It’s been a crazy year. Bank implosions, wars, Adam Lambert not winning American Idol… craziness I tell you! It has also been a crazy year for leaders. Leading organizations through a turbulent economy has been a Herculean effort.
Fortunately for me, I sit in a position where I can watch leadership trends unfold across the many industries and companies we work with here at thoughtLEADERS. We’re blessed to have the opportunity to train some of the brightest client organizations out there.
This year, we’ve seen four major trends take center stage. If you’ve missed them, you’re missing huge opportunities to improve your organization. As a leader, you need every edge you can get so I encourage you to explore these trends and figure out how you can take advantage of them. So in no particular order, here are trends you can’t miss as a leader:
Trend #1: Social Media and Expanded Use of teh Interwebz
Yes, I’m pandering by writing about this. Just saying the words “social media” guarantees your article will be forwarded and retweeted across the blogosphere. Try it – click the little “tweet” button at the top of this post ;). It’s nauseating to see how explosive this space has been and the plethora of “experts” it has produced. Many of those so-called-experts are charlatans and you need to tread cautiously in this space.
That said, social media’s explosivity is a major trend leaders must appreciate. Your teams are using these tools (twitter, facebook, blogs – if you haven’t heard of these you need to check them out). They read blogs like this one (unless your IT organization is SO paranoid that it blocks any form of streaming media including blogs – and yes, I know several that do). Your competitors are using it too (some better than others).
Figure it out. Understand the medium. Know how to play and how to manage it. You need policies on it. The best policy I’ve heard so far was a one liner: “Don’t do anything stupid.” You can’t regulate this stuff to death. Embrace it.
Use social media for recruiting, business development, and market research. My firm has benefited greatly from embracing it (new customers, partners, and insights). If you’re not fully aboard the social media train, buy a ticket. And yes, I deliberately misspelled “teh Interwebz” above – if you spent more time online you’d know it’s a web-funny that all the hip kids are saying these days.
Trend #2: Innovation Caused by the “More With Less” Dynamic
I sat in a meeting the other day where a very senior leader was lamenting his charter to do more with less. Two sentences later he said the current challenging times were requiring him to innovate more but he didn’t have the money to innovate. Wow. I was speechless. Hello! McFly! Ever heard the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention?” PLATO said that back around 340 BC!
Technology and connectedness afford us unbelievable opportunities to innovate at ever-decreasing costs. Example: a colleague of mine has created a very cool learning platform called Emerging Leadership Circle. It makes accessing great leadership training incredibly affordable for organizations (head on over to ELC for a look-see). The innovative part is he’s leveraging great content providers from other companies and delivering the service in the format of video lessons for a fraction of what other training costs. Innovative.
Great organizations regularly find ways to innovate by looking at how they can do things better, faster, and cheaper. Look at what Intel and AMD have done for computing based on Moore’s law. They’ve generated incredible innovations stemming from a drive to make things cheaper and better.
Ask yourself how your organization can be more innovative. How can you blow up your business to simultaneously eliminate waste and create new opportunities?
Trend #3: People Are Our Most Valuable Resource (cough, cough)
This is one of the emptiest statements I regularly hear organizations espouse. When someone says this, I ask one penetrating question: can you show me the actions that back up that statement? Befuddled faces follow.
Saying people are valuable and showing they’re valuable are two very different things. The statement looks great on a recruiting brochure but if you’re not backing it up with action, your associates will quickly figure that out and head for greener pastures.
Before you say something stupid like “Unemployment is 10% so they’re not going to leave if I don’t invest in them” I’m going to ask another penetrating question: what are they going to do when the job market recovers? They’re going to bail on you. Your choice is to train them now or lose them later.
I run a leadership development training company. Folks regularly ask me “How’s business?” My response is always “Fantastic!” They’re confused by this because many organizations cut training budgets as soon as things get tough. Fortunately we serve clients who invest in their people regardless of the economic environment. These companies understand investing now gives them an edge later.
Are you really investing in your people and backing up the “most valuable resource” statement? Because your competitors are…
Trend #4: Letting Your People Do Their Jobs
Okay, you got me – this isn’t only a trend from this past year. It has been a trend forever (at least for leaders who “get it”). The trendy thing about it is that many organizations AREN’T doing it so the ones that are have an edge in the marketplace.
You hire people and spend gobs of money paying them. You may as well get some return on that investment. The only way you can get that return, however, is to make them do their jobs. Here’s the rub – the great leaders in the audience who read that last sentence winced at the way it was worded. Great leaders don’t “make” people do their jobs. Great leaders create environments where people are excited to do their jobs. They’re excited to go above and beyond to perform outstanding work.
I constantly see examples of leaders who do this well. I don’t care what industry you’re in – EVERY leader can create an environment where their people can shine. I’ve seen it happen in retail stores. I’ve seen it happen at beer distributors. I’ve seen it happen in the military. Unfortunately I’ve also seen my share of “leaders” who are really detail oriented control freaks masquerading as leaders.
Is empowerment REALLY happening in your organization? Why not? Go change that. Now. If you don’t, there might be another reason for your team to hate you on top of the 10 reasons they already hate you.
The Trend is Your Friend
Stock market investors are familiar with the phrase “the trend is your friend.” Hopefully you, as a leader, are at the forefront of the aforementioned four trends. If you’re not, there’s still time to jump on them and do what you do best: lead your organizations to a better place.