How to Be an Engaging Leader in a World of Robotics, AI, and Digitization
Publication: Leadership Now
Author: Danita Bye
Date: July 10, 2019
MANY of today’s leaders are saying: I know leadership is about people, not tasks; effectiveness, not efficiency. However, the rapid increase of robotics, AI, and digitization are a disruption. It’s leading us to increased depersonalization and disengagement with our employees. How do I keep the digital demands of today from overwhelming my business? I want to keep my best people engaged, remain competitive, and stay on the growth path!
If these are your feelings, you are not alone! Many business leaders are perplexed by the task of leading in an ever-increasing technological world. Yes, we are leaders of people, and yet it feels as if technology and other digital demands keep us from investing in our most valuable resource, our people.
In the midst of managing these exponential leaps in technology, there is a war for talent. We are challenged to attract, engage, and retain top-tier millennial talent – the fastest growing segment in our workforce.
However, Millennials, the techno-wizards, are not necessarily happy either. Here’s the paradox: Millennials are stepping into a world where one of the things they are good at—technology—may well be one of the things that hurts them most and undercuts their ability to flourish. They are living in a world where the predictions are that robots will soon take over their jobs.
It feels as if we’re getting mixed messages from the top. Do we need to choose between attracting and engaging top millennial talent and installing new, state-of-the-art technology? Not every industry needs the latest artificial intelligence, but everyone is feeling the pinch of staying on the leading edge of technology. How can we be an engaging leader in a world of robotics, AI, and digitization?
The Benefits of Engaging Leadership
According to the 2017 Gallup Workplace Report, employee disengagement is alarmingly high in America. They report that just over 30 percent of participants are engaged (love their jobs), 16 percent are actively disengaged (miserable and destroying what others are building), and 51 percent are not engaged (they’re just there).
In 2016, the Society for Human Resource Management made a compelling case about the benefits that come from an engaging leadership approach:
• 22 percent greater profitability
• 21 percent greater productivity
• 65 percent lower turnover
Millennials are reminding us of what the research shows – no matter how important the new AI or robotics system is, in order to attract, engage, and retain them, we need to do three important things.
Prioritize the Person, as well as the Technology
“I want to be treated as an individual – not as a trend or a robot.”
Listen deeply. Listening is a tangible action that engaging leaders employ to demonstrate that they value the Millennials in their sphere of influence. They listen…then collaborate on how they might support their emerging leader’s goals to leverage their strengths, nurture their natural skills, and achieve their career goals.
Here’s the challenge. As experienced leaders, we have a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and insight that we are excited to share with our younger counterparts. But what happens when we talk, and talk, and talk…and don’t listen? Our emerging leader loses trust. Then, they disengage. Why? Trust is at its lowest when we talk 75 – 80 percent of the time, and listen only 20 – 25 percent of the time.
What might happen if we spent 20 – 25 percent of our coaching and managing time asking insightful, probing questions, and then listening? Practical experience has proven that active listening improves collaboration, deepens relationships, and boosts productivity. By prioritizing and seeking to understand what makes your emerging leader flourish, you spark engagement.
Plus, you will gain even further insights from them on how to leverage technology to gain to tap new markets, gain market share, and enhance the customer experience.
Align Vision and Values
“I want to understand your vision and values so that I know how I’m making an impact. I want to be part of something bigger than the job you’ve hired me to do.”
Tapping into the goals, dreams, and aspirations of their Millennials – and creating alignment with their company’s vision and values – is a driver for engagement-focused leaders.
Emerging leaders often feel stuck and can’t see beyond the perceived drudgery of their ToDo List. They may struggle seeing how their everyday work has meaning and purpose. The result? Disengagement.
Reverse this trend by helping them see how they, and the work they are doing, fit into your company’s larger purpose. The clearer the picture is to them on how they are helping your customers and how they are making the world a better place, the more engaged they will be. They will live with high regard for their work, bringing fresh, human compassion, insights, and connection to a high-tech world.
Value Two-Way Mentoring
“I want to be more than a digital number in your database who gets a monthly paycheck. I want leadership that values my opinion and is geared to my career development opportunities.”
Two-way mentoring means that we seek not only to teach and train our emerging leaders but also to learn from them.
Millennials thrive when they get clear guidelines and feedback that shines a bright light on what they’re doing right. This creates a learning pattern for them of recognizing their strengths, re-creating it, and refining it. Bring them into brainstorming and problem-solving processes. Their insights can assist you in developing new products and services, as well as create openings in new markets. We might not want to admit it, but they have important insights for us to consider that test and rethink our own paradigms about how to lead well in the rapidly shifting world.
The disruption of digitization, robotics, and AI is here to stay. That does not mean that your role as a leader of people will become obsolete. In fact, your role will become even more indispensable.
As the war for talent continues, you can come one step closer to winning that war by becoming an engaging leader. The time has come to start listening to emerging leaders so that we learn about their strengths. Give your Millennial clarity on his or her role, and create a win-win scenario by establishing yourself as a leader who wants to learn. You have the experience and resources to counteract the depersonalization and disengagement phenomenon. Keep your best people engaged, remain competitive, keep up with the demands of technology, and be poised for growth!
This article was originally published HERE.