Don't look up now, but ...



Recently I watched the Netflix movie, Don't Look Up. If you haven't seen it, the movie highlights the modern equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Only in this case it's the so called leaders of the free world fiddling with their social media profiles, while a giant comet is on its way to making contact, to put it mildly. The film maybe exaggerates some caricatures for comic effect, but there's no escaping the painful recognition of misguided absorption with the flim-flam of life, while ignoring impending doom, and even worse and equally recognisable (I'm looking at you, fossils of unsustainable fuels), the deliberate diversion of common sense, future-facing action, in order to make, as the film puts it, 'the filthy rich even richer.'


There's plenty to think about regarding our recent blunders around managing the Covid pandemic and the challenge of dealing with climate change, let alone avoiding what's been called the Thucydides' Trap, drawing parallels between the clash of Athens and Sparta with the belligerent expansion of China into a previously American dominant world.


Moving a little downstream from planet ending events, as a Business Coach, it got me wondering about how businesses can also miss incoming missiles while hanging onto the end of a previous cycle, or being preoccupied with everything but that which in hindsight will be seen as the main event. The main event over the last two years, it seems to me, was digital acceleration with the shift to remote or hybrid work models to cope with Covid, which brought a shift from monitoring employee contributions by hours on the clock, to the outcomes produced, wherever they were and however long or short a time it took. In America, there's much discussion about 'the Great Resignation,' as employees decide they don't much fancy going back to how things were before. While not quite so apparent in Australia, there is clearly a shortage of top performers in many fields. Meanwhile there's a generational shift from dictating what employees should do, to engaging them in the creative solving of challenges, or finding new ways to fulfil the organisation's social purpose.


The role of the business leader is moving more towards being a coach, as well as 'the curator of culture,' as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella puts it. The challenge as a CEO/coach is to know how to get the best out of individuals and groups to unlock their full potentials. Not so much to motivate them, as to set up the conditions to liberate their natural desire to contribute and achieve. As Jim Collins has it, the art of leadership is getting people to want to do what must be done. And circling back to the movie, I would add, the awareness to look up from the daily noise, so not to miss incoming comets, or the next main thing.


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