Leadership in 2017: The end of corporate leadership and the Machiavelli matrix.

The changing dynamics of how and where we work, are changing what people need in a leader.  Leaders used to inspire, inform and create an atmosphere. Do they do so now, and do you even need them to?

At some point as you go through your career, you have to make a decision about what type of a worker and what type of a leader you are going to be. The learning process is to understand more about people and different cultures, and to work out how you get the best out of those people. There are a million books and random motivational messages to support you in the process but that is all nonsense unless you can apply what they say.

As Machiavelli said you can choose to be ‘loved’, collaborative and engaging or ‘feared’ directive and imposing. Everyone ends up on that spectrum but if you are at the extreme, you won’t be effective or happy. I.e. everyone takes advantage of you or everyone hates you. (see any leadership textbook anywhere for 500 pages on variants of this).

This has not generally changed but the context around it has. To summarise the change; consider a view of distance to people. Not just emotional but physical. You can be close to your team sat in the trenches under fire from the enemy (insane client requests and visiting leadership) or you can be sat behind the lines sending instructions from headquarters.

Machiavelli matrix

Line yourself up against the model being honest about who you are and what you enjoy the most.

Me, I love being in trenches close to the people and applying the iron fist in the velvet glove approach. It’s all smiles and laughs until a line is breached and then it is fire and brimstone (not for long, then it’s back to the laughs). I’ve trained myself over the years to adapt my approach and my mindset to be good at doing that and I’m pretty happy with where I am.

Big, massive however…….

If you look at where things are going at corporates. The fundamental dynamics of people working together are changing which means that the role of leaders I think is changing too.

Change from experience to efficiency – most if not all corporates are moving towards some type of activity based working with the addition of collaborative spaces. In addition, there are multitude of articles and surveys showing the changing preference towards working from home.

The foundation for all of this is built around people becoming more efficient, better use of space, and more effective allocation of resource.  To me, this goes against a core principle that I have worked to, namely you want to enjoy yourself at work. It’s not a question of the time spent but a value judgement about what you can create in the team. I’ve got more value in the osmosis from being next to people than I ever would have getting my work done an hour earlier and going home. The 30 minute coffee discussions, the Wednesday afternoon cake competitions, the side conversations have all contributed to knowing people better,

I grew up in consulting where you would often work away from home; breakfast in the hotel, you would leave as a group in taxis to go to the office, you would leave as group and commonly all go for dinner. It was a 14 hr a day engagement with the same group of people. I probably worked for 7 of those hours but I learned more in the other 7.

The role of a leader in that context was to create an atmosphere over the whole day where everyone could contribute to more than just the work. Think about graduates in particular, if you only see them in the course of their work during the day, you miss the opportunity to see their richness of knowledge and way of thinking in other ways. I know more about the people I worked with 10 years ago than I do about the ones I did last year.

Ask yourself now in the workplace in 2017 why so many people have large noise cancelling headphones? How much time do your leaders spend engaging you outside of core working? This is a skill and an environment which is disappearing. I can completely understand the opposing argument but we haven’t replaced that old fashioned approach which an equivalent and so the skills are becoming redundant.

Information and insight – it is the same for the tools and methods which enable collaborative working. The potential is huge to improve engagement and alignment in co-production of documents or in the sharing of information.  However, the increase in volume in information does not always equate to equivalent quality and value. Look even at Linkedin and consider how much original content you see produced vs content shared. I know a huge range of people who I’ve never seen write a single thing themselves. Spend a week reading and liking only an article that was written by the poster and see how you behaviour changes.

Sharing a link to the Harvard Business Review with no comment or insight is not entirely valuable. Should I get any credit for knowing something because I’ve shared it. This is translated into corporates too. Leaders now with access to a huge range of material don’t have to produce anything or promote their own thought leadership. Even more than this, because everyone has access to all of the information, younger people no longer are turning to leaders to see what they think in the same way.

Consider, when was the last time you were asked by a junior person what you thought about something or when was the last time you shared something that you did yourself to a colleague?

