“Stop running in the corridor!” calls the teacher to an excited student sprinting past the classroom. We’ve all heard these words many times and maybe even uttered them ourselves. The main reason for discouraging running in corridors is to prevent an accident. The message is clear, speed is not always the answer to getting somewhere more quickly and is often a high-risk strategy for making progress. It is with this lesson from our youth in mind, that I urge business leaders to consider how slowing down could enable them to make the most of the huge evolution in the business landscape as we enter 2022.
A changing business landscape
We’ve all read plenty of articles exploring the changing nature of the business landscape, covering it again here is unnecessary. However, the scale, complexity, and rate of change must not be underestimated, and businesses everywhere are in unchartered territory to some degree or other. In this regard, leaders are once more students; curious but lacking many of the answers, and a little unsteady on their feet. Running at this point would be foolhardy, to say the least. Taking the time to truly understand the new territory will set us up for successfully navigating the way forward.
The pressure to run is reaching boiling point
Just like that corridor sprinting student, the temptation to run is incredibly high. The pressures to do so seem to be mounting by the hour. Our daily browse of business news is filled with headlines telling us that to survive, a lot must change, and we’d better get moving if we don’t want to be left behind. To a degree, they are right. This is by far the biggest global business shake-up we’ve seen and whilst to date it has been relatively peaceful, employees are making their thoughts and feelings very clear. The question is, are we taking enough time to listen? Move too fast and without due care, and we will be at risk of tripping over our highly-prized talent pools as they make for the exit.
Standing still isn’t an option either
Leaders everywhere are understandably feeling overwhelmed. There is a lot that needs to be considered and a wealth of advice to filter and digest. The risk here is paralysis due to information overload. If you are feeling like a fish out of water, you are most definitely not alone. Many of the tried and tested tactics for dealing with challenging times in the past, are not serving us now.
We need to be demonstrating that the need for change has been acknowledged and understood. Authenticity and transparency are going to be key to winning hearts and minds, gathering engagement, and navigating through the fog. For those who get there safely, a horizon full of promise, filled with the value and commitment of a very contented workforce awaits you. Envisioning what your horizon looks like is key to helping you to find it. But do not underestimate that the journey to get there is unlikely to be direct or without obstacles. The best way to overcome this is through collaboration, not speed.
This is all about voice
Having a voice and being heard are the order of the day. Employees do not expect leaders to have all the answers and many are eager to contribute. This is a moment for servant leadership if ever there was one. Employees don’t want or need to be led from the front by heroes sent to rescue them. What they need is to be elevated, empowered, and enabled to help the organization to a brighter future. They need to be given platforms to do this effectively and they must be confident that the contributions they make will be taken on board. This is the time to make the most of every brain and voice in the organization. Whatever the outcome, it should be informed by the many, not the few and that will take time to achieve. Going slower here will pay dividends down the line, making change implementation much easier and quicker to deliver when the time comes.
Everyone is exhausted (especially HR)
Covid has been relentless. HR teams in particular have taken the brunt of this impact both in terms of workload and emotional load. Are they really in the best place to be creating the future of your employee experience or corporate culture? Moreover, employees, in general, are tired and questioning what work and careers truly mean to them now. Embarking on a knee-jerk change initiative at this point could place a burden when there isn’t capacity to withstand it. A silo-driven board-led change strategy is likely to create resentment, apathy, or even resistance. Timing will be key; getting it right later will be much better than getting it wrong now. Consider how to make Q1 2022 really count as the foundational months for future success.