As we slowly enter a post-covid economy the modern workplace is fraught with many challenges. Rapid changes in our businesses make it tough to keep up with our own self-inflicted obstacles, let alone keep up with our competition. Market volatility makes it hard to know whether to invest in new technology, or upgrade our existing systems. The influx of next-gen workers with alternate motivations and values requires a completely different set of management skills. All the while many of the same challenges still exist in that we are consistently being asked to do more with less to achieve that ever-elusive healthy bottom line.
Yet as in any era the one thing that continues to set successful organizations apart from the pack is strong leadership. But the questions around what actually creates and sustains strong leaders is as old as business itself.
What is it that these exceptional leaders are doing that other seemingly intelligent and motivated leaders are not? What allows them to continue to move the needle in the right direction when others are in full retreat? How do they manage create, and build strong teams over and over again that somehow seem to hit the mark?
If the answers to these age-old questions were easy, then every organization would be successful and everybody would be an exceptional leader, but we all know that simply isn’t the case.
One success formula being tossed around recently is the idea that the modern leader isn’t showing up everyday in the workplace to simply solve the problems, but rather to help work through a dilemma.
Think about the workplace 100 years ago. Many of the best and brightest leaders were problem solvers. They used their brilliance to solve the biggest problems of the day, and then tinkered with their workforces to solve them in quickest and most efficient manner. In the process of solving these obvious problems they helped create the workplace we all live in today, which by the way still has many problems. But our highly educated and motivated workforce is more than equipped to handle these problems of scheduling, training, work-flow, input and output.
If a modern worker has a question about an existing problem, they can simply google their situation and instantly they have access to every solution that has ever existed. Even if these solutions do not hit the mark, they can spark the solution that does.
The challenge of a modern leader than isn’t to simply be yet another problem solver. Look around your business today, and I bet there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of people at their desks or home offices banging on their computers fixing and solving every problem that has been handed to your company.
Most leaders today have been placed in their current positions because guess what? They were good at fixing and solving problems. Yet at the leadership level your job tends to evolve from that of solving problems, to being able to identify and work through a dilemma?
What is a dilemma? Well for starters it usually cannot be dealt with by a google search. These are the questions that require human thought and creativity. Many times these dilemmas are fraught with conflict and disagreement on how the proceed with the best steps. Very rarely is there a right or a wrong answer.
The challenge for a professed problem solver, is that dilemmas are not really fixed or solved, they are engaged in with the intent of moving through the dilemma with the least amount of friction or damage. Often times when faced with a dilemma no solution is a good solution.
Here’s a good example of a dilemma: You are in a boat that is sinking. You are wearing the last life jacket. There are two people that you could save by giving your life jacket to them, however you will certainly die if you give it to them. What will you do? Kind of a tough one, right?
Here’s another that the makers of Autonomous Vehicles will get to deal with. The car is heading toward a pedestrian, if the computer swerves to avoid the person it will hit a wall and kill it’s driver, it if stays the course it will kill the pedestrian. What should the computer do? Imagine being the programmer that gets to write the code for that dilemma with the auto industry?
Luckily for most of us, our businesses are not dealing with life and death situations, but the idea is still the same. A modern leader is really helping deal with the dilemmas of the day rather than fixing and solving problems.
Here’s a few to think about:
How are we building an engaged and motivated workforce?
How do we create a healthy culture in our business?
What are we doing to align our values with the values of our team?
Who will be my successor when I decide to ride off into the sunset?
What are the challenges our business will face, 5, 10, 20 years from now?
As you think about your own journey as a leader, ask yourself if you have made the jump from simply being a problem solver and fixer, to a leader that engages in working through the biggest dilemmas facing your business.
Cheers you and facing your Dilemmas head on
One Quarter Turn at a Time
Thoughts for the week:
The worst battle you fight is between what you know and what you feel.- Unknown
Doing the right thing is not the problem. Knowing what the right thing is the challenge. -Lyndon Johnson
Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time. What we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. -Stoney Harris
The problem isn’t to find the answer, it’s to face the answer. -Terence McKenna
Looking forward to our next connection