There is this old technology you may have heard of that is about to make a comeback to the business world. It is the secret sauce to the future of life and work that only savvy business people are starting to adopt. It does not require a change management strategy or the C-suite’s permission to take hold.
Are you ready for the revolution that brings us back to common sense? But before I share the “secret” with you, let’s take a journey into the why this old technology is the best thing for business today:
- We live in a world where we trust strangers. In the world today, most of us make decisions around where we eat, sleep and travel based on online reviews of people we don’t know. A friend recently told me that she cancelled a reservation for a local moving company based on the online reviews she read, where people shared their horror stories of how the organization treated them versus how they marketed and positioned their brand. Her decision was informed by trusting strangers who warned her about using this company.
- People may be talking about you if you like it or not. I remember when social media was just rearing its head and organizations were forced online because people were having conversations about them, whether they were online or not. Some companies were forced into the conversations when bad press hit them and they could not respond in the old ways. Transparency started to matter and will increasingly take center stage.
- We live in an open and connected world where everyone has a voice (and of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to this little fact). It’s a great time to be alive. If you have a device, connectivity and a way to power your device, you can easily express your voice. And if you have a voice, you have a choice.
- Most people who are full-time employees have a voice outside of their work environment and are using it in their day-to-day life. Many companies are starting to realize that asking questions like “should we allow our employees to be brand ambassadors?” and “what should our policies be about social media networks for our employees?” lack common sense. The boundaries between our external and internal worlds are coming down as we start becoming whole again as individuals and organizations. While someone can comment openly about their experiences with other companies they get products and services from, the notion that their own company restricts them from being open is at best silly. If an organization attracts and retains the “best talent,” should they not trust them to be a voice for the company? Imagine, a world where an organization had conscious 21st century leaders who led with shared purpose and trusted their people? Would they understand the power of the network versus being stuck in the organizational structure then?
- The myths about Millennials demonstrate how uncomfortable they made other generations feel about work. Do a search and you will find a multitude of articles complaining about the younger generation who wanted constant feedback and input into their work. Like any generation, they have two sides of how they show up in the world. But instead of listening to them, most companies shoved them into a broken system of work. They were actually key to our need to move back to using this old secret technology in the 21st century world because they wanted to connect with purpose.
- We live in a human-to-human purpose and experience driven era. Many people of all ages are waking up and realizing we want to have an amazing adventure called life where work is part of it (LIFEworking). We have moved from the industrial era of labourers and hierarchy to the knowledge era of experts and top-down structure to the human-to-human purpose and experience era of people, connections and networks. This is the first time in history when business and society is fusing and more people are seeing the opportunity for business as a force of good. It is an opportunity to find unusual partners to go to market with shared purpose. The opportunities are on the edge and happen when people connect with each other in new meaningful ways. It is moving away from 20th century fear, competition and scarcity and recognizing we live in a world abundant with opportunities where we can connect deeply with others. In this world, we don’t need to yell at each other to connect using old advertising models that no longer serve us. Imagine what can happen when we see people as people and no longer follow how the “celebrity” lost weight or where they traveled? What if the only best practice we desired was how we were doing on our own path of realizing our purpose without needing to compare ourselves to others, as individuals or organizations? What if we trusted ourselves to know what our enough is and realize we have everything we need (including this old technology that can set us free?)
- The cracks are starting to show. There is abundant data that is increasingly showing the need to re-invent so many systems that are cracking. For example, do we still believe today that an annual performance review or employee survey can get the results we are seeking? Do we not now see that many Millennials simply wanted to have ongoing feedback on how they were doing and were not willing to wait for the standard practice of collecting and tracking performance once or maybe twice a year? I don’t know about you, but I have been on many project teams coming up with plans on how to address the gaps in the employee surveys and limited action took place. Today, we don’t need annual surveys or feedback loops. It has to be infused in the foundation of how we work and can no longer be separated out as an activity. The organizations that are coming alive are the ones who are leading with purpose and finding new ways to connect people as a whole (and it does not matter what their status is inside or outside the walls). We can no longer practice one-way communication and tell people when they are allowed to express their voice. Sure, this will continue in organizations that lead with fear, competition, and scarcity who continue to treat their people as liabilities on the spreadsheets. But the organizations that truly play in the human-to-human era focus on shared purpose and experiences. They bring on board generalists who can connect people in meaningful ways.
Finally, here is the secret old technology that is filled with common sense…
It’s called the two-way conversation. This is the oldest technology known to humankind that needs to make a comeback in business and life.
Empathy and listening is a big part of it. And so is, trust.
We have been so conditioned to yell at each other to get attention that it’s time to wake up to the reality that this one ancient technology fundamentally changes our world.
Sure, advertisers will want you to listen to them and believe they have the answers for you. But only you have the answers, when you know what the question is. Too often, we get so caught up in the drama that we don’t even remember what’s important. We can choose to be overwhelmed by all the noise or we can figure out why we are here and what we want to create in the world.
Remember your voice and share it with others, openly. If you have a voice, you have a choice. We have been practicing our strong voice outside of the work environment — we have tools and ways to reach people at all levels and express our views. Last year, I tried to get the attention of my local utility with an issue I had and the only way I was able to connect with them was by writing an open letter to the CEO and posting it on LinkedIn. It worked. We can connect with anyone, with purpose.
Personally, I want to see people and organizations thrive and I know it is possible if we imagine a healthy and humane world. This is why I am dedicating my life with my LIFEworking partner Tim McDonald, through writing and speaking, to helping each of us remember our voice and bring our humanity back to business and the planet.
Some questions to reflect on:
- What are you doing to tap into the two-way conversation?
- Who are you connecting with?
- Who do you want to co-create with?
- How are you embedding new technologies like video, for example, to connect with people in conversations?
- Where are your opportunities?
We live in a magical time. Between now and possibilities, what are you imagining for you and your organization? How can the two-way conversation revolutionize your life?
Excerpts from Our Journey to Business Common Sense.