The One Minute Manager, the all time best selling management book, was written more than 25 years ago. Pause for a moment and think about the changes in the world in the past 25 years. It is a bit mind boggling when you consider the depth and complexity of transformation to our everyday lives. The world has changed and the world of work has certainly changed with it.
There are six categories we can glance at that tell the story pretty well
You can instantly connect anytime, anywhere to almost anyone via your cell phone, Skype, the internet, PDA or even through your Twitter or blog. Blogs and sites like Facebook, which now has more than 100 million users, keep you connected to friends, family AND customers. On most days in 2008, 230,000%2B new users signed up for MySpace. If it were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world. The number of text messages sent each day exceeds the total population of the earth. YouTube is not only for the crazy antics of teenagers, it is a business tool featuring thousands of product and instructional videos. And you can be anyone you want to be in virtual worlds like SecondLife.com where IBM conducts internal meetings and Harvard now offers courses for credit.
You are now only one or two clicks away from getting an answer to almost any question. Your morning paper is now an RSS feed that goes directly to your PDA so you get the news you want all the time and even get alerts about information important to you (like sports scores!). There were more than 2.7 Billion searches performed on Google in January of 2008.
Wikipedia has become the largest reference website in the world attracting almost 700 million users in 2008. It is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. Today, there are more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages. As of October 1, there are 2,581,268 articles in English.
Blogging has become a way of life for thousands of people. As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. There are more people with blogs today (31 million) than had internet connection 10 years ago.
LinkedIn now has more than 24 million users connecting you to almost anyone you want to get to and helping you uncover who works where doing what.
Speed & size
Faster and smaller is a new way of life today as well. Just when we think it can’t get any faster, it does. Instant sometimes feels too long and designers and manufacturers of cell phones now face the dilemma that they have gotten too small. (How many of you have a hard time pushing the right buttons on your cell phone?).
It required 410 years to invent a photocopier from the moveable type method. And only 20 to design the modern day computer from the first mainframe.
Distance has been eliminated as a boundary. Teams can work 24/7 across the globe. You’re in Paris…You decide to use your credit card. Getting credit approval involves a 46,000-mile journey over phones and computers…and in a matter of two seconds everything is done. If there is a minor hiccup in the system, the ten second delay feels like forever!
ENIAC, commonly thought of as the first modern computer, was built in 1944. It took up more space than an 18-wheeler’s tractor trailer, weighed more than 17 mid-size cars, and consumed 140,000 watts of electricity. Computers are more affordable and more portable than they have ever been. Computer power is now 8,000 times less expensive than it was 30 years ago. If we had similar progress in automotive technology, today you could buy a luxury car for about $2. It would travel at the speed of sound and go about 600 miles on a thimble of gas.
The average consumer today wears more computing power on their wrists than existed in the entire world before 1961. Look around. Is there anything that has not been significantly impacted by the advances in technology?
Competition & Customers
Another key difference in our world today is the elimination of barriers to entry for most businesses and products. The ability to share information instantly around the world coupled with the ability to access it easily means that it is less complicated than ever to start a business. Garage start ups don’t appear any differently to their customer via the web than large, brick and mortar structures.
Co-opetition is more common today as businesses, industries and products overlap. Vendors are also customers are also competitors. We have to constantly examine and re-examine our views of who we serve and how.
Over one million products are available to the average shopper today. From the early 1970s to late 1990s, the number of vehicle models available to choose from rose from 140 to 260. The number of Frito-Lay chip varieties rose from 10 to 78. Over-the-counter pain relievers from 17 to 141. In January 2007, it was reported that there were 106,875,138 Web sites with domain names and content on them, compared to just 18,000 Web sites in August 1995.
And customers are not only finding products online, they are turning to the Internet for every aspect of their lives. One out of seven couples married in 2007 met online.
And finally, Generations & diversity
The United States has four generations at work for the first time ever. The differences in values, needs, wants and desires is enormous providing us almost unending perspectives on every aspect of our business, product and service.
Diversity, including race, age, ethnicity, political and religious beliefs as well as gender is prevalent in most communities and businesses especially those in the US.
So,what is critical to be a great manager or leader in today’s world? You have to have a more complete set of competencies, skills and traits. EQ (emotional intelligence) and IQ are critical – it is not an either/or proposition. Today it is clearly an and/both equation.
To keep up, a leader and manager today has to DO well at the following:
- Get back to basics when everything around you diverts you into complexity
- Make strategic planning a way of life in your organization
- Set clear expectations of what excellence looks like
- Communicate constantly about your strategies and excellence
- Build a high performing culture that supports your strategies and brings them to life
- Provide continuous feedback
- Constantly learn and unlearn
What Remains…What Evolves
Certain aspects and behaviors of leaders and managers that were important twenty five years ago are still critical today and will likely still be important 100 years from now. These include acting with integrity, leading by example, developing talent and ensuring customer satisfaction/loyalty.
However, there are vast differences between the old-style of administrating and directing and the new idea of guiding and inspiring. Today’s managers and leaders are faced with a whole new set of expectations in the way they motivate the people who work with or follow them, setting the tone for most other aspects of what they do. People today not only don’t want to be managed, in most cases, they simply won’t be managed. Today’s employee wants to be led. They want to participate and engage in every aspect of their job. Creating a two way relationship is critical especially considering that many knowledge workers today know more about what they are doing than their boss does.
Another significant shift for managers and leaders today is the necessity of thinking globally. The impact of globalization has affected all aspects of business. Appreciating and leveraging diversity is an additional shift that correlates to our world becoming smaller and smaller; the broad expansion of businesses spans seas, cultures, and religions. In addition to these actions and areas of focus, leaders and managers today must be more innovative and more proactive, anticipating problems and opportunities as well as entirely new markets and products.
How do you keep up as a manager or leader today?
Focus on continual learning and unlearning. There are almost no jobs left that will remain the same over time and the demands of leaders and managers are continuing to evolve. The really great ones are constantly learning and developing themselves and they have the following characteristics in common. They:
- Like to master things. They are motivated and driven to constantly get better, knowing full well that they will not, and should not, be perfect.
- Are observant and flexible. They can consider multiple perspectives to create general guidelines that help them make sense of what is around them.
- Focus on problem solving. They consider current issues from the perspective of making things better versus blaming or worrying. Their thinking is characterized by a balance of the ability to visualize what might or could be, and an effective day to day approach to get the right things done. They can distill complexity.
- Are self aware. They are constantly working to become even more aware of their own intentions as well as their impact on others. They admit mistakes and learn from them.
- Are specific, direct and candid with others. They expose any agenda they have and use good listening skills to really hear what others have to say rather than simply planning their next response.
- Have a broad range of interests. They are genuinely curious about others. They are able to make comparisons easily while seeing and appreciating the complexity in the world.
- Think strategically. They are able to see, understand and appreciate the current state as well as see possibilities. When dealing with today’s issues, they operate from a broad, long term perspective rather than taking a narrow view or focusing only on short term implications. They are able to gather information and make decisions in a timely manner.
- Are action oriented. They get things done, making timely decisions.
More Than a Minute provides a guidebook – I constantly note in the book, there is no one right way to do all of the things we talk about as important for success. There are advantages and disadvantages to almost every approach. Make sure you are making informed choices and are clear on the trade-offs.