Companies sometimes get stuck in a rut and can’t see past the here and now. Looking at the past to learn from failures and predicting how actions impact the brand’s future increases the chances of success. Strong leadership knows how to move the entire organization toward a future focus that drives change.
To change the entire trajectory of a company, start at the top and tweak management style and issues. Here are some simple ways to get started.
At the core of a future-focused business is flexibility. Companies with strong growth tend to adapt to changing circumstances and pivot quickly when necessary. When things don’t go as planned, leaders must be able to call upon their own skills as well as brainstorm with their team for out-of-the-box solutions.
PwC’s Global Crisis and Resilience Survey 2023 found 84% of companies have talked about the importance of rebounding from social and economic challenges. Managers must think through all the potential issues a brand might encounter and come up with scenarios to make it through hard times.
2. Develop Leadership Principles
Even within the management structure of a business, there are levels. Those at the very top must encourage their fellow management professionals to see growth and spur employees to perform at their best.
Consider what the company should look like in five years, 10 years and 20 years. Write down the changes that must happen today to form the organization into the type of business envisioned. Setting some strong principles for how directors and others interact with employees can change the entire company’s culture.
3. Create Open Communication
Those in charge must lead the way by opening the floor to challenging discussions. Create an open-door policy where employees can come to management with an idea or concern. They must have no fear of retribution for stating what they believe. The more comfortable workers feel expressing themselves, the more likely staff can work together to find intelligent solutions to company problems.
Keep in mind that some employees are shy and may need to be drawn out and encouraged to share their best ideas. Others may worry complaining will impact a promotion or get them fired. Set up ways for staff to file anonymous complaints or share their ideas without putting their name on the comment.
The more information one has, the more likely the organization can fix issues in leadership before they arise. Most people will not abuse an anonymous system.
4. Practice Active Noticing
One thing future-focused businesses do is operate in high-alert mode. Company leaders pay attention to any bottlenecks, touch base with department directors, talk to employees and take steps to fix issues before they become serious problems.
For example, a creative manager is working hard to meet a deadline on a big project. Management notices the long hours and that the person is hunched over their desk most of the day trying to get tasks completed. Leadership pulls the director into their office for a quick chat and lets them know they notice how hard they are working to meet the deadline.
Management then asks what they can provide to ease the stress. Would another set of hands be helpful? Are there any tasks they can take off the person’s plate to free up some of their time? Do they need a day off soon?
5. Make Collaboration a Lifestyle
Studies show when people share knowledge and bounce ideas off each other, their creativity gets a boost and they experience joy from learning new things. Encourage employees to brainstorm and chat with each other about new ideas.
It is often during a break or mindless activity that people chat and share thoughts. The greatest ideas are born during these sessions. On the surface, chatting and drinking coffee might seem like a waste. However, when it is done mindfully and everyone in the company is future focused, the downtime can become more productive than anything else your workers might do.
6. Care About Staff
In a future-focused business, leadership understands employees are the brand’s future. If a company constantly churns top workers, something needs fixing in the structure of the place. Ideally, you’ll attract amazing talent and keep them throughout their careers. Take the time to notice what people are dealing with.
Offer ample time off so staff can decompress. Insist they have a healthy work/life balance by offering paid time off (PTO). Create a policy encouraging people to take their PTO. Many dedicated workers will refuse to take time off and become burned out.
If someone is going through a difficult time personally, support them. The worker whose mother is ill and needs care shouldn’t worry about taking time off for fear of losing their position. Give them medical leave and reassure them their job is there when they are ready to return. Temp agencies help fill the gap when necessary. Pay them as much as the budget allows so they don’t have to struggle financially. Take every opportunity to show staff how much you care.
7. Build Curiosity
The most successful organizations are full of curious people. They spot a problem and want to figure out how to solve it. Workers have an idea and brainstorm until they make it work. Cultivate a company culture of curiosity.
Offer regular training sessions on topics that aren’t as commonplace. Take the entire staff on a retreat, and teach them the best means of communication and work on trust building.
8. Strive to Consistently Improve
Leaders must set the tone for productivity and efficiency. Look at new tools, such as artificial intelligence (AI). Decide how the company can utilize AI software, such as ChatGPT, Bard, and enterprise systems to get tasks done more quickly or with fewer errors.
If the entire team looks at how they can get better, the organization will offer better products and services over time. Customers will notice the changes and share with family and friends, giving the brand a word-of-mouth viral boost that can’t be bought.
9. Nurture Mindfulness
Does your company culture encourage mindfulness to the tasks at hand? Rather than rushing through a project, encourage staff to step back and consider if the result will meet all the client’s needs. Even small changes can give the finished product a zeal it otherwise wouldn’t have and set your brand apart from competitors. Teach workers to go through checklists, ask tough questions and talk to others about changes they think might make the piece even better.
Leadership Equals Humanity
Businesses that thrive tend to care about more than just profits. They are often listed as excellent places to work by their employees. Most large, successful brands give back to society and support a worthwhile cause. The people who lead the rest of the workers are dynamic, engaged and seek out input from those around them.
Pay attention to some basic principles of excellent management style. Implement the ideas above and your company will flourish enough to be around for decades.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.