“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates
Anyone who is leading a business today knows that the speed of innovation has increased exponentially. This is particularly true for leaders with decades of experience. What once took years to develop can now be done in months, or undone in weeks. Change puts enormous pressure on executive leaders of successful companies to worry most because they have the most to lose.
My observation of leaders today who embrace what worked for them in the past, what has always worked for them, have the most to worry about. However, the best leaders are in a constant sense of search and discovery to stay in front. Even for them, it’s a fierce battle to win given today’s marketplace factors.
Factor #1: Most leaders do not include many of their people to shape their culture. In past times this was the ordinary course and work of the CEO. Today, people need to ‘feel’ they are a part of every part. Using our organizational assessment platform, MarketCues has learned that fewer than 24% of employees strongly believe their leaders have a clear direction for their organization and a like number report they are not included in the planning.
Factor #2: Most leaders think in terms of quarters, not years. This would seem consistent with the fast speed of business. However, most leaders agree that delivering on their promises to customers is essential for success and that is rarely accomplished with a short-range transactional mindset.
Factor #3: Burn out in a job has become the norm, not the exception. The pressure on employees today has never been stronger and expectations never higher. For many, it takes months to win a job only to find out that they have joined a severely dysfunctional organization that expects enormous effort and success. Often, we have found their pay is far from commensurate to their output. Perhaps this is why in a recent Gallop Survey, 51% of currently employed adults in the U.S. say they are searching for new job opportunities.
When you evaluate these three factors, it’s clear that the old ways of doing things are not going to retain the most talented employees. Most people can take being burnt out for about a year. After that, if things don’t change they start looking. Smart leaders don’t have years to figure this out given that half of their workforce is probably in a stage of leaving.