“Leaders are made not born”.
We must believe this, since our organizations spend a staggering amount of money every year to improve the managerial and leadership skills of their employees.
We also place a high value on leadership as individuals, treating those recognized as great leaders with a kind of cultish reverence. Inspiring quotes about leadership abound on social platforms, often in the same intense language used to describe CrossFit.
One way I gauge the degree to which the world is getting to me is how much my throat hurts. I’m an incurable jaw clencher and after a few days of upper and lower mandible warfare the tension spreads down the front of my neck until it feels like I’ve been strenuously holding in a scream, which sometimes I think I have been.
Reading the accounts of the many brave women coming forward to report that they experienced sexual harassment and mistreatment from Harvey Weinstein is both freshly devastating and oppressively familiar. We’ve been here. A lot.
Adaptive. Agile. Responsive.
Whether you believe that the world is changing faster than ever or not, I suspect there is near-universal agreement among leaders that organizations must become more nimble to succeed.
However, as is often the case, the desire for an organization to be something different seems to be strangely disconnected from the doing it will entail at the individual level. That is to say, adaptive and agile sound like fantastic destinations when considered in isolation from the daily practices required to get us there.
Last Monday I was part of a panel at an event titled “Keeping HR Human in a Digital World”. It was a great panel with diverse viewpoints and experience, and a lively audience that stuck around to ask questions and chat.
A question that wasn’t asked, but maybe should have been is:
“What do we even mean by ‘digital’?”
Certainly we all know the literal meaning of ‘digital’, and based on the discussion at this event, we definitely get that a digital world means one with lots of technology…but how is that different than last year, or 5 years ago, or even 10?
To the untrained, distracted, or overworked observer, rebels and cynics can easily be confused at first glance. This is particularly true in a habitat populated by otherwise homogeneous fauna. Their non-standard vocalizations and often contradictory postures might result in confusion unless further observation is undertaken.
Before you get out your binoculars, and this metaphor grows unwieldy, can I suggest taking a moment to reflect on the image that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘rebel’.
This week I attended two events held by networks I’m part of (Strategic Capability Network and Toronto Organization Development Network) that looked at innovation from the organization and individual level.
Innovation risks being yet another superficial buzzword in the HR space, in part because our culture and history as a profession is strongly linked to compliance, risk mitigation, and standardization, which is at odds with an innovative mindset. And yet, it’s clear that to attract the best talent, maintain position in the market, and respond to stakeholder demands, we must embrace it.
As humans, there are certain common aspects of existence that we are all supposed to dislike. Mother-in-laws, the Department of Motor Vehicles, final exams, root canals…and networking.
“I know I have to network to get a job, but it’s so hard.”
As a textbook introvert, I used to take these lamentations to mean that I must not be doing it right, because, well, I rather enjoyed “networking”. And that couldn’t be right, could it?
I’m doing really well at the saddest goal I’ve ever set. This year, after an honest assessment of where my time was going and a realization that I was consistently overcommiting myself, I faced facts and stopped doing some things. Chief among them was that I stopped going for coffee with people just because they asked me to.
Being a knowledge worker is so 2016. At a recent event, a speaker described our economy as being on the threshold of the ‘post knowledge era‘ – a period in which companies will achieve competitive advantage not by accruing the most data, but by honing the ability to focus on the most salient information, and coax relevant insights and analysis from it. While AI will increasingly be used for routine, repeatable tasks which can be governed by rules, our human intelligence is still unmatched at using context and intuition to reach non-linear insights, and in a world awash in information our attention (rather than knowledge) will become the scarce resource.
I’ve just spent a week working with a few of my Actionable colleagues on the other side of the world. This gave me cause to reflect on both the obvious and intangible elements that contribute to our exceptionally collaborative team culture. It also meant that I had a lot of time on several airplanes to catch up on my reading list. Something that had been in my Pocket list for awhile was this short article by Olivia Godhill about employee happiness. I wrote about this topic years ago, and have since mostly ignored the employee happiness hype, but it continues to be an alarmingly popular aspiration for many in HR.