The AEC sector is rapidly growing and evolving. But the highway ahead is not without some forks in the road. An aging workforce, coupled with the great resignation, has created a critical talent shortage. Inflation and supply chain crunches are also headwinds. How will AEC firms come out on top?
In this article, Chris Swan explores key trends shaping the industry and offers valuable tips and advice for engineering a prosperous path forward.
The organisation that got us here won't get us to where we need to be. The environment, and social and corporate governance (ESG) on their own demand new ways to think and act. Factor in the urgent need for diversity and inclusion, a whole generation who are disenfranchised economically, the combined and unrelenting forces of digitalisation, talent shortages, remote employment, market entrants that reinvent the sector, the avalanche of disruptive technology that lies just around the corner, and we have little choice but to uncover new ways to organise.
The organisational shift demanded falls firmly within the realm of the organisation's culture. Culture is a system. Systems thinking means striving to understand the relationship between each element. And this is where the organisation's values make their entrance. Values are a loadstone, a core/central element in culture that brace (link) the other elements; in particular, the four central pillars of organisation culture: purpose, diversity/inclusion, brand and speed.
A brand can be viewed as a competitive spear thrust into the marketplace. The value proposition sits at its tip. A truly winning value proposition spells out how the provider delivers distinct value. However, adding value versus creating value, prompts a very different way to think about business development.
Bedford Group/TRANSEARCH today announced publication of the 2021 Executive Compensation Report in the technology industry. This is the company's first annual industry-wide survey of compensation awards and practices of publicly traded North American technology companies.
This report is a precursor to an upcoming 2022 Bedford report that will analyse the compensation awards and practices of small, privately-held technology companies including tech start ups.
The pandemic tested us physically, logistically, and emotionally. The unexpected and immediate shift to a fully remote company left us with a lot to master from our respective pods. There’s a different urgency around skill development when you’re learning in a crisis. After refining our communication and work-product delivery best practices for more than a year, my conclusion is that this experience turbocharged our skills and streamlined our operations.
Powering through the pandemic has permanently changed our operating paradigm.
Leadership, as it must be, is strategic. It's to step back, see the big picture and, to the extent possible, create tomorrow in the room, today. Covid is but one piece of a chaotic and ever changing political, economic, societal, business and interconnected leadership puzzle. At the centre of all of this is 'the team' … a basic and fundamental blueprint for organisational and personal success.
What follows is intended as a practical guide for:
Setting the scene for a virtual team.
A new or established leader who needs to take the team to the next level.
The executive who feels that, as the organisation navigates the turbulent waters of change, the team is losing its impact.
The HR executive, division head or external recruitment specialist (e.g., the executive search consultant) who, in orchestrating team fit, needs to understand the team they are hiring into.
A manager or external resource faced with the challenge of coaching the team.
Even without COVID-19, the current and projected level of social and economic disruption dramatically changes, irrevocably, what it means to be successful both as an organisation … AND as an individual.
A more relevant approach to resilience involves pushing to the edge, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, adapting to the new state, reflecting on the experience and developing new ways to behave. It's a dynamic rather than a static process. It's about leading and learning; not absorbing and then acting as before. Resilience means not only weathering the storm … but being strengthened by it.
Traditional thinking around resilience defines it as "absorbing change and bouncing back". It portrays the human spirit as a kind of behavioural elastic band – it stretches and then when the tension is released goes back to where it was.
In a steady state world, "bouncing back" is an apt description. Unfortunately, we don't live in a steady, consistent, unchanging world. Today's environment is marked by disruption, uncertainty and, where technology is involved, exponential change.
In any process seeking to bring about "change" … self-reflection isn't important … it's essential.
Without reflection there is no learning. Meanwhile, with ongoing "black swan" events likely to become the new reality, resilience seen as a way to return to the status quo isn't very helpful. Indeed, it's misleading.
Being strengthened by the storm
A more relevant approach presents resilience as pushing to the edge, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, adapting to the new state, reflecting on the experience and developing new ways to behave. It's a dynamic rather than a static process. It's about leading and learning; not absorbing and then acting as before.
Resilience means not only weathering the storm … but being strengthened by it.
Moreover, in assuming that resilience describes an individual's personal resources – as is invariably the case – we miss an important piece of the puzzle. Context matters and the right network, a support system and being around positive people make a difference.
Tomorrow's successful leaders will surround themselves with people who are resilient. Accepting the plasticity of the brain, we can learn to become more resilient. There is a link, for example, between resilience and the research on positive psychology. If you are overly anxious, risk-averse, trapped by yesterday's success, have difficulty facing adversity or are overwhelmed by life, resilience is spelt "r e s i s t a n c e".
Employ the Head, Empower the Hand, Engage the Heart, and Enrich the Spirit (Part 2)
Why leadership balance is a business imperative
We have asked 10,000+ leaders, in over twenty-five countries, a simple question:
"What are the qualities of the best leader you have ever worked for?"
