The Future of Work is Here, and Leaders Must Be Change Intelligent®

These three capabilities are key for success in the new world of work

September 14, 2017 | Barbara A. Trautlein

change highwayContemplating “the future of work” is both exciting and daunting. Now and in the future, compared to our parents, we have a vast array of choices over how we work, where we work, when we work, and with whom we work. Innovative work arrangements such as “flash organizations” are in full force all around the world, and they are mushrooming in their variety, in the industries they’re transforming, and in the types of professionals they affect. We are dealing with constant change within organizations — mergers, competitive threats, and governmental regulations, to name just a few. “Work” itself is being re-imagined, and the meanings of “organization” and “team” are being transformed. All of these new arrangements involve change, and change presents challenge. As we will see, within these new contexts, Change Intelligent® leadership, or CQ®, is vital.

As working professionals, we must now master how to ply our trades within organizations that are often structurally fluid. This applies to all types of leaders and professionals — employees within corporations, contract professionals for hire on a single project, or members of flash organizations. You might even fulfill more than one of these categories at the same time.

We must learn to adapt to this new world of frequent organizational change, especially because evidence shows that many have failed to adapt. When studying major organizational changes (mergers, new technologies, shifting business processes, etc.), three decades of research (from Harvard studies in the mid-80s to more recent work by McKinsey and Company, to name just two) reveal a failure rate as high as 70% or more. If we continue to struggle with managing change, how does this bode for our ability to manage fundamentally new organizational forms and our place within them?

One way forward is to study how successful change happens. While there are many layers to that onion, a key is defining how successful changes are led. Managing organizational change – and managing organizations and work arrangements regardless of form – is important. We need to handle the basic managerial tasks, and we need help from the “change management toolkit,” such as all the models and methods at our disposal (project plans, etc.).

What’s missing so often is our ability to lead in a way that gets results. Leadership is important in any organization, on any team, and for any change initiative to achieve success. And leadership is especially mission-critical for new work arrangements such as flash organizations, which depend on professionals who don’t know each other coming together to achieve a challenging, never-done-before objective within often extremely challenging constraints.

Change Intelligent leadership is mission-critical in the new world of work. Leaders with strong Change Intelligence (or CQ) are aware of their style of leading change, and able to adapt their style to be optimally effective – when working with vastly different people, projects, and processes.

So what qualities constitute strong CQ? First, let’s clarify that we’re all leaders, regardless of tenure, title, or role. We’ve all heard the call for “agile organizations,” and indeed the move toward new work arrangements is testament to the need for increasingly agile organizational forms. We need agile leadership to achieve agile organizations. We need to build our individual and collective CQ.

Building CQ starts with awareness of one’s style of leading. The three fundamental leadership techniques of a high-CQ leader are:

  • Leading from the Heart: focusing on people; engagement and collaboration
  • Leading from the Head: focusing on purpose; vision and strategy
  • Leading from the Hands: focusing on process; tactics and tools

Successful change and successful organizations need all three – and that’s even more true for leading agile, temporary, high-risk/high-reward work arrangements. Here are questions to ask yourself as you learn to lead from the Heart, Head, and Hands:

  • Psychological safety is the most important factor in high-performance teams. Given this, how can we bring people with different backgrounds and from different cultures together, address their emotional concerns, and meld them to form a team? Relationships get results. In other words, how can we engage the Heart?
  • Vision and strategy are two hallmarks of effective organizations. Given this, how can we ensure a clear and unrelenting focus on the goal while incorporating the flexibility we need to course correct along the way? Said differently, how can we enlighten the Head?
  • If our team/organization is brand new and therefore has no pre-existing processes or tools — and may consist of individuals with widely disparate methodologies and training — how can we craft empowering but not encumbering ways of collaborating efficiently and consistently? How can we equip the Hands?

Now and in the future, we’ll continue to be presented with a dizzying array of opportunities and iterations when it comes to workplace organization. To optimally capitalize on this abundance, we’ll need to continually expand our capabilities to lead all the many changes in our workplaces and our world. Leading change starts with each of us. In our ever-changing world, one of the few things we can control is ourselves – our mindsets and our behaviors. Building our CQ is a powerful step in the journey.

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  • About The Author
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  • Barbara A. Trautlein, PhD is author of the best-selling book Change Intelligence:  Use the Power of CQ to Lead Change that Sticks, principal and founder of Change Catalysts, and originator of the CQ System for Developing Change Intelligent Leaders and Organizations. For over 25 years, Barbara has coached executives, trained leaders at all levels, certified change agents, and facilitated mission-critical change management initiatives – achieving bottom-line business and powerful leadership results for clients.  In 2015 she had the honor of being awarded Change Management Consultant of the Year by the Association of Change Management Professionals Midwest Chapter.  Her blend of research, real-world expertise, and actionable strategies makes her an in-demand speaker spanning a wide range of industries across the globe.  Clients served include Abbott Laboratories, BP, Cisco, Ford Motor Company, the NYPD, and United Airlines.  Barbara holds a doctorate in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan.