Like today’s most successful corporate executives are aware, leadership is less about exercising individual talent these days and more about one’s ability to steer a workforce’s collective capabilities and expertise toward achieving a common goal. Noting this, it’s vital to make leadership a concept that scales. But to achieve this objective, you’ve also got to empower colleagues to have the courage to make hard choices and routinely deploy smarter ideas, no matter what challenges they may be facing. Luckily, a few simple strategies can help you get your workforce in the right mindset to take the reins here.
Get ideas flowing
For starters, you’ve got to put programs and platforms in place that allow great ideas to bubble from the bottom up, not just flow from the top down. As studies repeatedly show, end-users for our services and solutions — everyday customers — are the No. 1 most reliable source from where successful and innovative new ideas tend to come. Frontline workers, those closest to these audiences, are often the most informed parties in our organization. Likewise, to foster more frequent teamwork and collaboration, and incentivize staff to speak up, you’ve also got to make a point to create and offer coworkers more neutral forums, such as executive meetings and retreats, educational forums, online contests, or hackathon design challenges — where workers from across the organization are given 48 hours or less to come up with working solutions. This helps colleagues feel more comfortable voicing their opinions and taking action. However, finding ways to flatten executive hierarchies, open channels of communication, and create additional opportunities for colleagues to drive positive change is just the beginning here. As an organization, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, you’ve also got to make a point at event and meeting programs to champion concepts such as rapid learning and deployment to your workforce.
Get rapid feedback
If it helps to comprehend the value of making this shift in operating strategy, consider that the more feedback from any given operating landscape that you can get, and the faster you can get it, the more rapidly you can use this information to improve your business plans and programs. As a result, the better off your organization will be. Likewise, it pays to remember that flexibility and agility are, at heart, the very essence of future-proofing. Put simply, the more opportunities you give yourself to pivot, and more sources of insight and resources you can draw upon when deciding which direction to go, the more resilient you’ll become.
But to achieve these goals, it’s just as important to recall that it pays to teach workers that the concept that a new strategy or solution has to be ‘perfect’ before you give it a try is self-defeating. In fact, waiting until a plan is flawless before you roll it out — because it stops us from moving forward — is an inherently flawed approach.
Rather, a better approach to driving positive change and innovation is to embrace the concept of a ‘minimum viable product’ model, and the idea that something just has to be ‘good enough’ before you deploy it. Because getting a solution to ‘good enough’ forces us to hone our time and efforts, and allows us to quickly gain real-world feedback faster that can help shape ideas for the better. It’s often a springboard to something great.
Meaning that the more you can ingrain these principles across your organization at meetings and special events, and the more that you encourage smart, cost-effective risk taking, the more successful you’ll be. Likewise, the more as an experienced team leader that you’re willing to step back and let your people take the lead, the likelier the odds are that you’ll have no trouble adapting to changing times and trends by adapting yourselves in turn.
Let your workers shine
In effect, the more readily you, as a leader, work to give your people more chances to surface, share, and develop new strategies and solutions based on the insights these audiences are sending, the more readily you’ll put yourself in a position to succeed going forward. Keeping this in mind, executive leaders in every space would also do well to note that — while things are going well and you can most afford to take chances — now would be the best time to start making a host of smart investments in initiatives that drive constant learning and growth for their organization. And, for that matter, it’s also the best time to encourage colleagues to get behind the idea of making more insight-driven decisions and educating themselves through a running process of trial and error that involves constantly playing around with new strategies and solutions.
That’s because, as we were surprised to find while researching recent best-seller “Make Change Work for You,” in uncertain times, the irony is that you’ve got to take more risks, not fewer, if you want to get ahead in any space. However, while “risky is the new safe,” so to speak, these risks have to come in the form of small, smart, cost-effective bets designed as ongoing learning experiments designed to help you quickly gain deeper insights into the shape of changing operating landscapes and make better and more informed choices as you get smarter. In addition, as above, to stay relevant, organizational leaders also need to start being more deliberate about putting systems and programs in place that can help frontline workers assume more of an ownership role in making key decisions.
Keep in mind in that things move fast in today’s working world. Most organizations can now go from conceptualizing new services, solutions or programs to rolling them out in less than 90 days. Less than 30 days is more common than not. In fact, some institutions we consult for are launching new solutions every 6 weeks all year round, just for the learning experiences that these efforts provide. Likewise, as organizational leaders, we all now live in an always-on, connected age where the various audiences we serve are also giving us feedback and telling us how their needs are changing with every interaction.
The real question you should be asking yourself if you want your organization to remain competitive isn’t “do you have what it takes to compete?” it’s, “what role can you help play in facilitating change management?” and “are you giving your people all the tools and support that they need to be effectively listening, and smartly and rapidly responding to these insights?”
If you want to get better at operating in a world of constant change, today is the most opportune time to start challenging yourselves and your people to dare to think differently. Effective modern leadership is less an exercise in individual talent and more one that’s about finding clever and cost-effective ways to bring a collective workforce’s capabilities to bear. The more you make leadership a concept that scales, the faster you’ll be able to solve any given challenge, and the more you’ll be able to stay ahead of changing times and trends in the years to come. I&FMM