Driving the Future of Business Leadership and Management

To remain relevant as leaders and managers, we need to challenge the holy grails, debunk myths and invent new practices better suited for the 21st century. We need to move beyond past paradigms and create new, future oriented paradigms and ways of leading. We know that communities, economies, humanity, technology and business have massively evolved since the industrial revolution, but our management and organisational leadership training, education and practices, in general, have not.

Nothing could highlight this more than the latest Gallup poll on staff engagement. The 2017 Gallup poll measured staff engagement at around 13% globallyInterestingly, the statistics on engagement are at an all time low, while the investment in ‘staff engagement’ initiatives are at an all time high. This means that things like things like free food, employee of the month, employee appreciation day, casual Friday and bring your dog to work day are only going so far. We would prefer to think staff engagement is something that can be solved by HR alone, but it can’t.

Clearly we need to rethink what it means to manage staff – but where do we start?

We can start by noting down the things we know in our heart of hearts that are broken.

For example, we know that it is no longer acceptable to say “ it’s not personal, it’s just business”. It is no longer OK to treat staff as ‘assets’. It is no longer sufficient to undertake ‘performance management’ as a soulless six monthly or annual process. 

We can then note down the things we know that are changing . For example, we know that every day humans go to work and bring with them a set of ‘human needs’. We know that these needs have clearly evolved since the industrial era. We know that more and more staff want to feel engaged, connected, proud of the work being carried out by their organisations.

We know staff are not seeking work-life balance, they are seeking work-life integration. They don’t just want a job, they want a life.

Today, it is not just about the money (although money still matters), it’s about passion, meaning, purpose, satisfaction and happiness.

We don’t need research to tell us staff are looking to work with companies that are doing good in the world and that they want to work with managers and leaders that have integrity, a vision and know how to mentor, coach and manage.

As managers and leaders, we should be asking ourselves, how can we facilitate this new level of connection at work? How can we re-imagine and evolve organisational leadership and management so that we maximise the energy, alignment and ultimately engagement of individuals, and also deliver on our business imperatives and achieve outcomes that matter to the business, the community, the individuals.

This does not mean we should abandon our innovative and fun engagement initiatives, but it does mean that these will never be enough to elevate engagement sustainably.

It is time to move onto a more daunting challenge. Possibly the biggest change management project of the century – innovating, evolving and ultimately changing how we manage and lead organisations.

As with all major change projects it is good to start by looking at the ‘current’ state and desired ‘future’ stated. So in this case I believe that creating an environment that fosters work/life integration is one key aspect of desired future state for organisational leadership and management. Why do I believe that?

For me, the concept of work/life balance pits work and life against each other. Work/life balance becomes nothing more than tug-of-war of time and energy, an ongoing struggle. Inevitably, the ‘job’ becomes our identify, and eventually we realise we have lost touch with the things that bring real meaning and joy to our life. We start losing interest in our job, we detach, eventually resign and find a new job. This time we are determined to ‘get the balance right’ only to find we are back on the ‘roundabout’.

Even worse, we stay in the job which is now devoid of connection and engagement and we become nothing more than functioning robots and energy vampires.

Work/life integration is about consciously seeking to align who we are, our vision for ourselves, what we love, what we need/want and what we are good at, with what we do. It aims to create more meaning, engagement, energy, fun and sustainability at work and in our personal lives.

The odd thing is, this is not new, this is the basis of all personal development and spiritual practices through-out history. The more we evolve as humans, the more we seek greater levels of alignment driven from our personal values, beliefs, strengths, gifts, talents and vision for ourselves, our lives and our communities. Today. these concepts no longer simply apply for the enlightened few or the purpose driven entrepreneur, there is a ground swell that will soon see this as the driving force of employees globally.

So as managers and leaders it is up to us to find ways to bring this inevitable evolution into business – sustainably. This one concept can pose so many questions such as .. How, as managers, can we direct our careers and the careers of others to create the most fulfilling life possible and the best businesses outcomes possible? What does this mean to how we make business decisions as managers? How we make money? How much money we make? How we recruit? How we remunerate and compensate employees? How does management/ leadership change with a backdrop of work/life integration? What does it mean to performance management? What do we value? Do we worship employees and managers who do ridiculously long hours? How can we get more done in less time and have fun while we do it? How can we drive outcome achievement without burn out? What does this mean to the future of child care in the work place? Pet care? And the list goes on.

This is just one fascinating aspect to explore in relation to 21C organisational leadership. One that for me, during 2018, has lead to fabulous intelligent and enlightening conversations and presentations, one that has lead to new concepts and models coming to the fore.

I look forward to exploring these questions and more in 2019, and sharing some of the evolved concepts that have been developed during 2018.

As a final word for 2018, thank you to all the wonderful teams I have worked with this year. I love working with management and leadership teams that genuinely want to evolve what they do and how they do it – whilst not letting go of the need to achieve business outcomes. I look forward to 2019 being another quantum leap in management and leadership .. after all, it is what the world needs now.

So as we go into 2019, don’t underestimate the power of business management and leadership in changing the world. One manager, one leader at a time.

I believe the biggest impact we can make on the world today, is how we run businesses, large and small.” Gabby Button

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