Managers of the Future


Yesterday, I made the huge mistake of leaving the house without my smart phone – which of course required an immediate U-turn. My eight year old neighbor yelled from his drive way, “What did you forget Miss Lorna?” “My telephone,” I yelled back. “Your what? Oh, you mean your phone, your phone!” The word “telephone” was not in his vocabulary. Sigh.

The world is changing – fast!

What does this mean for the future of management and organizations? It’s likely that this question has been asked before and will continue to be asked. But today’s challenges must surely be the most dynamic in all of history! Well, not really.

Think of what past generations must have experienced as they changed from being food gathers to village folk – from village folk to city dwellers – from farmers to factory workers – from peace to war to peace. How can it be that our grandmothers remember when telephones were rare and TV’s non-existent? Our children cannot imagine how horrible life must have been living in a world without the internet.

The way we lead and manage employees has changed too.

We once believed that the right way to manage was to tell people exactly what to do – then stand over them to make sure it was done. That worked in many situations. There was actually a time when people were not highly educated, when the majority of jobs involved industrial type work, and when the ability to effectively perform rote tasks was coveted.

Now a lot of our employees are highly educated and working in knowledge-based jobs. Not that many years ago going to college was a big deal – the exception to the rule. Now not going to college is the exception to the rule. So folks come out of college ready to perform amazing feats. They have been taught to work independently – and in teams. They know how to problem solve, create, and innovate. When faced with something they don’t know how to do they turn to internet search engines and self-educate.

Many times, we are not ready to engage them at the level at which they are ready to engage.

The majority of organizations require that you start at the bottom and work your way up. First you need to perform supportive tasks and along the way earn the right to do more challenging work. So we bring in highly educated, energetic employees and do not give them opportunities to use their strengths and skills. They become disenchanted (some folks call this disengaged) and begin looking for other opportunities.

The future of management will require a new style of management.

Work environments will need to be flexible and less rule-bound. Managers will need to find ways to focus on the strengths and passions of each employee. They will need to have the ability to merge these strengths into a fit for the organizational mission.

As we move into our future here are some tips for today’s managers:

  • Identify individual strengths and give employees opportunities to work on tasks they enjoy.
  • Make every employee feel valued.
  • Create opportunities for one-on-one conversations with employees.
  • Create an open environment that allows for conversation about generational diversity.
  • Encourage input and honest feedback.

It is clear that successful managers of the future will find ways to use the skills of everyone in the workplace in ways that makes each person feel valued, challenged, and gratified.

One last thing to remember – today was yesterday’s future.

We had best get to work.

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