Work­place lead­er­ship: no mean­ing, no work…

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - GOOD BUSINESS - By: Ge­orgina Ma­hony – Tech­ni­cal Di­rec­tor, In­fra­struc­ture, Aure­con.

Our lead­er­ship ap­proach to ‘be­ing an em­ployer’ hasn’t changed sig­nif­i­cantly in decades. Man­ag­ing peo­ple in a work en­vi­ron­ment in­volves seek­ing to gain their best ef­forts, in ex­change for re­ward – but is it time we re­de­fined re­ward?

As bar­ri­ers to mo­bil­ity be­tween projects, com­pa­nies, coun­tries and in­dus­tries dis­ap­pear – a ‘ job for a decade’ let alone a ‘ job for life’ is now a thing of the past. Money may make the world go round, but as a new gen­er­a­tion of em­ploy­ees come to the work­force, it is clear that it doesn’t al­ways buy hap­pi­ness. En­light­ened or­gan­i­sa­tions are re­al­is­ing that it cer­tainly doesn’t buy job sat­is­fac­tion either for their new ex­pe­ri­ence­hun­gry work­force. If an or­gan­i­sa­tion doesn’t show their em­ploy­ees they are val­ued – they’ll move on to the next one who does. With em­ploy­ees in­creas­ingly work­ing in project de­liv­ery en­vi­ron­ments, how do project man­agers ap­ply the change needed in or­gan­i­sa­tional lead­er­ship to project lead­er­ship in or­der to en­gage and re­tain their teams?

Within to­day’s rapidly chang­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, cre­ative think­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion in or­der to achieve dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion have taken pride of place. “Com­pa­nies are fo­cus­ing on in­no­va­tion and unique dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion – and al­most ex­clu­sively are look­ing at peo­ple, not ma­chines, to pro­vide it,” writes The Dig­i­tal­ist. In ad­di­tion to em­ploy­ees be­com­ing crit­i­cal to an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s suc­cess, their ex­pec­ta­tions have changed.

Gen X and the Mil­len­ni­als (born be­tween 1982 and 2004) are at very dif­fer­ent points in their ca­reers (with some yet to start theirs!). It is clear that the Mil­len­ni­als’ def­i­ni­tion of pros­per­ity en­com­passes far more than just money. In­ter­est­ingly, many Gen Xers seem to have reached a sim­i­lar con­clu­sion – as their ca­reers have pro­gressed, they find them­selves look­ing for greater mean­ing in their roles. This com­bined work­force craves shared val­ues, ones that take into ac­count the well-be­ing of oth­ers, ones that are un­der­pinned by a sense of worth, con­sid­er­a­tion and ‘to­geth­er­ness’. In short, it turns out that as a work­force, they are start­ing to ‘care’.

For to­day’s project teams, money alone has ceased to en­gen­der loy­alty as it once could. With so many projects and op­por­tu­ni­ties, be­ing paid eq­ui­tably sim­ply isn’t enough. In­creas­ingly de­mand­ing project de­liv­ery en­vi­ron­ments mean that growth and devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties on projects are key; staff want to feel val­ued, ap­pre­ci­ated and do work that has sig­nif­i­cance.

Scep­tics might ask: but what’s the cost in terms of project pro­duc­tiv­ity? Will the ‘warm and fuzzy’ im­pact on out­put? The good news is that all ev­i­dence points to soft skills trans­lat­ing to com­mer­cial suc­cess sto­ries. A per­son who feels ap­pre­ci­ated will al­ways do more than is ex­pected – and isn’t this the most ba­sic def­i­ni­tion of a high per­form­ing team? It turns out that truly valu­ing staff is not just a ‘nice to have’, but an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of suc­cess­ful project de­liv­ery.

Project lead­ers need to move from de­liv­er­ing mono­logues to en­gag­ing in di­a­logues. Open chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion will en­sure greater un­der­stand­ing of what mat­ters to the peo­ple who work in their team. It takes a con­fi­dent leader to lis­ten to the project team first with­out jump­ing in with di­rec­tion from on high. This form of re­spect­ful project lead­er­ship leads to a re­la­tion­ship built upon mu­tual trust. When staff feel ‘heard’ and they have jointly shaped their project’s vi­sion, they’re more likely to stay and do their best work for the project.

Taken a step fur­ther, project ini­tia­tors, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ments, fi­nanciers and mega cor­po­ra­tions, need to think about re­plac­ing dic­tat­ing the brief and then mi­cro­scop­i­cally scru­ti­n­is­ing com­pli­ance. Suc­cess­ful project out­comes should be more im­por­tant – al­low­ing in­formed and in­tel­li­gent project staff to use their pas­sion and in­tel­lect to de­fine the prob­lem, and then co-cre­ate the path­way to solv­ing it, may re­sult in a shared com­mit­ment to achiev­ing the project’s suc­cess more than any end of project bonus could in­stil.

By this yard­stick, to­mor­row’s most suc­cess­ful or­gan­i­sa­tions and projects won’t only be highly prof­itable, but also highly en­gaged with their teams. By lis­ten­ing to the needs of their work­ers, they will be able to cre­ate a cul­ture that al­lows em­ploy­ees to suc­ceed and grow. A project and the peo­ple who make up the project shouldn’t be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive – rather, they should form a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship which draws on and feeds off one another, en­abling bet­ter out­comes for both.

Sys­tems-based man­age­ment will be­come mean­ing­less in the fu­ture un­less we are able to over­lay th­ese in­flex­i­ble sys­tems with ones that take into con­sid­er­a­tion the hu­man needs of a work­force that is smart enough to know if they are viewed as a cog in a money-mak­ing ma­chine. In fact, you can have as many sys­tems in place as you like, but if the peo­ple op­er­at­ing within those sys­tems feel un­heard, un­der­val­ued and un­ap­pre­ci­ated, you will never get the right re­sults – no mat­ter what any graphs tell you.

In to­day’s project land­scape of KPIs and KRAs, the value of keep­ing your staff happy is im­mea­sur­able. Suc­cess­ful or­gan­i­sa­tions in fu­ture will be those who pay their staff more than just a salary, but also pay them their at­ten­tion.

This post orig­i­nally ap­peared on Aure­con’s Just Imag­ine blog.

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