The nature of conducting business is shifting dramatically. Organizations are collaborating across the globe due to international mergers, virtual offices, and stakeholder locations and technology has made it possible to be in multiple places at the same time. Andre’ Martin agrees with this view and tells us in his article “The Future of Leadership: Where Do We Go from Here?” (2007) that the business world today is interconnected and has greater access across the globe. As a leader, are you prepared to handle the complexities and rapid changes emerging in your industry over the next 5-10 years? Are you equipped to lead in such a diverse environment? If you are up for the challenge, read on. If you are hesitant for any reason, then you may as well toss this article in the trash, clean out your desk, and go home because you won’t be effective or successful in the future.
I propose several trends that will impact your leadership capabilities and the lives of your followers:
- Companies will form knowledge sharing partnerships with companies in India and/or in China in order to obtain technical knowledge. Although many global executives believe China will steal intellectual property (IP), as Krogh and Haefliger suggest in their article “Nurturing Respect for IP in China” (April 2007), they also believe that if multinational companies want to help China respect IP, they should work with them and build technical and business knowledge.
- Knowledge and wisdom are no respect of person, so companies that want to promote long-term innovation will build relationships by bringing in industry leaders from across the globe, to help create new business. Mitsuru Kodama agrees by telling us in his article “Strategic Community: Foundation of Knowledge Creation” (Sep/Oct 2006) that the Japanese have figured out, that creating strategic communities, which are collaborative, inter-organizational and external relationships which encourages strategic thinking and action, will help organizations form and develop business concepts and ideas.
- Organizations will be willing to allocate 1 ½ hours per day of physical fitness time to each employee because they want to build a healthy organization to ensure long-term survival of its workforce and boost productivity. Not only will productivity increase but according to the study conducted at Purdue University of 80 executives in the article “Physical Fitness Equals Better Business” (May 2004), of those who exercised they were able to improve their ability to make complex decisions by 70% compared with non-exercisers. Can you imagine the potential of all levels of employees if they were given the time to exercise?
- In order to be effective in the future, leaders will expect honest assessments of their leadership styles and abilities. How does a leader go about getting the truth from employees? One way is through a process I read about today in an interesting article by Fiona Haley called “Peek in the Mirror” (October 2004). Her article was about a course called the Looking Glass Experience. She said that leaders are able to better understand their own leadership style through this course and receive insight on how to improve it. Each leader prior to the beginning of the course requested a critique from their supervisor, peers, and the people they manage and forwarded the evaluations to the course instructors. During the course, the leader received their evaluation which included insight from their classmates concerning the evaluation, revealing leadership weaknesses the leader could improve. This process will be hard for most leaders to digest because they are forced to take a close look at their leadership style, but to be effective, you must take a closer look.
- In the future there will be a surge of ethical, non-compromising leaders resulting in increased loyalty and productivity from subordinates. Paul 0. Raddes writes in his article “The Human Side of Management: Advanced Leadership Trends” (n.d.) that those types of leaders will be unique in that they will choose to be role models and want their subordinates to imitate their standards of leadership.
Obtaining Technical Knowledge Off-shore
Currently, companies are struggling with retaining and replacing technical knowledge and educated employees. Attrition plays a role and sometimes the competitor’s grass seems greener so your employee will move around to test the grass. Regardless of the reason, their knowledge base is leaving and it is getting harder to replace. In fact Daphne Borromeo contends in her article “Report: U.S. Lags in Race to Educate Its Young Population; Nation’s Affordable College Opportunities Deteriorating” (September 2006), that as the well educated baby boomers retire (and/or die) the younger population that will replace them do not appear prepared educationally to keep the U.S.’s edge in the global economy. Additionally, Borromeo tells us that the findings in The Measuring Up 2006 study show that younger Americans aren’t enrolling as much or completing their education compared to young people in other nations. Although companies are providing the financial resources to educate and develop the skills of its employees, it appears that the younger employees lack the drive to complete a higher education degree; therefore, employers are forced to find more educated and technically trained employees abroad. My sister, on the other hand, is defying that statistic. She is 36 years old, married, two children, about to retire from the Air Force and just completed her online Bachelors Degree. I believe I have convinced her to pursue a Masters Degree. She is preparing herself to be marketable and to become a resource that an American company will want to invest in.
I was not surprised at all when I read Andre’ Martin’s article “The Future of Leadership: Where Do We Go from Here?” (2007), that one out of four IT jobs are expected to exist outside of the U.S. by 2010 and it is because of the rising education levels in China and India. They are graduating with degrees in finance/accounting, engineering, and life sciences well beyond their American counterparts. With the scarcity of educated employees to choose from, no wonder American companies are going out of the country.
Knowledge and Expertise Provides a Competitive Advantage
As an organization and a leader in your organization, you will need to determine how to handle this leakage of knowledge. You should and can embrace the change that is coming. Silke Bender and Alan Fish suggest in their article “The Transfer of Knowledge and The Retention of Expertise: the Continuing Need for Global Assignments” (2000), that change is inevitable and invaluable to an organization and if it is to be successful, knowledge and expertise have to be managed effectively within and outside the organization. You will be forced to conform to an emerging trend that insists that companies form knowledge sharing partnerships with companies in India and/or in China in order to obtain and replace technical knowledge and expertise.
Today I was surfing IBM’s website because I was interested in seeing how a large company handles knowledge sharing with countries such as China and India, and I came across Sunetra Banerjee’s article “IBM Expands Education, Innovation & Business Partner Initiatives in India” (February 2007). IBM has really kicked it up a notch in their efforts to replace knowledge and expertise. To drive home how IBM clearly understands the importance of knowledge sharing, I found definitions of knowledge and expertise in Silke Bender and Alan Fish’s article “The Transfer of Knowledge and The Retention of Expertise: the Continuing Need for Global Assignments” (2000), to share with you:
Knowledge originates in the head of an individual and builds on information that is transformed and enriched by personal experience, beliefs and values with decision and action-relevant meaning. It is information interpreted by the individual and applied to the purpose for which it is needed. The knowledge formed by an individual will differ from another person receiving the same information. Knowledge is the mental state of ideas, facts, concepts, data and techniques, recorded in an individual's memory. Expertise is specialized, deep knowledge and understanding in a certain field, which is far above average. Any individual with expertise is able to create uniquely new knowledge and solutions in his/her field of expertise. In this sense, expertise is gained through experience, training and education and it is built up from scratch over a long period of time by an individual and importantly remains with that person.
IBM’s strategy is twofold. They have trained over 80,000 Indian students on open standards based technologies in over 745 colleges in India during 2006. They have also created branches of IBM in India, so not only are they creating the knowledge and expertise in the young people by educating them, but they are able to tap into the knowledge because they are hiring them as IBM employees. This also means that IBM’s across the world has India’s knowledge at its disposal. That’s what I call strategic thinking and creating an enduring competitive advantage!
As I was reading a variety of articles, I realized that companies from any industry would benefit from sharing knowledge and expertise. Andre O’Connell’s article confirmed my thinking in his article “Novartis’s Great Leap of Trust” (March 2007). Novartis is a $33 billion Swiss pharmaceutical company and they will open a pioneering biomedical R&D facility in China as a sign of trust that the people they hire will respect their IP and work together to build a global scientific center of excellence. Novartis’s goal is to provide an environment which promotes intellectual stimulation and the exchange of innovative ideas.
Outside and Insider Information
If I were to suggest that you could legally get insider information from companies outside of your organization, would you listen? That is exactly what Japanese leaders in one company are doing! DoCoMo, an independent mobile phone entity, have learned to manage internal and external relationships as well as close contact with their customers, giving them the benefit of discovering new information, knowledge and expertise, resulting in innovative ideas for developing and expanding new business. Not only is sharing between the community members taking place, but Mitsuru Kodama says in his article “Strategic Community: Foundation of Knowledge Creation” (Sep/Oct 2006) that inspiration, creativity, accumulation of knowledge and organizational learning also takes place. With this strategy, DoCoMo was able to form strategic communities in overseas markets and enter the overseas market.
IBM understands this concept very well and has magnified the potential results. Just take a peek at their advertisement on their website:
“Imagine if for 72 continuous hours, thousands of people representing hundreds of companies across the automotive industry came together as one team. Suppose they discussed solutions for a better industry and collaborated on thousands of ideas that, over the course of three days, were refined to yield several actionable ideas for long-lasting industry transformation and change. How did they do it? They “Jammed.”
From March 7-10, 2007, IBM and the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) will bring automotive suppliers in North America together for a first-of-a-kind event — the Automotive Supplier Jam. The Automotive Supplier Jam is an online collaborative event that enables people in the industry to participate in the discussion via the Internet.
