Building soft skills will become ever more important, because technology will increasingly handle the harder work skills. That’s why the Human Resource function will move to the center of all businesses, large and small.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Ted Wolf.
Ted Wolf is co-founder along with his son George at The School of Biz. They help people scale their businesses based on today’s rules, using ideas and technologies to end entrepreneurial poverty — the mental, emotional, physical, and financial burnout to which many entrepreneurs are prone. Ted is an accomplished entrepreneur, having grown a business from a 1,000 dollars investment and two employees to an eight-figure revenue-producing national business with 650 technical employees.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.
When I was seven, my mother developed cancer. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it was serious from the reaction of those around me. I thought she was going to die, but at that age I didn’t know what that meant either. So I made a deal with God: Save my mom, and I’ll do some good in my life. She lived to the age of 100. So He did his part, and the rest is on my shoulders.
Like many entrepreneurs, I thought I was good at building a business, until one Friday I walked into the office and learned that we had just lost several great accounts that accounted for 40% of our revenue. It was humiliating to meet with the banks the following Monday morning and explain what happened. It continued to be humiliating as word spread through the business community that we were on the ropes, and people kept telling us that our competitors were laughing at us. The turning point was admitting to myself that I was responsible for what had happened. I knew I had to change myself before I could change the business. I vowed to move beyond my ego in order to build a business that would work well for all concerned. I worked hard at personal development to change myself as I scaled the business. The result was that we were on the INC 500 list as one of the 500 fastest-growing privately owned businesses in the USA for five years.
In addition to the above, I got married and helped raise three children. Marriage and child-rearing forces people to be more agile. It teaches humility. If my ego takes over, everyone in my family has the freedom to call me on it. That’s always a valuable experience.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
Same: Entrepreneurs will always start new businesses because they have to start new businesses. That’s what they do.
Different: Entrepreneurs will develop their mental, emotional, physical, and financial skills to a degree unimagined by today’s entrepreneurs. They will develop their mindset — the way they think, feel, and act — so that it’s more agile and resilient. Hacking the mindset of a high-performing entrepreneur will be their focus, as it should be.
Same: Entrepreneurs will scale businesses to reach their dreams of income, freedom, and wealth.
Different: The new rules of government will demand a new business model so those dreams remain reachable. Because of government demands for employee protection, businesses will become less hierarchical. Many will adopt the business model of a movie producer. Businesses will become more virtual and fluid. This will give them the advantage of changing their business — what it does, and how it does it — every couple of years. Success will depend on an entrepreneur’s ability to make disruption and crisis work to their advantage. That requires an agile, resilient mindset.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Build your mindset. The business and you are one. The business can’t scale if you don’t scale the way you think, feel, and act. So remember the beliefs, emotions, and behaviors you used to generate your first 1M dollars in revenue. Then notice that you had to change your mindset to generate 10M dollars in revenue. And then how you had to change again to achieve 20M dollars in revenues. As Marshall Goldsmith said: “What got you here won’t get you there.”
Agility and resilience at higher and higher levels of skill are required in order to future-proof nearly any business or career.
Scaling a business today rests on a foundation of tremendous awareness — of yourself, of your employees you’re your vendors, and of course of your clients.
Further development of how one thinks, feels, and acts will ripple out to change society.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
Employers will have to figure out how to provide a workplace that is safe, secure — and special. Special means the company has a sense of purpose greater than just making money for the owners. A clear, inspiring company purpose will make employees and contractors feel that they belong to something unique — something that they can’t find in every business. The Great Resignation is all about employees searching for a sense of belonging. They are looking for an employer that makes them feel like they belong, like they are important — one that gives them have some freedom to determine their own quality of life. That means you have to develop and then live by a consistent culture.
One strategy you’ll see in the future is giving production workers the freedom to choose their work schedules.
Presently, an employee is hired for a specific production schedule — a daytime shift, for example, or a nighttime shift. In the future, businesses will post a schedule and employees will opt in to the parts of the schedule that best fit their home-life requirements. Once trained, more and more employees will have the freedom to schedule their work time based on family requirements, vacation schedules, educational opportunities, and so on.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Technology fundamentally changed the relationship between employers and employees. Many employees now have greater freedom to live their lives the way they want to because of technology. That’s not going away, because the tools will continue to evolve. The employer can no longer take total control of an employee’s life; employees have options they didn’t have before. This will force entrepreneurs to design their company around making both employees and vendors feel that they belong to something special. This is a new challenge for many small and mid-sized businesses. As a result, Human Resource departments are becoming increasingly important. HR execs will be tasked with making the company a good place to work, and will in some cases become more important than their peers in finance, production, and even sales.
We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?
Everyone will be forced to develop their “soft” skills to work, interact, and perform with others in order for their businesses to survive.
Those same skills will change the broader society. Our society in 20 years will feel very different than the one we experience today. With greater self-awareness and soft-skill development, people will relate to each other differently across the board. Most of us will find it more harmonious.
