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A few years ago, I was asked in an interview what I thought leadership would need to change in the era of digital disruption. My response explained that, in my opinion, many people are under the misconception that leadership should have all the answers. But in reality, it simply can’t. One person having all the right answers is an unrealistic expectation in business, especially when you consider the pace of change and the precision of expertise required as technology advances.
Over the next ten years, some predict that 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced by organizations that are built to excel in this era of digital disruption. As the co-founder and CEO of an employee engagement platform, I’ve found it’s critical to be able to adapt. So how can we improve our chances to survive and thrive in this new reality?
What will leadership look like in the age of cyber-physical systems?
Previous industrial revolutions sparked change in a number of ways so that companies could keep up with the pace of change. Against this historical backdrop, we can see a clear movement from organizations focusing on efficiency and productivity toward harder-to-measure skills, such as innovation.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already seen a number of disruptive technologies, including autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency and more. And with these changes came new challenges, including the need to reskill workers as their jobs become automated. Because of this, I believe automation and digitization of our world are creating a seismic shift to the cultures of the workplace.
Unfortunately, I’ve observed that many organizations are still are not built to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution because they still have a structure resembling the top-down command-and-control model. From my perspective, in order to cultivate agility and innovation, which I believe are the key ingredients to success in the age of disruption, businesses should strive to empower individuals at the team level by providing more autonomy and the right to make decisions.
To help you thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I’ve outlined four elements every leader can include in their toolkits:
1. Active Inquiry
In a climate of constant disruption, leaders can’t possibly have all the answers. Instead, engage in what I like to call “active inquiry” to help harness the wisdom of all the members of the team and from all the people within the organization. Gone are the days where this process happens once a year in the form of a 60-question survey. Active inquiry is a continuous listening process that, in and of itself, promotes engagement while helping the organization remain nimble.
You can regularly integrate active inquiry exercises into your workplace on a daily basis by asking people to drop their rigid status-checking framework and instead simply have an authentic conversation about a current project at work. Then, ask each person to reflect on their experience. How did it feel to the listeners to receive this information? How did it feel to the speaker to share it? In my experience, this exercise helps to build trust and encourages a higher level of social awareness.
When team members are constantly bombarded with information, it’s critical to establish a process that helps direct the team’s attention and focus. Change efforts can fail if alignment is not achieved, so why continue making decisions without the input of the broader group of stakeholders? I’ve observed the challenge for most leaders is how to get everyone moving in unison when the goal posts and the rules of the game are constantly changing in real time.
To help with this, I believe leaders should aim to enroll the broader community by leveraging new types of communication platforms that create bottom-up support for business objectives and strategies. The key is to provide a forum in which everyone has a voice and can exchange ideas and opinions. As a leader, effective forms of communication are also critical because they can help you efficiently distill information and commit to taking immediate action — even if the action is simply acknowledging the input.
In order to achieve business goals, everyone has to pull their weight. Transparency is a powerful tool for driving accountability. I believe accountability can no longer be defined as a 1:1 relationship. Teammates need to hold one another accountable; the team needs to hold the leader accountable; the leader needs to hold the team accountable. Once there’s shared accountability, I’ve found trust can be established, which is the basis for all high-performance cultures and organizations.
4. Authentic Dialogue
In my experience, thoughtful communication helps drive active inquiry, alignment and accountability. If communication doesn’t happen frequently and effectively, I believe you run the risk of failing. That’s why it’s essential to keep an authentic dialogue flowing in all directions at all times between leadership and employees. I’ve observed some leaders who aren’t transparent with their teams when it’s time to make decisions. But in order to become more transparent, this has to change.
Give your employees the chance to see how decisions are made and why they are necessary in the first place. In order to build more loyalty and trust in your organization, allow all members to have some visibility into decisions as they are being made and into the reasoning behind them. This can be done through regular check-ins with leaders and team members, as well as through weekly stand-up meetings and regular town halls; just be sure the meetings are run more like dialogues than monologues.
When these four elements come together, they create a powerful framework that dramatically increases an organization’s ability to execute and increase its performance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Embracing these four elements in sequence puts the organization on track to create more trust, engagement, agility and ultimately a higher performance.
April 4, 2019 at 08:22AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs