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How Organizations Can Help Employees Self-Manage

The workplace of the near future is expected to look remarkably different from the workplace of today. As more people work remotely, more tasks are automated, and new innovations like the recently re-released version of Google Glass make once futuristic concepts common, work is expected to become increasingly mediated and information-rich. To appreciate just how fast things are changing, consider how much has changed just over the past decade. As our access to technology has expanded, more and more employees are working remotely, and the line between work and life has eroded. As new technologies continue to emerge, lifelong learning is no longer a choice. In the future, everyone will need to continue learning throughout their career to keep on top of new technologies and trends. These changes have already had broad impacts on how we work and under what conditions. Today, workers have a greater degree of freedom and increased autonomy. This means that workers need to be able to self-manage, now more than ever. Self-management is about finding the self-control and mastery needed to take control of one's work (e.g., to manage one's time, workflow, and communication). As we move even deeper into the restructured, virtual workplace, this may be the greatest challenge currently facing businesses. Not only does greater freedom require more self-control, but access to more people, information and distractions requires higher-level management skills. For example, one must know how to prioritize tasks and home in on the channels of information that truly matter in any given moment. Since people are typically the greatest overall corporate cost, this isn't just an individual challenge. Rather, organizations must learn how to optimize people’s performance in order to remain competitive. Here are a few things to consider as you seek to create a workplace that addresses these new demands.

Restrict VUCA environments. You want to mitigate volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) situations. Depending on the context, VUCA situations will be different, but board upheavals, poorly thought-through mergers and leadership vacuums are all common examples. Of course, some situations will naturally have a degree of VUCA, and when you adopt a mindset focused on learning, you can harness some of these situations to scale up your organizational growth. If you can avoid having all four elements in play at once (i.e., embracing a bit of complexity without the volatility and uncertainty), you’ll be more likely to remain in control. The goal is to embrace enough struggle and surprise to keep growing and changing without destabilizing your organization in the process.

Focus on assembling and retaining a great team. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and assemble a team that complements them and holds the potential to move the dial on key goals. A crucial part of this process is empowering people on your team to take control of projects that they find inspiring. If your team members are truly motivated, they will share your commitment to executing on goals. Cultivate new expectations, skills and capacities in different leaders. To be effective in this new world, everyone, in his or her own way, will need to assume a leadership role. This is especially apparent as more employees work remotely and as more full-time employees — even outside management — find themselves managing contracted employees. It's important to foster leadership skills in employees at all levels of your organization. In many respects, the growing focus on fostering leadership across one’s organization may prove to be a unique “leveler” amid our wired world. Leaders won't disappear, but moving forward, more employees will have a taste of leadership and be called upon to assume at least temporary leadership roles, like taking the lead on a special project.

Promote self-management. Nearly 10 years ago, I wrote a book focused on the challenges of living in a digital age. At that time, I argued that the increased variety, velocity, volume, and veracity of information was making it more difficult for individuals to have an impact. Simply put, a decade ago, information was increasing more rapidly than our ability to manage and sort through it. Proactively understanding oneself, one’s stressors, one’s criteria for success, and the conditions that position one for success is even more important a decade later. If knowledge is power, self-knowledge will become platinum power. When we know ourselves, when we are self-aware and can self-regulate, we are more effective at discerning and being agile. With this, we can break down challenges and identify clear outcomes, even as we attempt to navigate increasingly large volumes of information. The workplace of the future is not only more fluid and flexible in terms of how and where people work, but how individuals need to think about meeting the demands brought on by these changes. The most successful organizations will provide the right tools and guidance for their people to carve a path that leads to performance and competitive success.



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