5 distinctive traits of a new world managerBY SRINIVASA ADDEPALLI
Let’s face it; the world we live in is a lot different from the one we grew up in. The science fiction that we grew up reading is becoming reality, Apple’s recently launched personal assistant, Siri being one such example.
We are no longer just ‘consumers’ of information, media or entertainment; we are ‘creators’ or ‘collaborators’ now. Ownership of an asset or product is not the end goal anymore – we value instant, anywhere access to all our services.
Devices in multiple form factors, ubiquitous connectivity and ingenious applications - all of them are making our lives, at home and at work more different than ever before.
Transformation of the enterprise
This change is beginning to be visible at work as well. The workplace of the future will be unlike what we have experienced in the past several decades. The era of the dedicated office building, desk and PC is coming to an end.
Soon, employees working for most businesses, particularly in the technology and service industries, will no longer troop into an “office” and occupy their assigned desks, nor will “personal” computers and cubicle walls mark the territory for each “worker”. Team meetings and gossip sessions will stop originating at the coffee machine or the water cooler.
Most technology evolutions in the past have occurred in the military, academia or industry before trickling on to retail consumers. In recent times we have seen a reversal of this trend. Ideas such as social networking, micro-blogging that originated in the consumer space have in a big way found their way into the enterprise.
Social media, hitherto the domain of individuals, has made a mark in the enterprise space as well – a quick search on Google revealed 36,972 open positions for Social Media Managers! Both for external communications with customers and partners as well as for internal communications with a globally dispersed employee base, companies are increasingly deploying social media tools like Chatter, Yammer, Jive and Injoos to name a few.
This Consumerisation of IT creates several challenges for traditional IT infrastructure and IT departments; it is also creating even bigger challenges for HR personnel and business leaders. In this digitally connected world, what are the skills required to be a successful manager and leader? Where does one find such managers?
The New World Manager
Based on our observations of and discussions with executives from various geographies, we highlight five characteristics that appear to mark the New World Manager (NWM).
Cultural Sensitivity: Working across boundaries and teams requires our managers to be highly sensitive to the cultural differences, both around work practices and people behaviour. Such managers have either worked in multiple countries and/or been exposed to multi-cultural environments at school or university.
Managing Virtually: Globalisation requires organisations to target attractive markets, wherever they might be; it also requires staffing their teams with the most appropriate people, wherever they might be.
A NWM has to work with people across locations and time zones; she has the maturity to manage her team by outcomes rather than by observation. Such managers find smarter ways to engage with their bosses, peers and team members, even with ‘physical’ interaction.
Integrity & Trust: Various studies have predicted that a third of the world’s workforce will be mobile in a couple of years – over 1 billion people will be working without the constant observation of a supervisor.
Creating an environment of trust between team members would be critical. NWMs are personally motivated to deliver results and will trust their team members to do so.
Technology Savvy: Needless to say, new world managers are innovators and early adopters of technology. Whether it is new collaboration or productivity techniques for the team or disruptive business model innovations, they are open to experimenting (and personally ‘tinkering’) with technology.
They constantly challenge the CIO with new demands, yet they do not love technology for the sake of technology – only for the benefits that it provides to their business.
24/7 On: Gone are the days of the traditional ‘9 to 5’ work-days. With virtual teams and stakeholders working across time zones, NWMs are ON all the time. They are also smart workers, with the ability to multi-task at one time or focus on just one thing at another time.
However, she can also very quickly switch off from work and enjoy her personal life; her family too has adapted to this flexible routine.
The Elusive New World Manager
Frankly, there are very few people who naturally exhibit all the five characteristics of a NWM. Last August, Time wrote about India’s leading export – its leaders as CEOs of global corporations.
It is true that managers from emerging markets like India and Singapore have been exposed to multi-cultural environments and challenging situations that required them to break away from traditional norms. Investments in nurturing NWMs need to be made both at the national as well as the organizational level.
Nations like Singapore, with their conducive economic policies, investments in technology and entrepreneurship and strong educational system are building the right foundations for NWMs to emerge. Organizations too can systematically invest in creating NWMs through a mix of training and career planning.
Young, high potential managers should be required to work in at least two or three different geographies and across a similar number of functional areas. Assessment of leadership potential should include the kind of characteristics described above; they are more difficult to measure than operating and financial results but organisations have no choice but adopt them.