The Covid 19 pandemic and now the thought of a return to a new normal has provided an opportunity to reflect on the future of work particularly as it impacts your career. Big questions hang in the balance. In my view, to examine what you need to do for personal development and where you might take your career, you must first look at three big trends. Then, ask what those trends mean for you, your current skills, your development needs and your next steps.
It’s tempting to see automation as a “Robot Apocalypse”, according to Jeff Schwartz in his book “Work Disrupted”. However, if you frame machines and automation as a way to gain superpowers, you may start to see the world differently. For a simple example, consider the world before spreadsheets where calculators and graph paper were the only tools. Technology, in the form of software, made work both more interesting and more effective. The same is true with automation today. I believe every worker should think about how to automate parts of your job. Where to begin? Start with the boring, repetitive parts of your job and then consider how to automate some or all of those to give you time to do the critical thinking and analysis that adds real value. Humans and machines could create super-teams, allowing each of us to do more interesting work. Anyone who is not thinking this way is at risk for getting left behind.
You can listen to my podcast with Jeff Schwartz here
The Office and Working Space
The pandemic has given us all time to reflect, and people are asking “why do I commute and do I want to continue commuting”. Chris Kane, author of Where Is My Office?, believes that people will not commute an hour and a half to sit at a desk and send emails for 4-6 hours. Why would you?
Therefore, we need examine what we need the office for, what we want people to do when they come into the office and how we create the right environment to then encourage people back.
Leaders are reporting that they have missed the off-the cuff conversations, the serendipitous moments where we bump into colleagues in the corridor and exchange perspectives. They have also missed the excitement of seeing and meeting with colleagues – at least some have. And, they have missed the opportunity to spark new ideas.
Offices should not be factories dedicated to output in an orderly, measurable way. Instead, offices need to be places to collaborate and create. However, most offices are designed for anything but those. Think about the space in your office and ask yourself how easy and pleasant it is to casually interact with colleagues, to find a meeting space to talk on the spur of the moment or to find a space for longer collaboration sessions.
As a manager it’s time to stop using the office to monitor work, instead use other automated tools in you must monitor. Re-imagine what you want people to do in the office that can’t be done elsewhere. Create spaces for that sort of work to happen. Think about what will entice people to the office – could it be better designed for collaborative spaces, more meeting areas, more adaptable work set-ups or just better coffee. You will be well down the road to understanding how to lead a hybrid working environment with some face-face work and some virtual work. The leader of the future is one that can master why people come together.
You can listen to my podcast with Chris Kane here.
We’ve spent over a year dealing with major change. In many ways though, we only changed where we work not the fundamental approach to the work we do. It’s safe to say that more change is coming and coming quickly. Better resilience will be an essential capability for success. How can you get better at resilience?
Eric McNulty, author of “You’re It: Crisis,Change and How to Lead when it Matters Most” says that one of the best ways to become more resilient is to accept that failure is an option. We inherently fear failure, for many of us it is an instinctive core belief that it is wrong to fail, and our organizations are highly intolerable of failure. However, in a time of change, innovation and creativity you are going to fail, or under-perform, at some things and that’s okay. We learn by failing. When faced with uncertainty and the unknown, learning drives survival.
Resilience isn’t always about “gritting it out”. Sometimes persistence is the answer; sometimes adapting is the answer. The challenge is which is most beneficial in a particular situation.
To build your resilience, you need a stronger sense of agency – that is the belief that you can do something that will move things forward. There is often much we cannot do but we underestimate the power we do have to take a small step and to learn with that step.
People who have greater resilience also have a broad network to tap for ideas and perspectives. Often the idea for that next small step you can take comes not from those who are your closest allies and strongest supporters. Rather, it comes from people with whom you are loosely connected, who see the world from a different vantage point. If ever there was a reason to expand your network, this is top of the list for me.
You can listen to my podcast with Eric McNulty here.
Three big trends will impact your work and your career. The question I would ask you to reflect upon is how much you are actively engaging with those trends and taking steps now to keep yourself relevant.
1. What parts of your work can you automate to give yourself and your team super-powers?
2. For what purpose do you want your team to meet face-face? How are you creating spaces to encourage that activity and to make the commute worthwhile?
3. How are you building resilience personally? How are you coaching your team to develop greater resilience? How are you balancing adaptation and persistence? How are you defining your own sense of agency? How can you change your thinking about learning and failure? How are you expanding your set of advisors?