LEADERSHIP: How to engage all stakeholders and stay relevant in a changing world
The words chaos, confusion and uncertainty have been bandied around considerably recently, mostly associated with the shifting political landscape. And in the world of work, the term “VUCA” seems to have been added to our lexicon, denoting the “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous” world we live and operate within. With all of this, there is a real temptation for leaders to focus on the short-term, making sure the wheels don’t fall off the wagon. However, the obvious danger is that failure to look ahead will lead to irrelevance as the world moves on, as it surely will.
The good news is that the world, despite obvious uncertainty, is actually moving in many ways in a fairly predictable direction. As Otto Scharmer, author of “Theory U” might say, there is an “emerging future”. Frederic Laloux, author of “Reinventing Organizations” similarly describes “purpose” in the world of work as being a living entity, with a life of its own that leaders must serve rather than own.
Forecasting the future
In a workshop I ran for HR leaders at CIPD on this topic, I asked participants to plot graphs on a number of topics ranging from the development of the so-called “Internet of Things” through to rising sea-levels and the growth of democracy. Without access to Google or any other data source, working in groups, they were able to agree fairly accurate trends in about ten minutes.
Explore the trends and increase your relevance
We then shared a set of graphs showing trends I had sourced earlier, including the following:
- Internet of things
- Global investment in renewables
- Rising sea levels
- Growth of democracy
- Deaths due to war
- Artificial intelligence
- Life expectancy
- Autonomous vehicles
The more we look into trends, especially those relevant to our business, the more we realise that there truly is a future that is emerging. The choice remains with the leader: tune in and consciously stay relevant or live in the day-to-day and become irrelevant.
Turbo-charge your organization
In “Designing the Purposeful Organization – how to inspire business performance beyond boundaries”, I encourage leaders to engage all stakeholders on a regular basis to explore the organization’s purpose. Imagine the power of a room full of diverse stakeholders such as: customers, staff, shareholders, community, regulator etc comparing their view on why the organization exists. Whilst they will all see this purpose differently, there will almost certainly be an inspiring “Why?” that emerges through appreciative enquiry. Discovering this and using it as the anchor for strategy is like turbo-charging the operation to perform. This is especially the case when done alongside the consideration of relevant trends associated with the emerging future.
- Clive Wilson, director, Primeast
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