Common Leadership Error: Failing to Evolve

The world around us is constantly changing. The markets we operate in, current economic conditions, world events, access to material goods and competition are all things leadership considers when determining how to run a successful organization. How work is done has drastically changed over the past several years. People started working from home or in hybrid environments that disconnected them from traditional leadership strategies. Inherent in this change is where this common leadership error occurs.

The failing to evolve error occurs when leaders become stagnate in their management and leadership tactics instead of adapting how they lead to the evolving world. Instead of determining how they should adapt, leaders that make this error attempt to push the organization backwards to “the old ways of doing things.” The biggest example of this currently, is the attempt to force people back into the office so leaders can “walk by with coffee to have a chat” or “pop in to discuss something.” While some office time may be warranted based on the job tasks being completed, a blanket everyone back to work just because we won’t evolve will not work. People will push back, and you will lose the organization’s best employees to companies down the street or in another part of the country.

Looking at this potential demand from a behavior science perspective helps to show why this backward step will create havoc in the organization. Making people come back to the office removes positive reinforcers that people have come to enjoy about their work. These include things like being able to hang out with their pets, adjust their schedule easier, wear more comfortable clothing, create an office space that suits them, etc. It also adds negative consequences at the same time, including more time and effort to get to work, additional costs associated with commuting, and now having to be in a boring environment for in an office most of the day when you could be just as productive at home. This is not a good value proposition from the workers’ perspective.

Instead of failing to evolve in leadership practices, leaders should look to adjust their leadership and organizational practices to current business conditions and the people they are leading. This includes determining how best to lead, support, and develop others in a virtual or hybrid environment. Using behavior science as a methodology to adapt your leadership practices can aid in determining how to best evolve to the changing world. This might include shifting how leaders spend their time and what they focus on, developing synthetic versions of “pop in” meetings, how they develop trust, and most importantly, how they go about driving business results through the right behaviors.

Evolving leadership and management practices is necessary to keep up with the changing world. The leadership practices of yesterday may not work today, and likely will not work tomorrow. A changing world demands leaders who are willing to shift their leadership practices along with it. Using behavior science as a methodology will help you develop leadership behaviors that work and discard the behaviors that do not. Using sound behavior science principles in leadership will accelerate and sustain performance in any environment. Doing so will produce a more desired culture and drive organizational success.

Posted by Bryan Shelton

Bryan applies his knowledge and expertise in strategic planning to help organizations align employee performance with company goals. Bryan helps clients create improvement across a variety of business metrics including company growth, profitability, customer service, vision alignment, leadership development, and culture change. He also helps clients implement process improvement initiatives, improve sales results and using performance-pay systems to help drive company results. His behavior-based approaches and applications have supported clients’ improvement initiatives, leadership development, and the design and implementation of performance pay systems.