This massive online discussion will cover 24 predefined topics that address the major areas of focus by today’s' supplier organizations. To guide the event, the Jam will be hosted by well-known industry experts and leaders who can lend meaningful insight and spur thinking on ideas with real potential for impact. More than a discussion board or a blog, all participants can help collaboratively drive new thinking at any time during the Jam.
Automotive Supplier Jam is an unparalleled opportunity for collaborative innovation. And, as a member of an automotive supplier organization, you can be a part of this opportunity.”
IBM’s approach is awesome and should be imitated. Are you ready to Jam?
Fit to Lead the Future
Would you consider exercising if I told you that exercising makes leaders and their employees more effective? Studies have shown that senior executives, who exercise, are healthier and more effective at their jobs than those who don't, according to the article “Exercise May Have Job-Related” (May 2006). Would you consider providing time off to every employee if it made them more productive, improved their decision making skills and reduced absenteeism? If your organization plans on competing in the future, then you will need to know that future organizations will be willing to allocate 1 ½ hours per day of physical fitness time to each employee because they want to build a healthy organization to ensure long-term survival of its workforce and boost productivity. As a leader, your action is required.
The current trend is for companies to provide free personal trainers, free on/off-site fitness centers for their employees. IBM in Hawaii offers a special three month program for staff member’s children as recruitment present. Their Singapore division has formed a partnership with three fitness centers and offers free memberships to all of its employees. Companies such as Oracle, Cisco and Intel all offer on-site facilities for employees. The bottom line is if your company is loosing money in productivity because your employees are physically unfit, missing work, and stressed-out, can your company really afford the financial losses. Look at these statistics provided by MeritCare Health System’s website http://www.meritcare.com/specialties/occupational/corporate/ to see why employee fitness is so important:
Union Pacific Railroad found that 80 percent of its employees believed their exercise program was helping them become more productive at work, and 75 percent thought regular exercise was helping them achieve higher levels of relaxation and concentration.
Over a six year period, DuPont saw a 47.5 percent reduction in absenteeism among participants in its corporate fitness program.
The Canadian Life Assurance Company found turnover among its fitness program participants 34.4 percent lower over a seven-year period compared with non-participants during that same time.
Positive Return on Investment
Over five years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana realized a 250 percent return on its corporate fitness program investment—$2.51 for every $1.00 invested.
Can you imagine the potential of all levels of employees if they were given the time to exercise? Be a leading edge leader and take on the challenge to bring in this idea to your leadership. Can you afford not too?
Could you handle someone telling you that you are a bad leader? What if I told you that in the future you would insist on hearing the truth about your leadership style? Most people, not just leaders, have a hard time hearing that they are bad or ineffective leaders. As a leader, you need to think about conducting self assessments and peer evaluations to get honest constructive criticism about your leadership style. Even Fernando Bartolomé and John Weeks believe in their article “Find the Gold in Toxic Feedback” (2007, Apr) that “Managers need feedback, even if it’s biased, rude, off the mark, or irrelevant – and much of it is.”
Although feedback is vital, it takes a lot of effort to get other employees to tell you that you aren’t doing a very good job of leading. Most employees will tell their bosses everything positive or provide such a vague answer that it appears that there isn’t a problem. What you end up with is an organization full of ‘yes men,’ those who tell you that the sun sets on your every move. Thankfully, my last boss has been very receptive to my advice/criticism; actually my facial expressions and body language give me away most of the time. When he does something that he believes I see as wrong, based on my facial expressions and/or body language, he asks me what I didn’t like about his actions. Sometimes he makes adjustments and other times he doesn’t. What is really awesome about the relationship is that he does think about the criticism I give him even if it takes him a day or two to come around.
What you do with this feedback is critical. If you act on it, you will improve your performance if you don’t your inaction will damage your career and possibly the organization’s competitive advantage. So what should a leader do with this trend of wanting to hear the truth about his or leadership style? Promote constructive criticism in your organization and if you are the object of it, turn the negative criticisms into constructive criticism. Separate the message from the messenger, focus on the information you need, use it to help you identify and solve your problems and become a more effective leader.
