In the 21st century, we need less PowerPoint and more conversations

The future of work needs to be a burning issue for all leaders. The workplace will tap into the best people who have the skills and capabilities to get the job done. We will be able to easily connect talent to solve big business problems, innovate, and deliver extraordinary results.

The coming years of work will be both about going back to business basics when it comes to people and talent and rethinking business to include how we can deliver results faster with leaders who can clearly communicate their vision. It will be a world in which employees and contingent workers will know their role in implementing the organization’s strategy without endless meetings and turf wars. It will be about executing a shared purpose. And yes, it is that simple.

The good news is the workplace is changing. Complex strategic plans no longer make sense as they waste time and resources because business is changing so fast. Still, strategic planning is more important today than ever. Done well, the planning process can be a catalyst for aligning the workforce and leveraging employees’ best thinking…  but it can’t be done without trusted relationships and agile engagement on an ongoing basis rather than annual process. The demands of customers and investors alike require today’s leaders to up their game on developing and executing well-defined plans that capture a mindset of abundance of opportunities and ensuring employees’ understand their specific role in delivering outcomes. Purposeful planning and execution are the new norm.

(Image: Softchoice).
(Image: Softchoice).

Where are we today?

Leaders have been slow to adapt to a world where top down hierarchies are no longer a viable way to run organizations, create growth, and motivate people. Many workplaces still have rigid organizational structures that encourage fiefdoms, silo mentality, and require frequent organizational changes as a result. And when we look at organizational design, it tends to be centralized by the CEO for control and the organizational structure most often does not reflect actual work patterns. Today’s organizations are also highly political where management bottlenecks decision-making. A great deal of energy invested internally and is wasted on defining work and political boundaries.

Employees around the world are increasingly frustrated that their potential and contributions are being wasted, while management expects greater and greater innovation from their people. According to the Deloitte LLP, 2010 Ethics and Workplace Survey, employees’ top three reasons for seeking new employment were:

  1. Loss of trust in their employer based on how decisions were made during the recession (48 per cent)
  2. Lack of transparency in leadership communication (46 per cent)
  3. Being treated unfairly or unethically by employers over the last 18 to 24 months (40 per cent)

And the irony is that ideas are not scarce. What’s scarce is the ability to execute on an idea. There is a growing need to redefine how work gets done so everyone wins.

What’s our opportunity?

Leaders have a huge opportunity to reinvent the workplace to tap into people’s needs for purpose and meaning by aligning talent with key projects. This will lead to the much-needed opportunities for innovation and productivity improvements. By focusing on how social technologies can connect and create communities, for example, organizations can more easily streamline work and create two-way communication channels for employees, customers and partners.

 What can you do?

The 21st organization leader knows how to lead with business and in 2015 will implement new ways of working. This year, I will share many ideas around new ways of working and here are the first three for you to consider.

  1. Stop talking at people. Stop using the word ‘audience’ when it comes to your communication. You are not on a stage yelling at people. Your goal is to communicate, which means listening and talking. In 2015, we want to have less PowerPoint meetings and more conversations. Build new world communication plans to outline how you engage with your people, customers, partners and other stakeholders. Leave the audiences for the actors on stage delivering a performance.
  2. Work out loud in 2015 and build thriving communities. Stop leading with technology and tools and start integrating them in how you work. I introduced working out loud at a recent client engagement and we managed to cut meetings by half as we took the conversations to the online collaborative platform and shared what we were working on. The meetings themselves became more meaningful because the background conversations already took place online. And it was not an easy journey as habits needed to change but it was worth the investment as decision-making accelerated and geographical distances were no longer a barrier to collaborating.
  3. Don’t think of technology as a place to go. Integrate it into your processes and how you work. Imagine if you simply made sure that every conversation you had was face-to-face, regardless of geography. Make sure your organization provides computers with cameras and has a platform that is a one-click call to anyone that has video. When you realize the power of video-conferencing, for example, and make it a habit and practice, you will change your culture and increase engagement. I can promise you that you will not see people multi-tasking when they are on a video call.

We will not make change happen with big programs, but with a mindful way of having our shared purpose at the core of how we align people. And we have an opportunity, as leaders, to show the path forward. My personal goal in 2015 is to help as many leaders and organizations thrive with purpose, so please comment here about what your challenges are or share what works for you so we can start working out loud. It’s a way of work and life for the 21st century organization as we can share and have more conversations so we can create more. Isn’t that what innovation is all about?

I look forward to seeing you share more in 2015. What are you waiting for?

Ayelet Baron
Ayelet Baron
Ayelet combines lessons learned from more than a decade as a high-tech industry executive with her roots as a researcher, change catalyst and strategic communicator. This rare blend of expertise enables her to assess and advise individuals and organizations that seek to embrace new ways of working. She helps leaders transform and build healthy and resilient organizations. She is also a sought after keynote speaker on collaboration, leadership and building 21st century organizations. Her award winning business book, Our Journey to Corporate Sanity, helps you navigate a new path for business as a conscious 21st century leader.

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