Leadership Lessons In The Age Of Technology

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In an age of technological advance, leadership remains the domain of people.

In an age of technological advance, leadership remains the domain of people.

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Technology is changing business and enabling us to do more than we have ever done. Coding bootcamps and online programming courses are creating new developers and governments are launching programs to get more students to learn STEM subjects. Yet, without good leadership, technologies are nothing but blunt hammers. In the quest for coding skills, many businesses are becoming dismissive of the essential human skill it takes to grow an organization.

“Unless you’ve got people who want to change, to develop and to grow, then businesses aren’t going to be successful,” says Clive Punter, Chief Revenue Officer at Outfront Media, (NYSE: OUT), one of the world’s largest outdoor media companies.

Putting technical skills above people skills is not new, nor does it apply only to coding. When I graduated from a top business school, I knew how to derive the equity beta, but I had no idea how to get the best out of people, give feedback and manage employees’ career expectations.

Simon Sinek, a renowned author on leadership, argues that leadership is a practicable, learnable skill that you can train, as you would a muscle. Like training a muscle or learning a language, learning to lead requires its own program and support team. 

Focus on the inputs

“If you want to grow a company, then really focus on what motivates people, and on how to get the right people in the right places, doing the right things. Get them focused on the inputs to deliver the outputs,” says Punter.

Crossing the finish line at the Olympics is the dream output for an athlete, but it would not be possible without the inputs of a healthy diet, training, physiotherapy and coaching. Punter says that in this case business imitates sport: the better the inputs, the better the results.

He adds “my belief is that everyone is employed for the things they can do, no one is employed for the things they can’t do.” To get the best out of your team, focus on the strengths of the individuals within it, rather than just on trying to fix the weaknesses. 

Good leaders help people understand themselves

Therapist Esther Perel says the relational habits we build in life permeate our work. For example, people who were brought up getting what they wanted are more likely to ask for what they need, and expect to get it. Those who were brought up with parents who demanded perfection, may not put themselves forward for roles unless they can ace every job requirement. 

While leaders are not expected to become their employees’ therapists, good leaders help people understand their unconscious behaviors. Punter says this applies to three main areas: the employees’ skills and talents, their external motivation and their internal motivation.

While money, an external motivator, is important, it is not the only thing that drives people. Internal motivators such as a learning environment, career development and recognition play a big role. In fact, studies have shown that fairness matters more to people than monetary awards.

Transparency diffuses politics

Highly political environments, which are not perceived to be meritocratic or fair, tend not to keep the best people for long. Leaders often miss the political environment they have helped create, because in that environment, people are trying to please them. 

Punter says that to prevent this leaders need to be open, honest and transparent. “Politics is about second guessing — when people are guessing what’s going on or what someone’s going to do. By dispelling some of these myths, you are getting at the cause of office politics.” The more transparency there is about why rewards are given out, the less time will be spent on politics, and more on growing the business. 

Since McKinsey coined the term “the war for talent” in 1997, the burden of performance has appeared to shift from organizations to the people they employ. It is too easy to blame mistakes on not having the right people. While getting the hire right and finding the right skillset for the job is important, it is only part of the challenge. Creating an environment where that person can thrive and wants to stay is a more difficult and long term task.

As professionals worry about artificial intelligence taking over their jobs, good leadership remains the domain of humans. Yet not enough of us are spending the time we need to train our leadership muscle. Good human relationships, which include patience, respect, trust and empathy, are still at the core of what we need to build stronger companies, and enjoy life and work.

What are the leadership lessons you have learnt in your organization? Tweet them to me @sophiamatveeva

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In an age of technological advance, leadership remains the domain of people.

In an age of technological advance, leadership remains the domain of people.

Getty

Technology is changing business and enabling us to do more than we have ever done. Coding bootcamps and online programming courses are creating new developers and governments are launching programs to get more students to learn STEM subjects. Yet, without good leadership, technologies are nothing but blunt hammers. In the quest for coding skills, many businesses are becoming dismissive of the essential human skill it takes to grow an organization.

“Unless you’ve got people who want to change, to develop and to grow, then businesses aren’t going to be successful,” says Clive Punter, Chief Revenue Officer at Outfront Media, (NYSE: OUT), one of the world’s largest outdoor media companies.

Putting technical skills above people skills is not new, nor does it apply only to coding. When I graduated from a top business school, I knew how to derive the equity beta, but I had no idea how to get the best out of people, give feedback and manage employees’ career expectations.

Simon Sinek, a renowned author on leadership, argues that leadership is a practicable, learnable skill that you can train, as you would a muscle. Like training a muscle or learning a language, learning to lead requires its own program and support team. 

Focus on the inputs

“If you want to grow a company, then really focus on what motivates people, and on how to get the right people in the right places, doing the right things. Get them focused on the inputs to deliver the outputs,” says Punter.

Clive Punter, Chief Revenue Officer, Outfront Media

Clive Punter, Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer, Outfront Media

Outfront Media

Crossing the finish line at the Olympics is the dream output for an athlete, but it would not be possible without the inputs of a healthy diet, training, physiotherapy and coaching. Punter says that in this case business imitates sport: the better the inputs, the better the results.

He adds “my belief is that everyone is employed for the things they can do, no one is employed for the things they can’t do.” To get the best out of your team, focus on the strengths of the individuals within it, rather than just on trying to fix the weaknesses. 

Good leaders help people understand themselves

Therapist Esther Perel says the relational habits we build in life permeate our work. For example, people who were brought up getting what they wanted are more likely to ask for what they need, and expect to get it. Those who were brought up with parents who demanded perfection, may not put themselves forward for roles unless they can ace every job requirement. 

While leaders are not expected to become their employees’ therapists, good leaders help people understand their unconscious behaviors. Punter says this applies to three main areas: the employees’ skills and talents, their external motivation and their internal motivation.

While money, an external motivator, is important, it is not the only thing that drives people. Internal motivators such as a learning environment, career development and recognition play a big role. In fact, studies have shown that fairness matters more to people than monetary awards.

Transparency diffuses politics

Highly political environments, which are not perceived to be meritocratic or fair, tend not to keep the best people for long. Leaders often miss the political environment they have helped create, because in that environment, people are trying to please them. 

Punter says that to prevent this leaders need to be open, honest and transparent. “Politics is about second guessing — when people are guessing what’s going on or what someone’s going to do. By dispelling some of these myths, you are getting at the cause of office politics.” The more transparency there is about why rewards are given out, the less time will be spent on politics, and more on growing the business. 

Since McKinsey coined the term “the war for talent” in 1997, the burden of performance has appeared to shift from organizations to the people they employ. It is too easy to blame mistakes on not having the right people. While getting the hire right and finding the right skillset for the job is important, it is only part of the challenge. Creating an environment where that person can thrive and wants to stay is a more difficult and long term task.

As professionals worry about artificial intelligence taking over their jobs, good leadership remains the domain of humans. Yet not enough of us are spending the time we need to train our leadership muscle. Good human relationships, which include patience, respect, trust and empathy, are still at the core of what we need to build stronger companies, and enjoy life and work.

What are the leadership lessons you have learnt in your organization? Tweet them to me @sophiamatveeva

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