Lead With Integrity
Wouldn’t it be nice to work for an organization where character and integrity are the standard and not the exception? Although the ethics in some companies are allegedly diminishing, you as an individual leader must decide to take a stand. Company conduct as well as individual conduct continues to be questioned at Halliburton. Representative Henry A. Waxman and Senator Byron L. Dorgan’s June 2005 Joint Congressional Report “Halliburton’s Questioned and Unsupported Costs In Iraq Exceed $1.4 Billion” (Jun 2005) questioned them about their excessive billings. Even Vice President Cheney’s name was thrown out on a news report yesterday concerning whether he still has ties to Halliburton. What’s worse is even though he no longer has connections with them his integrity will continue to be questioned by some in the public. The point is future leaders will be expected to be ethical by their stakeholders, co-workers, subordinates. As a leader you must make a decision in your heart that you will be unique and a role model to others. You will be under pressure to take a stand resulting in increased productivity from subordinates, loyalty from internal and external sources and ultimately increased revenues. Employees refer their friends and family members based on their experiences in companies.
As employees search for jobs they many times base their choice on the reputation of the company’s core values and whether those values line up with their own. Usually, on the surface, the company values line up. Take a look at the following value statements from several businesses:
We act with INTEGRITY in all we do…
We are each personally accountable for the highest standards of behavior, including honesty and fairness in all aspects of our work. We fulfill our commitments as responsible citizens and employees. We will consistently treat customers and company resources with the respect they deserve.
Lockheed Martin's Value Statements:
Do What's Right
We are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct in all that we do. We believe that honesty and integrity engender trust, which is the cornerstone of our business. We abide by the laws of the United States and other countries in which we do business, we strive to be good citizens and we take responsibility for our actions.
Corporate Values Statementof CTT, Solutions Inc.
“…Something very fundamental must happen if we are to be an organization that doesn't just profess to have corporate values, but actually demonstrates that we have them. Beyond the usual - but necessary - policies and procedures, we must also create a frame-work within our organization that guides ethical business decisions when there are perceived 'grey areas' and we must form our business processes around them from inception.It is essential that the premium we place on our corporate values be reinforced, practiced and communicated - by example and by word - from the very center of our organization out to its furthest edges…”
I did find it impressive that CTT Solutions, Inc.’s values statement is 1282 words compared to Northrop Grumman which had 60 words and Lockheed Martin had 51 words. But I also found a question posted on their website that I found to be really reflective for anyone who reads it: “Then ask yourself a simple question: if the action you contemplate taking were on the evening news, would you be proud of what it said about you, this Company and all of our many respected clients who have generously entrusted us with professional association?” Yes the lengthy values statement and the provocative question were impressive but we all know that it’s the reputation and experience once the employee enters the front door of the company that attracts and retains the employees. So let me leave you with Proverbs 10: 9 which states “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever follows perverse ways will be found out.” The future is coming, choose your path.
Leaders: What Are Your Plans For The Future?
If I were your consultant I would advise you to prepare for the future because there is no doubt that it is coming. There are trends which impact your leadership abilities as well as organizational priorities that will need your immediate attention in order to survive in the future. Businesses which intend on entering and staying in the global markets must face the fact that relationships must be built and knowledge shared in order to gain a competitive advantage. Start thinking now as to how you can form knowledge sharing partnerships with companies in India and/or in China in order to obtain technical knowledge. Another trend which impacts your organization is the creation of strategic communities which are based on collaborative processes between internal and external entities which will help your organization form and develop business concepts and ideas. Because the health of all members of your organization is important you should consider allocating time off during the day for physical fitness. Not only will you build a healthy organization but productivity of the workforce will increase.
On an individual level, your leadership position will be impacted. You will be expected to have uncompromising character and conduct in order to stay in business. Clients and subordinates will accept nothing less. If you have some issues lingering around your reputation as a leader, you should start cleaning up those areas through self-reflections and feedback from others that know you. Turn over a new leaf and you set the standard for others to follow. In cleaning up your character and conduct, you will receive increased loyalty, productivity and business from your clients. What more can you ask for. I will ask you again: leaders: what are your plans for the future?
About The Author:
Bridget has over 21 years of technical experience in the computer industry in support of federal and commercial customers. She aspires to lead her own company and return to the days of character, honesty, integrity, and loyalty. Businesses seem to have lost the incentive to have those qualities, but she wants to restore them for the generations to come.
Bridget Gilmore is pursuing her Doctorate of Strategic Leadership with Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA, and anticipates receiving it in the Fall of 2009. Bridget received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Information Systems from Saint Leo University and her Master of Arts degree in Computer Information Systems, Resource Management from Webster University.
She can be reached at [email protected].
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