Overcoming a Tsunami
"If you're afraid to fall, you fall because you're afraid. Everything is choice." - Daniel Ilabaca, parkour athlete
Daniel Illabaca is a parkour athlete. What he does is hard to describe in words. Daniel climbs perilous heights, runs along narrow ledges, leaps in succession over walls, curbs and posts, and always lands on his feet. Daniel Illabaca is not afraid to fall. He leaps without fear.
Alongside these fears, economists are predicting a looming shortage of workers by 2018. As Baby Boomers start to retire en masse, there will be 14.6 million new jobs but only 9.6 million new workers available to fill them. Within a few years, we will switch from a buyer's market for talent to a situation where organizations are fighting for any employee they can find. The federal government has even gone so far as to call this shortage an impending "retirement tsunami." Many Americans are afraid of a world where the U.S. is not the market leader. Young and old alike are wondering what comes next. Will our children have a lower standard of living than we enjoyed? Will the next generation be capable of sustaining our culture as we know them? Will this new generation of leaders be capable of excelling in the challenges of a cut-throat global economy? Fearlessness Perhaps renewing our sense of fearlessness is the only way forward. To avoid failure, we need to get out of the office, start climbing – dreaming - and then spring towards success! One of the great strengths of America is that we encourage innovation and reward success. In fact, many of the biggest success stories suffered public failures before they attained their ultimate goals. "Failure" in this sense doesn't mean sloppy work, negligence, or recklessness. Constructive failure requires an honest effort and a reasonable strategy. "Good" failures happen when people sincerely try to do something better than it was done before. "Good" failures leave something behind. They give the organization new skills, new ideas, even something to build on for the next attempt. Ironically, some of the most successful organizations are also the most tolerant of failure. Organizations like 3M have mastered a culture of experiential learning where hundreds of failures are the only way to develop innovatives like Scotch Tape, Scotchgard Fabric Protector, and even Post-It notes. Allowing Future Leaders to Leap Many organizations struggle to keep their younger employees engaged. Too often, there is a culture of "meeting the minimums" and living in fear of failure. Employees in these organizations often feel paralyzed by a leadership style which overly micromanages. Where the top leaders are the only ones who have input on making big decisions and managing big initiatives and where "the nail that sticks up gets pounded down." If an organization has created an environment where people are afraid to make a mistake, afraid to stick their necks out and afraid to challenge the status quo, then the organization is going to lose in the long run. More innovative competitors will find new and better ways of doing things. Frustrated employees will leave for better job opportunities. The organization's key stakeholders will gradually lose interest in dealing with a stodgy, risk-averse leadership team, and will look elsewhere to meet their needs.
Organizations can avoid this trap by finding creative ways to develop their future leaders. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on the "Learning and Growth Perspective" within your own organization. Find ways to give younger employees access to powerful learning experiences that demand creative solutions, networking, and leadership skills. By engaging these minds in your organization's strategy, they will overcome shortages of resources, understand competing forces, and capitalize on a limitless potential for success given aligned, focused, and determined actions. Provide the youngest generation with a chance to try new ideas and run important projects. They will take personal responsibility for the project's success. They will learn skills faster as these skills are suddenly important. Additionally, these young leaders will show gratitude for the mentoring and inclusion. Giving young leaders a chance to leap is not only good for your organization's immediate results (ideally leading to positive changes in your strategic measures), but it will also improve your organization's long-term talent pool. Leap, in Daniel's Words "The adventure is not knowing what is going to happen next; accepting that you don't have control of the future, but all you have control of is the now. Make the most of it."
Invest in their future. Invest in the future of your organization. Share the strategy as well as the responsibility for success. Attract and develop those capable of leadership. And when the time comes, take comfort knowing your organization will be under even an more capable generation - one you have mentored - one who is ready for any impending tsunami. __ Ascendant Strategy Management Group specializes in helping organizations engage leadership (both young and experienced) in mission driven success. If you would like more ideas or support, please contact us!