The way that we work and do business is changing at a rate of pace we might not have thought imaginable back in the mid-20th century. With the rise of computing power and the dream connectivity the internet affords, we’re now having to change working styles to accommodate not only changing technologies, but also changing employee attitudes.
So, how can leaders lead well in this brave new world? We spoke to four industry leaders in the Australia tech space to find out.
Communication and collaboration take the lead as we go remote
As communication and collaboration avenues diversify, a leader’s soft skills become even more important. While face-to-face meetings and phone calls are still a staple of work life, text-based collaboration platforms and video conferencing are also staples now, too.
Paul Diaz, Associate Director Talent & Leadership at Optus, highlights leaders’ “ability to connect and care for their people” as a major skill for the future.
“Leaders need the skills to create a culture of collaboration within and across teams,” he says. “This involves being able to engage productively and constructively with people, connect work to a common purpose, being open to feedback, and sharing knowledge and experiences.”
Going forward, leaders must be able to both thrive in a face-to-face team environment as well as remotely.
This means the ability to communicate and collaborate well over mediums that may not lend themselves to expressing emotion effectively, such as emails. So, how can you gauge your level of skill and improve? Take Diaz’s advice.
“Use feedback, practice, and reflection. Having formal and informal systems in place to receive feedback goes a long way to helping leaders get a perspective on how they approach communication and collaboration.”
A thirst for knowledge to match the speed of technology change
Employees who invest their time and effort into future career progression rather than “just doing their job” will go far, particularly in tech-focused roles.
As for the leaders who will be the most successful in this new era? Diaz says it’s those with an eye for growth.
“Arguably, the most important skill for leaders today is having a growth mindset – the underlying belief that they are not limited, and that their abilities, ways of thinking, and even intelligence, can grow with time and experience. Believing that they and their teams can make a difference, seeking out opportunities, being willing to learn and take on feedback – these are all growth-related traits that lend themselves very well to leading in the digital age.”
Changing values requires a focus on evolving company culture
While company culture often has a written credo with core ‘values,’ it’s what is on the ground that actually counts.
As Sonya Sherman, Industry Solutions Director at Objective notes, “Culture is revealed through the behaviours and practices that members of the organisation collectively display. Leaders influence culture firstly through their own through their actions, and secondly, through the actions and behaviours they reward. These serve as a model of organisational values.”
Leaders must be beacons of this new style of company culture – where every employee counts, community values are strong, and there can be a focus on sustainability and flexibility.
“When people can see themselves reflected in the leadership team, it can give a stronger sense of how their work contributes to the goals and direction of the organisation,” says Sherman. “It can also encourage participation and staff retention, with a closer alignment of the corporate identity with personal identity.”
Engagement is everything. Jayne Bachelor, Learning and Development Manager at ELMO, also has some words on the matter. “Build company culture! Yes, perhaps this is easier said than done, especially in a diverse workplace with many personalities, ethnicities and beliefs. But, it’s not impossible.”
“Building culture is done by developing a set of values and beliefs for the business that all employees want to subscribe to. A great company culture is more than table tennis, pool, or other games in the common area. It is about creating an environment where employees understand synergies they share as well as challenges faced in other parts of the business.”
And, of course, keep up with the tech
Sampson Oliver, Tech Lead at A Cloud Guru says choosing the right tech is key. “Something that really sticks with me about efficiency is this concept of optimising the “signal to noise” ratio. When I see a new technology opportunity, I think about whether it will help me make less noise – less distractions – and focus on raising more interesting and effective signals.”
It’s about making life easier – using technology to avoid friction. He goes on to say how they achieve this at A Cloud Guru.
“This concept of No Code, that essentially the less code you yourself write and maintain, the better; and this is what leveraging new technologies really is. New technologies make processes easier, so we don’t have to do all the gritty details of it ourselves. So if there’s a solution out there, like serverless, for hosting and running all our code, and we don’t have to manage it… that’s a win for us.”
However, it’s not necessary to be bleeding edge all the time. The lesson isn’t “be a startup” – it’s that you’ve got to stay competitive and foster every competitive advantage, to avoid being disrupted. Stay on top of your craft, leveraging tech, and you’ll put out quality products while staying ahead of the competition.
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