In the Midst of Change, What Needs to Stay the Same

Everywhere we hear re-occurring descriptions about how the workplace has changed to keep up with continuously changing business conditions and business strategy. Examples include throwing out job descriptions and the old org charts, and rapid deployment onto multi-disciplinary teams who learn through real-time collaboration about how to solve emerging challenges and problems. 

A new report from Booz Allen Hamilton and the Center for Creative Leadership, "Leading for Employee Motivation, Implications for Leaders in Turbulent Times," discusses changes in how people see their roles at work, from being "mission-focused" (aligned with the mission and strategy) or alternatively, "career focused" (staying for developmental opportunities that will be good for one's career) and a third group of people who stay feeling they are "out of options." Clearly the latter group are those people who quit but still show up most days, and they will follow a process even when it is deemed to be ineffective. People who are mission and career focused often identify systems and processes that inhibit their effectiveness, and quickly move on to color outside the lines. This is a challenge for scalable operations. As leaders, how often do we collect feedback on the effectiveness of systems and processes?

The leadership competencies that may not have changed, even in turbulent times, can be a good thing: "…sharing information, providing help, encouraging collaborative behavior among team members, and having the ability to inspire commitment to values or to a mission," according to the BAH CCL researchers, who go on to say,"a common thread among these competencies that are critical to leader effectiveness is the emphasis on the interpersonal nature of leadership that enables leaders to adapt their styles to the employees' different orientations. Leaders who bring charisma, humane and team orientation, and participative approaches that enable them to adapt to the employees' different orientations will be better able to motivate and retain employees."

Noel Tichy says that leaders whose calendars commit to investing 20% of their time with people are more effective. Scheduling time to talk with people helps both leaders and followers learn what they might not have guessed, adapt the conversation to be mission-focused or career–focused, and revisit processes and systems that need to be refreshed or revised. When we don't do that, an "air sandwich" develops between the strategy and those who implement it.

BLOG: Author: Joy Kosta

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