We may be in the 21st century already, but many of our organisations are still being managed as if it were the 20th century, or even the 19th! In the rapidly changing world of work, this is a recipe for disaster, and anyone who wants to be part of the new economy needs to take stock of their skills, and choose to change their priorities.
Leaders set the example for how to be and behave in this day and age. You need to be leading others into working smarter and exploiting the potential of their skills and qualities, rather than demonstrating that working hard is the only way to go.
What does this mean in practice?
The 21st century leader starts by managing themselves. He/she knows how to maintain a positive attitude, keep themselves from getting stressed, stay energised, and manage their time and priorities. A tall order? No, this is just about taking responsibility for making your life work for you. It is about ‘breaking the rules’ of custom and practice in traditional working cultures, and applying common sense instead.
After all, we all know that working for 4 hours on a report when we’re in the wrong mood is unproductive and inefficient, even if we do look busy, and we all know that we are more effective in our work when we feel energised.
Setting the direction
Are you still controlling the minutiae of what your staff do? If so, it’s no wonder if you feel overstretched, and your staff feel disempowered!
It’s time to start concentrating on the bigger picture: what, ideally, will your team achieve, and how, ideally, will they work? Give them something to work towards that’s inspiring, and some agreed parameters for what ‘a good job well done’ looks like in that vision, and let them get on with it. Lead with inspiration, instead of managing by control.
It’s time to put into practice the implications of that old chestnut, ‘People are our greatest asset.’ We can all begin to pay proper attention to our staff, treating them as we would like to be treated. Treating people as our greatest asset means that we put our support and encouragement of them first on our list of priorities, not last. If they were a very expensive piece of technology, we would take great care of them, and they are better than that – they can achieve miracles if we treat them right!
By valuing and appreciating what others contribute, by encouraging them to use their strengths, we also set the example for how they treat each other, and customers, as well as bringing out the best in them.
Being a role model
The most powerful message we give to our staff is not through words, it is through our everyday behaviour. Just like children, we tend to copy what others do, rather than do what they tell us to do. So be aware that how you approach things, how you tackle your own workload, how you deal with others, are the messages you give about what is acceptable here. If you are managing yourself well, you will be encouraging others to do the same. If you are constructive in your approach to issues, others will be too. If you show respect to your colleagues, they will show respect to you and each other. It is a very simple formula, although not so simple to put into practice!
This might sound like a nice idea, but your to do list is miles long, so when you have time… Please realise that we will never have time – this is a choice we make, which will gradually make our lives easier, and enable those around us to work smarter as well.
The qualities of the excellent 21st century manager are not alien to any of us. They are the qualities of mature and thoughtful human beings. You undoubtedly have them – the question is, are you using them at work? And are you willing to make that choice now?
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