At some point, you hear someone say: it’s impossible. You may hear it from a colleague, a friend, or yourself. Every day, we are presented with opportunities to live ordinary or choose to create something extraordinary.
Often, we want to create the extraordinary, but don’t realize we’re influenced from the past. For generations, many workers were influenced by the Industrial Revolution. The factory system brought large concentrations of workers and materials together, surfacing the challenges of organizing and controlling work.
Leaders focused on controlling the way workers do their jobs, and expected workers to follow their instructions. They set up their systems with Industrial Age assumptions requiring employees to “fit in” and “follow the chain of command.” People were incentivized with healthy fringe benefits and bought into a mindset of “jobs for life,” where they worked for one company their entire career, which has now come to an end.
The Industrial Age cultures stressed uniformity, sameness, and stability that infused the workforce mindset. This mindset led to extensive benefit programs and other incentives to keep employees working in the same workplace. It built legacy costs that crippled industries in a rapidly changing world.
The automotive industry evolved into big complex infrastructures employing and influencing generations of dependents. Mom and Pop entrepreneurs competed for talent with the growth of big box stores often squeezing out the small businesses.
The Digital Age brought new careers, new ideas, and new ways to lead. While leadership was shifting to more self-directed teams, mindsets that you needed to go to the office every day were left over from a bygone era; that is, until the pandemic.
The pandemic influenced how work got done. Companies are replacing a hierarchy of authority with a broad network of extraordinary leaders. Companies that thrive will take active steps to build a necessary network of competent leaders throughout the organizations and not necessarily earmark leadership development for only those with a certain title.
If organizations of all sizes do not continue to develop a network of leaders, you will see employees leave to pursue other organizations who do focus on investing in them or they will leave to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. For the last several years, working remote opened up their schedules to activate their entrepreneurial ideas.
The pandemic continues to mark a turning point in society. The skill of the extraordinary leader will be to learn proactively, unlearn rapidly, and relearn newly.
The post-pandemic workforce wants more flexibility, choices, and personal control. Leaders need to continuously change their own mindsets making sure they’re transforming their infrastructures and the people running it.
Time to Rethink
I invite you to rethink what the future looks like, not by repeating the past, but transforming leadership, organizational structures, company cultures, and how work gets done. Consider this:
• Prepare for the Future.
Notice how current events are shaping the future workforce, examine your outdated assumption systems, and adopt new mindsets. Encourage your team to invest in their personal development so they surface generations of outdated assumptions and beliefs about the workplace.
As an employer, provide a culture where personal development is encouraged, cultivated, and proactively invested in rather than looked at as a “something is wrong” or the person “needs to be fixed.”
Create career paths outside of the organization, keeping in touch with the former employee through online networks, and inviting them to return when they have acquired other experiences. This is especially helpful for family-owned businesses where the owner’s children are best served to get experience outside of the family business.
• Rethink the Workplace Model.
Traditional bricks-and-mortar headquarters resulted in high overhead costs and commuting gave rise to daily stresses and energy consumption. Recruitment of talent to these headquarters brought with it large moving expenses and heavy fringe benefit incentives.
With web-based access, employers can expand their talent pool, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Build in face-to-face collaboration by developing relationships with coworking spaces or offer coworking as a fringe benefit option when working from home isn’t possible.
• Expand Diversity.
Uniformity, assimilation, and stability were motivators of the past. Technology exposed the workforce to other cultures and ethnicities. It broadened the definition of diversity beyond people and cultures to diversity of business lines, revenue streams and employment choices. The workforce of the future wants to work with variety and choices in mind and will expand the definition of diversity further and their employment history will reflect it.
• Focus on Agility.
Leaders will see a more collaborative role and develop workplaces that provide employees growth options rather than outdated layers of management, unnecessary redundancy and complicated infrastructures.
This is the time for radically new mindset changes for rapidly changing times. Everyone needs to be invested in becoming personally-developed leaders so that they create thriving company cultures. No matter one’s role, everyone needs to be invested in developing themselves so they see new possibilities for the future but not possibilities developed from the past. The future of an extraordinary world depends on it.