Managing dinosaurs and chameleons

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One of the biggest challenges for business owners and leaders in a changing and agile workplace is how we manage evolution.

More often we are meeting with leaders who are visionary; want to be nimble to survive the race for the fittest, but are held back by a workforce who simply don’t want to change and are stuck in their ways.

Regularly there is a percentage of the workforce who want things to stay the same because “that’s how we’ve always done things here” and don’t see a need to adapt. Sadly though, rigid employees who aren’t flexible enough to evolve in the era of change have the potential to go the way of the dinosaur.

At the other end of the scale we see an increasing number of employees who are more akin to chameleons. Chameleons are a great natural example of how evolution can place a critical role in ensuring longevity. In the same way that these reptiles have learned to camouflage themselves against their surroundings as a defence mechanisms, they have also built in the flexibility they need to adapt to what’s going on around them.

Let me be clear though, I’m not suggesting that all dinosaurs must go! Some of the best dinosaurs I’ve met have been very solid people, performed their jobs efficiently and conscientiously….generally for decades. Potentially though that is their downfall – doing the same thing, in the same way, no matter how admirably, while the world around them changes rapidly. The complete extinction of the dinosaurs was largely the result of their failure to adapt and evolve.

Today the key to success is flexibility. The most successful employees reinvent themselves every few years to keep pace. That doesn’t mean you can’t remain as Chief Widget Maker all your life – but it is vital that you embrace the arrival of better techniques, new technology and you adopt improvements to ensure that clients are retained and profits are made for your company.

How do leaders in a changing environment help individuals embrace change? As much as I hate to say this – age can play a factor in the difference between being a dinosaur or a chameleon (I’m also not suggesting you fire all your over 40-year-olds). Many people over 40 are very experienced and competent, but their flexibility may not match their other attributes. Many of “over 40’s” may not realise that they have a problem until it has become a problem – and by then it’s almost too late. This is where it can be useful to have someone independent help your team welcome (rather than resist) the arrival of a new era. Imagine if dinosaurs had a helping hand more than 65 million years ago – perhaps they might have transitioned into chameleons with the right support and encouragement?

Next, consider tools you can provide your team to adapt and evolve. Tools such as resilience, change management and emotional intelligence training are excellent ways to increase understanding and knowledge of the key attributes we’re seeking in agile employees. Once provided the right equipment and information, dinosaurs can become chameleons.

Lastly – as the leader of your business you’ll need to keep an eye out for meteors. Events that seem localised can cause cataclysmic changes in the larger environment. You will need to keep abreast of what’s going on in your industry so that you too can personally adapt proactively rather than scrambling to do damage control and potentially become a dinosaur yourself.

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About Author

Senga Allen

Human Resource specialist and managing director, Everest Group Ltd Waikato HR Specialists www.everestgroup.co.nz

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