Soft skills require greater self-awareness. That’s the hardest but most rewarding of all the skills an individual can develop.
Soft skills include empathy, trust, and moving beyond self-interest. They depend on self-awareness — on knowing what blocks one’s empathy and trust.
Entrepreneurs will develop greater soft skills and self-awareness because they will realize that they’ll make a lot more money if they can improve the impact they have on others and even themselves.
The survival of a business — and our society — will depend on learning how to make crises work to your advantage without hurting others.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Entrepreneurs will take the lead as the pace of disruption forces everyone to develop better coping skills. That starts and ends with developing greater self-awareness.
Most people don’t want to hurt others, so understanding ourselves better sets the stage for more fulfilling interactions.
Entrepreneurs are members of an elite group of leaders. They have unwittingly joined one of the greatest personal development programs on the planet.
You can’t scale a business without developing greater self-awareness. And greater self-awareness will lead to better businesses, families, and a better society.
We are headed into a period of tremendous opportunity.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
The future of work will focus on developing four core skills: Purpose, People, Performance, and the development of You.
The School of Biz offers advanced techniques in developing the skill of Purpose. Knowing and living your purpose is a learned skill. It is much more than simply answering the question ‘Why?’ Purpose is a magnet that attracts and retains really good people, and it provides the energy and urgency needed to make something happen in the business, even when you don’t feel like it.
People skills are all about impact. The way you impact others, events, and even yourself depends on self-awareness. An entrepreneur’s ability to get into the mindset of employees equips them to make better decisions that take the interests of all concerned into account. Understanding employee and vendor needs for safety, security, and belonging starts by following the advice that Plato quoted Socrates as giving: “Know thyself.”
Elite performance requires hard and soft skills to create a compelling experience. You start by developing your personal skills, then move on to the skills of performing with others in the business, and then into the third stage of bringing outsiders into the performance as full participants.
A business succeeds when its purpose attracts good people. Culture forms the basis for creating great performances. And it all happens because the entrepreneur made a commitment to be better, to continuously improve what he or she does, and to act through mutual respect for him- or herself and others.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
These headlines should serve as alarm bells for entrepreneurs, reminding them to create a compelling company purpose that connects with employees on a personal level. The foundation of purpose is core beliefs, values, and behaviors that really matter to the entrepreneur, and which the company can embody.
Culture is the glue that holds everything together as you scale, because as you grow a business, everything can get crazy in a hurry.
Culture maintains the business when you aren’t there. A good culture frees the entrepreneur to take vacations.
Visit any business. As it grows, you start to see a number of sub-cultures take hold. It’s like playing golf: Every golf club has members who want something different. Some welcome new people, while others only want to play with the same people over and over. Some like to play early-morning tee times, while others want only late mornings. But they all belong to the same club.
Purpose unifies a culture, and culture keeps a business consistently good. There is little infighting because everyone shares the same core values. Core values then provide a decision-making framework.
Business models based on a strict hierarchy will become more and more outdated. Business models based on culture are more efficient and innovative. They provide a mechanism whereby everyone can move ahead based on their urgency and desire to perform.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
Trend 1: Building soft skills will become ever more important, because technology will increasingly handle the harder work skills. That’s why the Human Resource function will move to the center of all businesses, large and small.
Trend 2: More and more entrepreneurs are developing agile, resilient mindsets, enabling them to become the leaders that others want to follow in times of extreme change. They will use their businesses as schools to improve themselves and their employees. They will recognize that the more they improve their hard and soft skills as they scale up, the more income, freedom, and wealth they will experience.
Trend 3: Building purpose will be front and center for every entrepreneur. Answering the “Why?” question will no longer be enough. Purpose means reframing and repurposing events so they can help propel the business forward. Personal development will grow as an industry, but it won’t resemble the common coaching and consulting practices of today.
Trend 4: Entrepreneurs will become increasingly creative. I have a client who, because of Covid, had severe supply-chain issues. His vendors could not find enough people to produce their products, so he was going to have to lay off a large portion of his workforce. Instead, he offered to subcontract his employees to one of his vendors. The vendor trained his employees to produce the vendor’s products — a plan that simultaneously solved his company’s problems and the problems of the vendor. It worked. Everyone won.
Trend 5: The use of technology in personal development will grow rapidly. We’ve developed an app that helps individuals understand how they affect others. The behavioral results are phenomenal — the app nudges employees and businesses to perform to a much higher standard. This is only the beginning of using technology to help people become elite entrepreneurs.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
The quote on my desk combines ideas I’ve heard elsewhere, but I wrote them down in a way that works for me: “The ultimate frontier is internal awareness; what is inside is reflected in the outside.”
I say that to myself almost every day because — like an alcoholic who knows she would lose every good thing she has if she took one drink — I need to remind myself that if not checked, my ego and self-importance would take over, with urges that would only hurt my ability to have what I really want.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
Joel Embiid, the star center of the Philadelphia 76ers. He is a real team player, and a great role model for leadership and kids.
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.