My past weeks have been filled with visits to the Intensive Care Unit. I have spent a lot of time with my family. Everything is changed and somehow the world doesn’t feel real. There is beauty and sadness. It is as though for a moment time is standing still.
Today’s newsletter topics:
– Rethinking your talent pool – new challenges demand novel solutions
– How to ensure project success – key tools – RACI
– Doing now what your career needs next
– Adapting to thrive in new environments
Rethinking Your Talent Pool – New Challenges Demand Novel Solutions
The average life expectancy in developed countries is 76 for men and 82 for women. Thanks to modern medicine and healthy lifestyles many older individuals are still both willing and able to contribute to society in many different roles. However, as life expectancy and health in old age increase, companies increasingly send their older employees into early retirement while lamenting the absence of available talent to fill open positions.
Lamenting the fact that old models are no longer fit for purpose doesn’t solve the problem companies face. In fact, I would like to offer the hypothesis that the old models, populated as were historically with individuals representing a very limited segment of the global population, were never fit for purpose.
Simone De Beauvoir wrote in her book, The Second Sex, paraphrased again: “How can a woman prepare children to perform in a world in which she herself has no role to play beyond the bounds of her home”. To paraphrase for industry “how can companies with homogenous leadership develop, market and sell products to effectively target a heterogenous market?”. History shows us that obviously this is possible. However, might these companies do even better if the leadership was more diverse? The answer to this question is known.
When old solutions no longer address new problems, pragmatism dictates new approaches are needed. There may be a lack of the type of talent companies used to hire. However, there is not an overall lack of talent. Data from the Swiss market shows that finding a job in your fifties is almost impossible. However, older employees bring with them experience and knowledge of an industry and how that industry has developed. Experienced leaders with mature personalities may also be exactly what you need to help develop your next group of leaders.
In the words of a friend of mine in his sixties, “I have built markets, been responsible for huge teams, and accountable for million-dollar budgets, I don’t have anything left to prove. What I want to do now is support the next generation and help them develop their talents”.
A global insurance provider has recognized this. The company offers senior leaders the opportunity to resign in stages, to work well beyond the official retirement age. In this way the company ensures process continuity and the transfer of knowledge.
How to Ensure Project Success – Key Tools – RACI
I recently published an article on how to run panel discussions. This was well received, making me decide to publish more how to articles. Project success depends on communication, but also on being very clear on roles and responsibilities. Many projects fail because the focus is on getting stuck in, getting things done, not planning for success at the beginning.
At the start of any project consider doing a RACI matrix.
After you have defined the scope of your project, identify which functions will be impacted by the project, this includes any individuals who have the power to support or derail your project. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform. For each project activity, list whether an individual is responsible, accountable or needs to be consulted or informed. For each activity, pick only one option. Once you have listed stakeholders and their roles, decide how you will keep them engaged in your project. For big projects, consider implementing a project structure that includes working groups, steering committee groups etc., and plan regular meetings with these groups.
Many projects have been derailed because key stakeholders were not engaged early on in the process, don’t let this be you.
Doing Now What Your Career Needs Next
Enjoying what you do is wonderful but knowing where you are going is key.
It is all too easy to get lost in daily business. You might be saying to yourself “I have so much work to do, I don’t have time to take training courses”. However, sometimes less is more. Above all, you are your most important resource. Your company may restructure, you might find yourself looking for a new role, knowing what you enjoy and where you want to go with your career is, therefore, more important than ever. Things to consider as you plan your career:
- Team structure: Do I enjoy working as an individual contributor or would I like to manage a team?
- Management: What aspects of managing a team would I enjoy, which might I struggle with?
- Key Drivers: What activities do I enjoy in my work? Which activities do I enjoy less?
- Career Track: Is the job I am doing now the one I want to do for the next five years, if not what other jobs in the organisation might be interesting for me?
- People and culture: do I enjoy working internationally or locally?
- Company size: Small, medium sized or giant. Where am I happiest?
Take training courses in line with your interests. Interview others in your company that are in roles you find interesting and find out how they got into their roles. If you are at a crossroads in your career, considering your next step, or at the beginning of your journey and considering joining a pharmaceutical company, I’d be happy to have an informal chat with you to discuss if coaching might be right for you at this time.
Adapting to Thrive in New Environments
Global warming is now a reality we can experience day by day wherever we live on the globe. Many species face extinction due to climate change. Species that will be able to survive are those that will be able to adapt to a new environment. A recent article in the Scientific American hypothesises that some species will survive climate change due to the way they have incorporated genes from other species in their genome.
From the article “Hybridization gives species a way to quickly swap their best genes as if they were like trading cards. Rather than being detrimental, liaisons between two species serve as a mechanism for rapid genetic upgrades and might set up advantageous events for many kinds of animals and plants. So, while many or even most individual interspecific hybrids might not always be reproductively successful, genomics clearly indicates hybrids are sometimes, or even frequently, able to find a partner and reproduce, eventually blending their novel combination of genes with one of the parent lineages.”
In recent years, companies restructure and reorganize at an alarming rate. The Scientific American article made me think about the types of individuals who will be successful in the new organizations.
Working hard and being productive is not, unfortunately, a predictor of longevity in organizations. Working hard and being productive, as well as understanding senior leaders and ideally cultivating relationships with these leaders, however, definitely is predictive of longevity in organizations.
So, while animals incorporate genes from other species in order to survive in hostile environments, humans in the ever-changing world of business, could do worse than to have an in depth understanding of what drives their management team, thus being able to speak to these key drivers, and showing flexibility to a changing world. That said, this approach only works if you can stay true to yourself at the same time.
I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.
Very best wishes
Isabelle C. Widmer