Are we facing a ticking time bomb of myopic management?

In 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management (APPGM) in the UK created a Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership to investigate how both would need to adapt and change in order to deliver sustainable economic growth for the UK by 2020.  Their findings were published last month.   What was their message?  Brace yourself – it’s not pretty.

In conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the commission brought together members of both Houses of Parliament, across the main parties, with leaders from a wide range of sectors. They considered evidence from academic experts, vibrant entrepreneurs, up-and-coming young managers and world-renowned business leaders alike.  Their findings are published in this report Management 2020: Leadership to unlock long-term growth. Here’s what they had to say…

Our evidence shows that boards need to focus on three critical areas: how they define their purpose, how they lead their people, and how they manage their potential.

The UK boasts world-class organisations and some of the best managers in the world. We heard from several in the course of this Commission. The insights they offered about the future of management and leadership, and what we need to do to deliver long-term growth and prosperity, are at the heart of this report.

But the truth is that those shining examples are just too rare. From the evidence seen by this Commission, it’s clear that we’re faced with a ticking time bomb of myopic management. We neglect the importance of sustainable growth in the long term in favour of cutting costs to deliver profits in the short term. Our managers are not encouraged to take risks or given space to be innovative. They bear a heavy responsibility for driving economic growth yet they are not given the training and coaching that they need to do their jobs properly.

We said it wasn’t pretty.

The report highlighted training and development of the next generation of leaders and managers as a priority, with lack of mentoring and coaching for development cited as an issue. Poor leadership and management skills, particularly employee engagement skills, were also identified as a weak area that impacts on the UK’s productivity. Senior leaders are often not getting regular training and development. Short termism and a financial focus are cited as holding businesses back, as are out-dated structures.

The report also looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the Generation Y (those born in the 1980’s and 90’s) who will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. Their shortcomings include self-awareness, an attitude of entitlement and poor face-to-face communication skills. They also have limited international experience, which with the ability to create inclusive cultures an important skill for the future, is a worry.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

There are some great case studies of businesses that are getting it right, such as Unilever and Thomas Cook. The report also gives some good insights on the future workforce needs (Generation Y and the Millennials) and a prediction for the Working World 2020.  There’s also a Management 2020 Benchmark Tool to establish where your organisation is currently against best practice guidelines around Purpose, People and Potential.

So what do Leaders and Management need to get better at in order to deliver sustainable economic growth by 2020?

  • Leaders need to act like shepherds and “lead from behind”. They’ll need to decide who is in and who is not in the group and to articulate the values that will inform the group. Developing the talents of members will be crucial so that they can flourish in their roles, set boundaries for the group’s activities and manage the tensions that are inherent in group life.
  • Managers will need to be able to lead teams consisting of workers who work flexibly, independently and in a broad range of geographical locations.
  • People skills will be ever more vital. Emotional intelligence, ethics, self-awareness and the ability to reflect feature highly as do the ability to have difficult conversations and set up mechanisms for feeding bad news to senior leaders.
  • The necessity for collaboration, across sectors and organisations will be key and business leaders need to have the skills and know-how to do it.

At Future Considerations our conversations with a range of different organisations lead us to agree with the Commission’s findings. We have been helping our clients develop their next generation of leaders for some time.  Our clients report that those who have participated  apply their deepened self awareness, improved person-to-person communication skills, and ability to understand the wider context of the working environment in ways that make work more fulfilling and add real value to the bottom line.  You can find out more about our commitment to the Future of Management and Leadership by signing up to receive our newsletters.

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