Technology has changed world culture in ways nobody could have predicted. The Millennial generation is entering the workforce, a generation of idealistic, confident, demanding, and, above all, individualistic employees. They’re demanding new kinds of leaders, and CEOs of both profitable and struggling companies and corporations are recognizing the need to shake things up. A stunning 86% of CEOs report wanting big changes in their office culture and practice.
But in what ways?
CEOs want to see productivity immediately, but they don’t want to be short-sighted. They want to create clearly stated goals, but still be able to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace. They want to be in charge, but they don’t want to stifle creativity.
So how do you do the impossible?
1. Organic Culture: Focus on Input, then Output
You could hammer workplace culture into existence, but little about it would be organic and it wouldn’t last. Movies like Office Space strike a chord with many people precisely because CEOs of the past have made many mistakes in creating office culture.
Today’s CEOs are recognizing that durable organizations are built primarily on input rather than output. The measures of success are changing from output and productivity to internal company ethics, equity, and environment.
One way of putting it is this: the company is the machine, and it’s the CEO’s job to be outside of it, making sure it runs well. Today’s leaders should focus on outputs – starting with the end in mind – and make sure that the internal processes (like IT and interfaces) are running smoothly so everyone else can do their work without interruptions.
2. Step Back: Loosen the Reigns
Leaders are stepping back and giving up the tools of day-to-day operations. This is all about CEO’s empowering the individual employee and playing a more advisory role. Instead of top-down management, modern CEOs are more interested and invested in the experience of their employees who are closest to the action.
3. Don’t Lead: Sculpt and Mold
In an increasingly individualistic society, the sanctity of the individual is unparalleled. Employees are less obedient and less likely to “join to fold.” Instead of conforming to the company culture, employees are increasingly expecting the company culture to conform to them.
For leaders clinging to past ways of doing things, these changes are a nightmare—and that’s why successful leaders are no longer playing their traditional top down authoritarian roles, but instead are giving employees the power to define what the company culture will look like. They sculpt and guide the direction of their employees’ output rather than micromanaging it – they focus on outcomes and results, not so much process.
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