Leadership Is A Movement, Not A Mandate

Cultivate a shared vision about what needs to be done and why, without telling employees how to do their job.

We’re in a time of unprecedented change for companies, and that pace of change is only accelerating. In years past, it might take a Fortune 500 company 20 years to reach a $1 billion valuation. Today, valuations soar within months of launch. The average lifespan of an S&P 500 company was once 60 years. It is now 20 and shrinking.

The speed at which these changes are taking place – most of them technological in nature – has eclipsed many company’s abilities to keep up. And that means that when it comes to change management, management strategy is woefully outdated. In fact, much of what we do on the people side of management remains rooted in methods created before the civil war.

Leaders today have to build a movement, not a mandate. It’s about creating a volunteer army of high-performing teams who value their shared mission. It’s about cultivating a shared vision about what needs to be done and why, without telling employees how to do their job. It’s an approach that is enabled by the advent of machine learning, but stems, in part, from military leadership principles.

It’s a model pioneered by Thayer Leader Development Group in partnership with military brass, like Colonel Magness, who helps executives develop a shared vision by cultivating structured dialogue and focused collaboration across the enterprise. And when we connect experts like Magness with employees using smart technology, we’re able to understand and measure how employees engage with, perceive and understand new strategies.

This isn’t science fiction. Some companies are using emerging collaboration and learning tools to drive purposeful collaboration and harness employees’ collective intelligence. They are moving beyond organizational structures built on a hierarchical model that fails to capture employee perspectives and insights, which are the byproduct of collaboration. Because, as it turns out, massive amounts of thick descriptive data can be generated by simply asking your employees what they think.

Savvy CEOs are launching idea tournaments and encouraging problem swarming. Instead of an occasional town hall, post your strategy online and ask for responses from all your employees. Ask if they believe in the strategy and if they are committed to the changes being made. Set aside time to have these conversations and to course correct if need be.

Once a strategy is implemented, continue to seek out your employees’ feedback. It’s often said that when a rocket is launched to the moon, it’s off course more than 90 percent of the journey. The spacecraft must constantly use external data to course correct to make it safely to its destination.

Driving successful change in an organization is no different.

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