Two key results emerge.
First, successful leaders empower the head; enable the hand; engage the heart; and enrich the spirit. Lack of attention (or capability) in any one domain and team members/subordinates are short-changed on all four. It matters not, for example, that you have a great strategy (head) if execution (hand) is found wanting.
The second insight speaks to leadership balance (coherence). Balance describes performance excellence in each of the four domains. It is also about how those domains combine. Specifically, how the head and hand; the hand and heart; the heart and spirit; and the spirit and head come together.
HEAD & HAND - The Hunting Ground:
Theme: if you don't win today there will be no tomorrow.
Actions: clear direction, the drive to win, customer focus, a differentiated value proposition, the discipline of delivery.
Mindset: it's fun to win.
Greatest potential disruption: lack of focus.
Balance: without the head and hand, know that your future will be shaped by missed targets.
HAND & HEART - Breaking New Ground:
Theme: doing what you have always done is a mandate for mediocrity.
Actions: growth, stretch, business development, cost savings, continuous improvement, technology, redefining process, putting new learning into practice.
Mindset: getting better every day, in every way.
Greatest potential disruption: assumptions that competitive advantage has an extended shelf-life.
Balance: without the hand and heart the status quo will inevitably rule.
HEART & SPIRIT - The Playground:
Theme: if you don't grow the talent base you can't grow the business.
Actions: pushing the boundaries, learning at the edge, teamwork, coaching, mentoring, collaboration, leadership of self, authenticity, caring.
Mindset: how you learn is at least as important as what you learn.
Greatest potential disruption: a bully in the playground.
Balance: without the heart and spirit expect to always be short of top talent.
SPIRIT & HEAD - Moving To Higher Ground:
Theme: tomorrow's marketplace will be different. Count on it!
Actions: rethinking possibility, forging a new direction, succession, innovation, risk, emotional buy-in, commitment, letting go.
Greatest potential disruption: lack of succession.
Balance: without the spirit and the head, know that you are passing the baton of opportunity to the competition.
It's not enough for the leader to communicate where we are heading. Gaining buy-in has to draw on language, imagery and story. To inspire is to make tomorrow's success come alive in the room today. If you can imagine it, you can implement it. If you can see it, you can be it. To inspire, the leader has to believe and convey with every strand of their DNA, not that this needs to happen – but that it will happen.
It's not enough to push for development and growth. To inspire, the leader has to display a personal passion for learning. Leaders are readers. They give full reign to their own sense of curiosity and draw it out in others. They see resilience not as bouncing back after a setback but learning from the experience and, as a result, being better equipped than ever. They build great teams. They ask great questions and, in doing so, transform what is into what can be.
It's not enough that the leader be respected. To inspire, they have to step down from the pedestal, look people in the eye and act in such a way that those they lead know, really know, that they care more about their success than their own. To lead is to care. Caring is step one in engendering trust.
Good leaders will engage some of the team, some of the time. Conversely, it takes a leader who brings leadership balance to the role, who knows how to inspire, who does inspire – to instil a sense of lasting commitment from all of the team. Leaders must lead! Leaders do lead. Are you the leader they need?
The seeds of greatness are sown in how the leader in question deals with the unexpected, with crisis, with personal disappointment. Many, bruised by failure, dial back on their own personal goals and look for a position away from the heat of the kitchen. Others, stripped of self-confidence, recalibrate their personal value proposition and, as likely as not, look for an "advisory role". A precious few - those with character, those with tenacity, those drawing from a deep well of resilience - see setback as merely one more brick in the road to success.
Few of us are going to literally change the world. On the other hand, not too many of us want to be quickly forgotten. Sadly, the accepted definition of success is somewhat shallow. It tends to focus on the 3Ps: power, position and personal wealth. Ultimately, success isn't about what you have; it's about what you create. It's not about how big your garden is; it's about what you plant there.
Not all leaders are cut from the same cloth: start-up, growth, running a mature business and turnaround demand very different skills. At successive stages of personal maturity different motivational agendas also tend to put in an appearance: "to make a career", "to make money", "to make my family proud", "to make a business" and "to make a difference". Important and rewarding as the latter is, the very best leaders are compelled to do even more. They are on a quest. They are driven to "make a legacy". Legacy leavers believe that they are on a mission.
Pressure from the capital markets makes success in the short term an imperative. An executive who fails to make money won't be around long enough to leave a legacy. To succeed is to dance to the tune played by the capital markets. Legacy leavers understand that but they still do more. They rarely follow the accepted path. They find a better way. They ignore the cynics and the naysayers. They turn a deaf ear to the critics, especially those who themselves have not ventured into the arena. They part company with the timid and those of a tepid disposition. They blaze their own trail. Does that mean they do it on their own? Not at all! They draw like-minds to the cause. Legacy leavers chart their own path.