Inspiration –   a role of a leader was always to inspire the people that worked for them. It was a ethos that anyone would be happy with what they were doing if they felt inspired by the leadership. There’s a great but possibly apocryphal story of someone asking a janitor in 1967 what their job was with the response being ‘I’m putting a man on the moon’. The role to inspire was essential to building that connection with the organisation.

Now with twitter and LinkedIn etc . you can connect with very important global leaders and experts. You can listen to Richard Branson’s thought of the day or assess Justin Trudeau’s utterings on foreign trade. A bit closer to home, you can see the CEO of your own companies account, what she thinks, is reading or is listening to. Younger people in particular therefore, don’t need the inspiration as much from the lower tiers of management because they think they’ve got what they need elsewhere. I don’t need to know what Keith Logan thinks about AI because I can read what Mark Zuckerberg thinks all, of, the, time.

Ask the junior people in your organisation who their business role model is. 10 years ago who would have been given a name in your organisation. Now, it’s likely to be a global CEO or a superstar TEDx er.

So then, the fundamentals for how we work have changed and we are perhaps becoming a industry of managers. So, have a think about your own organisation and look at your leaders. What is being valued and rewarded higher up and even more importantly, think about what’s important to you in a leader and think about the leader you want to be?

 

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

Harry Potter and the Organisation Design of Destiny; we are increasingly segmenting customers by behaviour but why not your own people? What you need is a sorting hat.

Consultants are now designers, designers are now consultants, an operating model is now a service design, are you a technologist or a CX delivery consultant? It’s all getting wonderfully mixed up so maybe it’s time to recognise that putting people in teams based on what they do might be yesterday’s thing. What would they do at Hogwarts?

Once you’ve been discovered as a wizard (HR recruitment process) and you’ve bought your wand (your area of SME), you arrive at Hogwarts (induction week). The first thing that happens is that you are allocated into your House (service line). Hogwarts has the benefit of a mystical Sorting Hat who allocates you based on what’s in your heart.  It’s nothing about how much you know and even what you know, it’s about who you are.  How about a corporate equivalent?

harry potter

Imagine a scenario; everyone you work with leaves the company tomorrow and goes to a new one. Do you choose to stay with the company or do you go with your colleagues? It takes an incredibly strong brand or corporate culture or level of success to ensure that you stay. Much more likely is that you would choose to go with your colleagues. People power is absolute in maintaining the culture, the performance and ultimately to get the best out of the individuals.

So pick your heads of house; if you don’t have a blend of leadership personalities and approaches then you have bigger problems so assuming that you do. Select people to be the marquee personality types to align people with. They don’t have to be the smartest or most successful but they don’t need to be, they need to be people you can look up to and see yourself in them. Maybe a Slytherin type; all confidence, cunning and black magic or a Ravenclaw type; thoughtful, intelligent and balanced.

You then allocate people based on suitability with these people; personality types, approaches, ideas and connections.

You all still go to classes together; as with the pupils at Hogwarts, you still go the same classes with each other. Your knowledge is separated from the House you are in. There are experts in Potions in every house who end up together, but they go back to their common rooms to get support and build their personality.

The work you do and the projects you are in can be kept away to your house and managed in a more procedural numbers driven way. When skills are becoming increasingly connected, it’s already a challenge to distinguish teams and the structures are becoming increasingly arbitrary anyway.

Create a house competition; it’s human nature that you are not going to like everyone in your organisation (there will also be people who don’t like you). Rather than try to fix the unfixable, embrace the competition between different teams. Gamification often hits a wall when it’s kept in a small group of people or where it’s not visible enough. Perhaps the Slytherin team needs a strong individual competitive environment with league tables etc whilst the Hufflepuff gang would hate that. Perhaps they would prefer collective incentives. To give you an example; ask yourself, would you rather have a competition in your team where everyone gets a $1000 bar tab if your team hits a target or the top two performers get a $1000 Michelin star 12 course degustation menu?

You can build the right incentives for individuals within the teams because people are fundamentally driven by different things.

Sounds magic right but it’ll never work

It’s already happening, have a think about the current graduate recruitment process where experience and content is loosest. There are lots of conversations about bringing together grads into a single group or having them rotate. Even the process tends to pick the grads first and then you allocate them into teams. This is a very small step from Hogwarts.

How about performance reviews, we are always trying to connect qualitative and quantitative measures. Why not separate them completely? You get you exam marks from your classes (quant) and you get a report from your house master (qual) and the overall success of the business is measured by the house competitions (your numbers).

Disruption is everywhere for clients but we’ve not necessarily changed enough about how we structure ourselves to deliver that disruption. Tacking on a design bit, blending tech teams with non tech, carving out bits and pieces. Why not something new?

www.thecorporatefuturist.com

PS As regards enabling services, I am wary of making to suggestion but how about ‘house elves’. Effective, efficient, loyal and actually much more magically proficient than most of the wizards and witches. Comments about remuneration are also worthy of discussion………

The avocado munching, living with the parents, future makers: a new approach to graduate

‎There is a now famous line in Australia where the suggestion was made that the real reason young people can’t afford to buy a house is because they spend all of their money eating smashed avocado for brunch ($20) when they should be saving for a deposit (Sydney median house price about $1,000,000). Everyone had a good laugh at this but it is reflective of a new type of corporate graduate; the live at home, no risk, avocado munchers.

‎Alongside the house price growth, we have created a world which is more short term, more connected to opportunities and with increased expectations of what is possible for people in their twenties. When I joined a consulting firm in 2004, the was still a typical trajectory to follow; start at the bottom, compete heavily to learn, save enough for a deposit on a house, marriage/kids, pressure to maintain mortgage e.g. need to stay with consulting firm at higher wage point. I’ve been lucky to have worked with a lot of graduates over the years and there is a definitive trend (certainly in Australia) where they increasingly live at home, they are given opportunities to move employers earlier (and not just the high flyers) and they see their learning pathways not just in terms of their employer but as a wider system of opportunity.

‎Essentially, a graduate of 23 no longer sees risk in the same way as we did even 10 years ago. If the chance arises to do something fascinating outside of the corporate world, to set-up a business selling socks or move fields completely I believe they are much more likely to do so now than ever before. Contrast this with the core corporate ethos for graduates namely; graduates are a cost, VP’s and directors are a cost, the objective is to invest in graduates to get them to Senior Analyst/Consultant or Manager grades where they make the real money and add the most value.

‎This approach no longer matches up so I’m calling for a new approach to managing grads in the corporate world

‎1) Holistic rewards – we typically see rewards as money and then benefits as a cheap film tickets and vouchers for the supermarket. For graduates, what we typically don’t appreciate if that they’ve come from a word where they’d paid lots of money to learn (University). When they come into a graduate position, the dynamic shifts completely. Rather than see salary as $100, why not see it as 100 units where units can be exchanged for external learning, trips to labs in San Francisco, exchange programs, increased holiday. If we change the dynamic away from a purely financial transaction, we will be able to better fulfil graduate’s expectations of value. Put simply, if you are living at home with no chance of getting house, your salary is probably not the major driving force in your life right now.

‎2) Long term incentives – corporates are terrible at thinking in medium to long-term for resources. I can usually tell within a couple of months whether a graduate is going to be great, average or mediocre. For the ones that we think are going to great, why don’t we try and lock them into NBA style long term contracts. We are going to give you a $100k in cash right now, your 2018 H2 is planned to be in our offices in New York, Singapore or London, in 2020, you will have this salary and this job title if you meet the following objectives. We should be applying a total cost of ownership calculation to our grads over 5 years and invest accordingly.

‎3) The Avocado Café Start-up mentality – every graduate knows of 10 people their age who are billionaires and 10 people they’ve heard of working in start-ups in Melbourne or design agencies in London. Almost all of them are convinced they would be just as successful if given the opportunity and a number of them try. They should be celebrated for this mentality but they should be channelled into making that a success for the business. We should be putting some skin in the game in allowing the graduates to try. Why not create a real commercial venture within the corporate and put the grads in charge with equity and profit share. An increasing number of grads join with ‘entrepreneur/euse’ written on their CV and they either immediately give it up or run it on the side which is then the thing they’d rather be doing. They could be running the Avocado Café outside your office

‎We are operating in a world where expectation and potential is a quantum jump away from what it used to be. It’s time maybe to think a bit smarter .

‎www.thecorporatefuturist.com