The Leadership Paradigm Shift: Engaging for Success

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 18th November 2015

The Engagement Task Force was launched in 2011 to educate leaders and organisations about why and how to engage employees.

Its creation of the Engage for Success movement aimed to encourage all UK organisations to adopt good practice in engaging, inspiring and motivating their people to be as innovative, enthusiastic, committed and effective as they can be.

21st century challenges

More than four years since the establishment of the task force, there is still a way to go. The 21st century organisation has a new set of challenges, and this requires a new response. Engage for Success recognises these challenges as concerning:

  • Attitude: a loss of deference and trust
  • New technology, with knowledge more widely dispersed
  • Competition from India and China
  • Pressures to act responsibly and sustainably
  • More demanding customers who expect a more bespoke service
  • A higher need for discretionary effort

In response to these new challenges, a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way we manage is needed to allow our organisations to grow and thrive. The shift is not just a minor change, but a radical re-imagining of the whole purpose, nature and style of leadership and management. For a more in-depth look at ways you can adapt to 21st century challenges, read our recent article about responding to complex and unpredictable changes in leadership.

The ultimate aim is to release the ‘discretionary effort’ of all colleagues to achieve the 20-40% increase in effectiveness that would be achieved if everyone was performing at their peak, rather than coasting or doing what they might view as a ‘fair day’s work’.

The focus of the paradigm shift

Broadly, this ‘paradigm shift’ could be said to fall into seven areas, each raising its own questions about the approaches we take:

1. From command and control to empowerment and engagement: To what extent have we empowered our people to give them freedom to think, decide and act on their ideas?

2. From autocracy to adhocracy: How much authority do our senior and middle-managers delegate? Is there still tight control over the actions of all of our departments?

3. From compliance to innovation: Have our systems constrained our ability to innovate?

4. From efficiency to optimisation: Do we know what the ‘optimum’ level of performance is from our key processes and functions? How close are they to being at the optimum?

5. From hierarchy and compartmentalisation to collaboration: How well do we manage activities that require input and collaboration across departments, functions and levels?

6. From ‘us and them’ to ‘all together’: How engaging are our leaders? To what extent have our people ‘bought in’ to our vision?

7. From short-term targets to longer-term vision: How much do we focus on short-term targets as a way of managing performance? Is it helping?

Leaders and managers need to analyse their answers to these questions, and decide what needs to change. Only once there is a clear vision for a more engaged future at organisational level can things really start happening.

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