At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month uncertainty seemed to be the prevailing theme. Inflation, the war in Ukraine, China’s re-opening, the energy crisis, climate change and deglobalisation dominated the agenda. As the saying goes, the only certainty is uncertainty.
As a therapist and accredited leadership coach, I am observing a cultural shift which is transforming the workplace. The uncertainty of the past three years is causing a crisis not just for employees but for leaders as well.
Today’s companies, big and small are faced with a mountain of unique challenges. The acronym VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. VUCA represents the unique environment that today’s companies face. It has become more than a buzzword. It is an agenda item for many corporate boards including those on our doorstep in Monaco.
Although change may be the one constant of this technological driven era, none of us were prepared for the scale of the changes since 2000. In light of global uncertainty and against the backdrop of VUCA, it follows that a new generation of leader is required to meet a new generation of challenges.
Don’t Follow The Money
Perhaps the first leadership challenge is recognising the differences in the post pandemic, employee value proposition. Companies seeking to attract and retain talent based on monetary awards alone are discovering it might not deliver results it once did.
Prior to becoming a therapist and executive/leadership coach, I founded an international legal recruitment company. We won multiple awards and were recognised by the British Sunday Times, amongst others. Our employee value proposition was simple. Compensation. That took the form of market busting bonuses. It was a touch of eat what you kill with a few fluffy frills on top.
Material rewards are no longer the be-all and end-all. Eat what you kill seems outdated. Some of us will work for less money in favour of meaningful work. And you can forget the fluffy frills.
Adopt A Systematic Approach
A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review was titled “What Companies Get Wrong About Managing Talent.” It’s a sobering read. It argues for a systematic approach to employee engagement which incorporates money, meaning, community and development.
It’s fine if the CEO adopts a policy of working from home but if those same employees are not doing meaningful work or feel disconnected from the mother ship and with few growth opportunities, don’t be surprised if they quit.
We need emotionally intelligent leaders who have the capacity to self-reflect and attune to their colleagues. It requires an ability to think constructively and adapt. If they don’t have the requisite skills, they would benefit from coaching, sooner rather than later. An additional challenge is that many companies haven’t assessed the soft and hard skills of its leaders. The fact they were promoted in the past may not make them equipped to manage the future.
Old-school leaders are at risk of missing the biggest change of them all. Mental health. According to research undertaken in the US last year, 76 percent of workers felt anxious or depressed. If you knew that most your workers were disengaged, how might that impact your leadership approach?
This is the biggest cultural shift in my lifetime. My worlds of facilitating individual wellbeing and corporate wellbeing are beginning to merge in ways that I could only have dreamed of when running my recruitment company.
If employees’ needs and wants are changing, it follows that the way those companies are led must also change. What kind of leader is needed for companies to survive in 2023? The answer is a new kind of leader.
Gavin Sharpe is a UK qualified psychotherapist and accredited executive and leadership coach