     What is your brand’s enduring idea?

b)     How will your brand best differentiate itself?

c)     What is the primary experience your brand will deliver? d. Who will your brand serve?

2. Identify the Methodology that Defines the Problems Your Personal Employee Brand Solves.

You may be knowledgeable about a particular subject matter, but have your experience and insights given you enough breadth and depth to earn the right to propose solutions to a wide array of problems in your area of expertise? As a thought leader, your personal employee brand must support a proven step-by-step methodology that defines the approach for the problems your brand solves. Your methodology must be able to show how to overcome the most challenging set of circumstances.

3. Manage Your Thought Leadership Profile.
A thought leadership profile is your management tool that keeps your personal employee brand, methodology and subject matter expertise updated, fresh and relevant. This profile should be a living document that you update on an ongoing basis. If your thought leadership profile becomes outdated, your content begins to lose its momentum and your community will lose interest. Your thought leadership profile is the tool that helps you start relevant, timely and sought-after conversations with your community.
The following are the primary elements to include in your thought leadership profile:

  • Subject matter expertise/specialization
  • Problems that my thought leadership solves
  • My methodology
  • Target audience
  • Industry pain points
  • Industry opportunities/ROI outcomes
  • What my audience needs to hear
  • Targeted media outreach
  • Conversations and topic ideas for articles, blogs, tweets and video blogs.

4. Write it Down! ShareYour Ideas and Experiences.

Seasoned thought leaders know that writing and sharing of experiences is a natural extension of their leadership role and responsibility. Convert concepts into practical applications that support your methodology. Be innovative in your thinking, yet simple in your writing style. Don’t limit your audience.
Be provocative, yet objective. Your responsibility is to start a conversation and propel a dialogue that will continue inside and beyond your community of readers.

Your writings should consist of blogs (250-600 words), articles (1200- 1400 words), white papers and case studies (2500-3500 words).

In your thought leadership profile, prepare a list of topics of conversation that you would like to share with your audience. Create a list of useful resources to support your writings. Demonstrate that you can articulate complex issues in terms that a broad audience can understand and apply. Show your audience that you care about the problems that it is trying to solve. Assemble a “knowledge vault” of materials that support your writings to further demonstrate your commitment to solve your audiences’ problems.

Finally, allow your community to connect with you personally in your writings. Share personal stories that support your content themes. People want to connect with your voice in ways they can relate to personally. Sharing your personal identity (within reason) allows for a more purposeful and meaningful relationship to blossom.

5. Speak and Speak Some More.

Writing is your starting point to speaking and articulating your thought leadership ideas and ideals. Identify trade shows and conferences that customers and industry influencers are attending and participate on panels or lead workshops. Find out about the local associations that host speaking events and offer to give a keynote or sit on a discussion panel.

Your ability to remain active as a speaker is critical to becoming a sustainable thought leader.

When speaking, focus on providing useful information. No one wants to listen to you pitching your product. You are there to inform and educate, to provide a unique perspective. Again, it must support your methodology and you must manage the experience you want others to have of your personal employee brand.

6. Create a Blog and Activate Your Social Media Tools.

Create your own blog and activate your favorite social media tools (ie. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) to make it easy for your community/audience to follow your writings, upcoming speaking engagements, trade interviews, media appearances,

etc. As a selected voice that represents your organization, your blog and social media tools must be a prominent and visually appealing outlet that supports an interactive exchange of knowledge and ideas with your community.

Your thought leadership blog and social media presence increases in value the more people know about it and link to it. The more social media ready you are, the more visitors you will have and you will multiply the reach for your content. Your blog should feature all of your content to include:

  • Articles/blogs
  • Video blogs
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • eBooks
  • Media interviews
  • Access to your social media tools.

7. Share Your Secrets and Build Trust with Your Community.

Make it simple for people to access your content. In the end, thought leadership is about building a trustworthy relationship with your community. You begin to lose that trust once you appear to be holding something back. No secrets allowed!

Though your community may not always be responding (in the form of commentary), they are reading and listening to your words carefully. Your content (regardless of format) is generating a two-way communication stream of thought, ideas and trust.

As you provide more content, they begin to expect certain things from you as they experience your personal employee brand. Don’t disappoint them. Share freely and encourage them to respond and provide feedback.

Empower your community through crowdsourcing. Share your voice and allow them to share theirs. You want as many people to know about you as possible. Create a reputation for being transparent and open. Share the harvest of your knowledge and be generous with your subject matter expertise. If not, the market will favor someone else who is.

8. Cultivate Relationships with the Media.

Don’t leave it solely to your PR agency. As a thought leader, you should have a list of 15 writers and editors who regularly report on your industry market. Journalists are very busy people, always on a deadline. So, when you call you need to give them something that they can use to make their life better and easier – a lead, a story, some insight, a quote, customers to whom they can talk for quotes.

Points 1 – 7 will help you earn respect and the opportunity to be covered by the media. Remember that the media’s job is to find relevant content that will appeal to their audience. The more relevant and time-sensitive your voice is, the faster you will be discovered and the media will find you. If you deliver when called upon, they will continue asking for more.

Don’t wait for the media to find you. You must be proactive in building relationships with the media. Research media outlets and key contacts that would benefit from your subject matter expertise. You can always hire a PR agency, but when getting started it’s best to get your hands dirty and learn how the media really works yourself.

9. Control Your Google Identity and Relevancy.

In today’s business world, people initially experience your personal brand identity and its relevancy as defined by Google. When you Google a person’s name you immediately create an impression of that person based on what you read
and its context.

So who is controlling your Google identity and relevancy? Is it Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Twitter? Or, is it your blog and its articles, video blogs, white papers and all of your original content that supports your methodology and what defines the experience of your personal brand?

As a thought leader, you must become best friends with Google. You must be accountable to manage how Google positions your personal employee brand and subject matter expertise. This inherent responsibility is important not only for your own personal benefit, but more so for your community.

How do you control your Google identity and relevancy? Follow points 1 – 8!

10. Make a Commitment to Thought Leadership!

The sharing of ideas and insights do not require your organization to have market share dominance or millions of dollars. In today’s new normal, content is a commodity and readily available. Thought leadership is a difference maker. Your generosity and transparency can help you outsell your competitor. It can lead to higher margins. In a world in search of trust, it’s all about people and your thought leadership will expand the breadth and depth of who you are as a person and how others interact with you.

We are transitioning from a knowledge-based economy to a wisdom-based economy. It’s no longer just about what you know, but what you do with what you know. It’s about trust, transparency, opening up your heart and leading with kindness.

Thought leadership is another form of corporate social responsibility. It’s about leaving a legacy and earning the respect of your community.