So far throughout my career I have been given the opportunity to take up positions involving leadership, management and as a business owner involved in people intervention.
Hopefully this has given me sufficient experience to allow me to comment on the challenges in each environment.
Obviously over time the way we lead and manage has changed immeasurably never more evident than what we are seeing and experiencing today. In probably a thirty year time period there has been unprecedented change in how we work and live, a whole range of triggers can be identified in causing this change including some economic and social factors. These include globalisation, financial crises, technology and changes in social behaviours.
Our current environment is one of extreme volatility where government and business try to interpret the mood of the population which is seemingly hostile to authority and refuses to conform to previous expected norms of behaviour. Again we can clearly identify one of the main causes being a deterioration of trust brought about through the events mentioned above.
It should not be underestimated how difficult it is for anyone in a leadership role as the sands of change rapidly shift under their feet whether it is a person in business or politics. It is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the needs and demands of today’s society. Add to this dilemma in a very short space of time (8 years when the Baby Boomers transition into retirement) we are faced with prospect of a generational change which is bringing its own unique challenges with it. I have no doubt like other such changes as history has shown we will evolve a system that works. It is not for me to crystal gaze into how this may be achieved politically but feel I would like to make a contribution to the debate regarding the future of business especially in the field of management development.
In the past decade to counteract the pressure upon business to manage change we have embarked on a strategy of promoting leadership, mostly directed at the higher levels of management with the hope this could translate into a more stable and confident workplace environment; where leaders can build stronger cultures resulting in increased motivation and engagement. This has been a reasonable assumption but the evidence of its success has been far from convincing as we experience some of the lowest employee engagement levels in our history. Put simply the intended messages are not getting through and perhaps we need to innovate through a different channel.
It should be pointed that is would be unfair to deride the efforts of many leaders who have worked tirelessly to implement this strategy some have achieved very positive results. The unfortunate reality being that the overriding sentiment held that has been perpetuated that senior leaders do not work in the best interests of employees following the serious fracture in trust levels between the parties in recent years.
Given the current state of play and the expectation we will see continued volatility in the future therefore I suggest we focus our attempts by adapting a different strategy in the development of our managers.
They are in the unique position of establishing and maintaining relationships within companies, they are the “the enablers” who normally are able to communicate the direction organisation may be taking, the can have a great effect on morale and culture. It must be said a bad managers can also be the catalyst for staff leaving, so they hold a tremendous amount of responsibility already in their hands. Managers can be the answer to new optimism if we take time to evaluate their current skills and how we can assist them to develop further.
One of the mistakes we have made in the development of managers has been placing them into leadership positions either because of length of tenure or technical competence without establishing whether they possess basic management skills required to hold that particular position.
I would propose that managers are equipped with basic tools and training to allow them to grow in what is now a very complex environment and quite a departure from how we have managed in times gone by.
Such skills as managing people today, self-awareness, resilience, how to coach, establishing a working relationship with your boss. It is essential that he or she understands their business which in Australia has gone from a local to a global platform in a relatively space of time and most certainly markets and environments will continue to change in complexity.
This basket of skills represents tools that are essentially required for managers to be effective in a modern day competitive business environment.
In terms of my commitment of wanting to “Break the Mould” I have recently remodelled my business to concentrate on management development. I am not looking for any kudos in making this decision only that from where I stand the proposal I am putting forward is our best chance of winning back the “hearts and minds” of people enabling Australian businesses to flourish into the future.