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  1. In my last blog, I reflected on how my recent experience with a young, tech-based business in Bulgaria demonstrated how a different type of management and leadership has evolved from that I grew up with. I’ve generally worked in more traditional environments, so although I was aware of this different approach, I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

    My work with these bright, young leaders highlighted that increasingly (and especially in more creative, knowledge-based industries) leaders have all arrived in their position via a different route. First-line leaders have skills and abilities that would have only been associated with the most senior people a generation ago or in more traditional businesses.

    tech workers

    They also have skills gaps and blind-spots. Without many years’ experience, they are brilliant in some respects yet may flounder in others. However, due to the flexible and agile nature of their roles ‘traditional’ management skills are less relevant (not unnecessary – just less important). With multiple lines of reporting, lack of standard operating procedures, few tried and tested processes or even set job roles, this type of leader needs an entirely different type of management and leadership development, focusing on:

    Managers of knowledge-based workers don’t always have the answers; they haven’t always done the exact same job themselves. Unlike their counterparts in more industrial or regulation-led businesses, they are less likley to have worked their way up through a structured career path. Instead they have adapted to the changing needs of the buisness and seized an opportunity. As such, their role is less about being the expert. Instead, they need to know how to unleash their team members’ creativity, and provide just the right amount of support and guidance to keep everyone pulling in the same direction. They are all about making the idea work, and ensuring expectations are met. Of course, these skills are important in more traditional industries too, but they are front and centre in every-day operations.

    READ PART 1 (more traditional industries) HERE

    In my final blog, I’ll discuss how this has changed management leadership training.

  2. Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be invited to Bulgaria to support a growing team and help them to define ‘what good looks like’ and how to develop leaders for the future.

    For the first time in my career I was the oldest person in the room! One of the delegates asked me (as we anjoyed a drink after the workshop) "How has Leadership and Managament TRaining changed since you started your career?" I thought this was a great question, and I intend to answer it, albeit in a round about way.

    To give you some context, generally, I work with quite traditional organisations (manufacturing, construction, finance), but this client works in a highly technical and more creative sector, and most of the people employed there are very tech-savvy and brilliant in their own way. The traditional ways of working do not apply: People are given responsibility based on ability and attitude – not years of experience. This is quite different to how things used to be: generally, you couldn’t even be considered for a Team Leader role unless you had served 3 years, and no-one would be considered for a senior role unless they had a minimum of 10 years’ experience, no matter how good they were.

    In some ways, this was good… people with responsibility had lots of experience to fall back on. In other’s it was not – you could be held back due to some arbitrary rule, and of course, years’ service discriminates against women.

    However, it did make management training and leadership development quite easy. As a rule, we knew where managers were at each stage of their career: what they had done (and not done); what skills they would have developed already and ones they were unlikely to have; the level of decision-making they had experience of; and what responsibility they had for people management. In traditional industries such as manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, health-care, this still (more or less) applies. Jobs are more clearly defined, decision-making authority clear and reporting lines fixed. There is a hierarchy, and everyone knows what they are (and are not) expected to do. Information and responsibility still goes up and down the line, with good reason.

    Management and Leadership training in this sector still needs to focus on the more traditional skills:

    It’s not that ‘people skills’ aren’t important – of course they are! BUT focus on process and efficiency is more so. Leaders in this type of industry are reqiured to make the process work and ensure standards are met. Contrary to what many articles will tell you, it’s not out-dated. Not if you work in a traditional, process (or regulation) driven industry. It’s highly appropriate, so this is where the focus of core management and leadership development should be in my opinion.

    factory team

    Next week, I shall share my observations about how this is different in the knowledge-based/tech/creative industries.

    READ PART 2 NOW

  3. around the world

    Sadly, it's not me that has been racing around the world - but 5 (now 4) pairs of intrepid explorers as part of a BBC programme. I don't usually watch 'reality' shows, but this one had me hooked from the start, as it quickly exposed how differently we handle uncertainty and pressure.

    The person who has been on the biggest learning journey is Alex. Probably becuase he is the youngest at just 20. All of the others have life experience to fall back on. It seemed that Alex had probably led a very easy and sheltered life.

    So even when travelling through Europe, he was out of his comfort zone: Without his phone, where normal routines didn't work, where he had to think for himself and adapt quickly, he complained, he sulked and basically struggled. His Dad (and travelling partner) was clearly frustrated at his immature attitude.

    In terms of the brain's social needs (David Rock) - all 5 elements had taken a hit: His Status (initially he was very image conscious), Certainty (for sure), Autonomy (he could no longer do what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted), Relationships (him and his Dad weren't close) and sense of Fairness were all challenged. The Impact of Change was huge, and he struggled - which meant his dad struggled too.

    The thing is, he had no resilience. In his cosy little world, it looks like he'd never had his relisilience tested; I suspect that he'd never had to dig deep and get himself out of a difficult sitation. The easy option was always the preferred option, and resilience is something that can only truly be developed through experience. Yes, we can raise awareness and get into good habits, (which is what my Power Hour Module on this aims to do) but it's only when we put our resilience to work, that we can strengthen and develop it.

    And boy, in 6 weeks has Alex's resilience developed!! He is diving into new experiences where he previously backed away; he's being assertive, taking the lead and seems willing to fail. He's now (generally) enjoying the trip, and is a totally different character. His dad is (quite rightly) proud of the man his son is becoming.

    Change isn't easy - especially when you have limited life experience and haven't developed resilience. Organisations and middle-aged managers need to realise that, and demonstrate a little understanding and provide help. Those who are younger and experiencing uncomfortable change need to be brave, to trust those with experience, to take the help that's offered, and to try. 

    Bite-size training on Change and Resilience won't magically transform your organisation, or the people in it - but it will make things just a little easier for all concerned.