In 2017, there will be a total solar eclipse, Elvis Presley’s Career Museum will open and more leaders will ask their employees to help them map out the future strategy and success of their companies.
That last prediction comes from Elise Olding, a research vice president with Gartner, Inc. who specializes in organizational and cultural change, and who is speaking at the Gartner Application Strategies and Solutions Summit this week.
“The old leadership style used to be that leaders went off and created a strategy and then came back and told people what it would be,” she says. “The new leadership style is more like a 100K bike race. They tell people that we’re all going on this journey together. Even if you’re not a bike rider, the leaders are letting people know they’re going to take care of them. There will be rest stops and food and water along the way. They’ll pick them up if they need to.”
As organizations look for new ideas and strategies to keep them competitive, “it’s all about leadership changing from ‘I’m telling you’ to ‘let’s all figure out how we can get there together,’” she says.
Olding also believes that as part of this shift, more organizations are going to look for ways to delve into the talents that individual workers possess instead of trying to force them into cookie-cutter molds.
She cites the writing by Francesca Gino, the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Specifically, Gino says her research shows that in a survey of 2,000 employees across a wide range of industries, almost half the respondents say they work in organizations that make them feel the need to conform and not question the status quo.
“Few leaders actively encourage deviant behavior in their employees; most go to great lengths to get rid of it. Yet nonconformity promotes innovation, improves performance, and can enhance a person’s standing more than conformity can,” Gino says.
Olding says that she sees more organizations trying to understand their natural biases, such as hiring people who “think like us,” or hiring diverse people but then “killing their innovation by killing their ideas.”
“You bring people in with different ideas, and then what do you tell them? ‘Oh, I give you six months and you’ll be thinking like the rest of us,’” Olding says. “Are you making them fit in or are you nurturing their ideas?”
In the “Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion,” authors John Hagel III and John Seely Brown note that companies are no longer places “that exist to drive down costs by getting increasingly bigger.”
“They’re places that support and organize talented individuals to get better faster by working with others. The rationale of the firm shifts from scalable efficiency to scalable learning—the ability to improve performance more rapidly and learn faster by effectively integrating more and more participants distributed across traditional institutional boundaries,” they write.
Olding says that leaders tend to run companies the way they’ve always been run, or “on folklore.” But if they’d tap into the thinking by people like Hagel and Brown, they’d understand that they can no longer do things “just because they were done that way in the past,” she says.
Further, more organizations could benefit from the Silicon Valley practices that don’t waste time looking to blame someone when something goes wrong, but instead focus on moving forward. “Too many employees are afraid to take a risk because they think they will lose their job if they screw up,” Olding says. “Instead, figure out what you learned from it and figure out your next step.”
Organizations will see better results, she says, by recognizing that every employee is a high potential, even if that employee may have made a mistake in the past.
“Instead of picking the same go-to person when you need to get something done, go to your fourth person on the list,” she suggests. “You may be amazed at what that person can do when given the chance. But if you keep picking the same people over and over, then someone who is not chosen may start to say, ‘Oh, so-and-so is better.’ That then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Olding says leaders can further tap into the potential of individuals in 2017 by empowering them to take immediate action to develop better solutions or solve problems without having to run their ideas through multiple layers of the organization.
“There is no way that a plant manager, for example, can know the nuance of everyone’s job in that plant,” she says, and the person doing the job may be best suited to come up with the most innovative solution or new idea.
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“We’ve never lived in this kind of environment before with this level of uncertainty,” she says. “We need everybody’s ideas.”
Meet with QuickBase in Las Vegas
QuickBase will be exhibiting at the Gartner Application Strategies and Solutions Summit December 6-7 in Las Vegas. Stop by booth #211 at the Solution Showcase to see a demo of QuickBase and learn how it has improved the productivity of thousands of teams. Miss us? Request a demo.