The most secretly sought of human desire is also the deadliest. It’s been called the quick fix, and it’s especially dangerous for leaders hoping to find and maintain success in these uncertain times. Why secret? First, no leader wants to admit that the quick fix is their heart’s desire. Ego and expectation both play a role here. Quick fixes seem less grand, too easy, and not in keeping with the heroic image we cast within the leader. Second, it is also secret because it is often unconscious. It’s so crowded with senior leaders these days that the mentality of “solve it quickly and move on” has subconsciously become the default mindset, as if this deeply uncertain environment somehow allows for a finish line. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
There is no quick or permanent fix in the old sense. Abnormal is our new normal, and the ability to constantly adapt to the currency of the empire – a truth that applies not only to organizations, but also to their leaders. Two current trends serve as dynamic and poignant reminders, and omens indeed: the Great Reshuffle and the ‘Worth It’ calculation.
Resignation is just a harbinger of a bigger reshuffle
The term Great Reshuffle may be unfamiliar to some senior leaders. It is still most popularly referred to as the Great Resignation, that mass exodus of millions of American workers who quit their jobs every month. For most, it is also seen as an event rather than a symptom of a greater upheaval. Through this lens, many have tried to quickly fix it as an anomaly – by offering pay raises, titles and other usual rates. However, the layoff has not stopped.
As a further salve, some senior executives have stated that they are more open to what employees say they actually want: to be more involved, more empowered to make an impact, and to be seen and heard more. Executives trying to resolve the layoff incident quickly miss that those demands are in fact not incidental, evidenced in part by the fact that the layoff has now been going on for more than a year. Focused on the quick solution, they miss more. From the outset, employees have made it very clear that the key to their flight is the belief that their leaders are out of touch with the reality that insecurity around work will persist, and deaf to the need for leaders to change themselves — not through tweaks to the edges, but in deeply transformative ways. What most leaders neglect is that resignations are a symptom of a greater reshuffling that must take place in the way they lead this new abnormal.
Worth is changing the work landscape and leadership
Just to be clear: employees don’t just move from place of work. They shift their priorities around why they work, and when and how work proves worthwhile. While it is still true that most have to work, more and more monetary rewards are only one source from which they derive value from their work, and no longer reliably the most important. After the last two years of shaking up all that was certain, many now view all the work as temporary and part of a larger equation for calculating value and return. Outside of their jobs, value now includes conscious well-being, family, and degrees of freedom in achieving the highest net worth return.
What is underestimated by many senior leaders today is that this recalculation of values is taking place not only in people’s wider lives, but also directly in their work. in their most recent work trend indexMicrosoft called it the “worth comparison,” a rating that employees use not just once, but continuously, to choose whether to stay or leave, according to the trend report. More than a resource for employees, it’s a blaring signal to leaders that their perceptions of what it means to lead must change too.
The same risks associated with the ‘dismissal’ phenomenon are inherent in the ‘worth it’ trend. To view the value calculation as a one-time act, or only related to reward and promotion, is a mistake. The focus on value is a clear statement that employees want to be part of the leadership equation in the future and not just the recipients of one leader’s edicts or value calculations.
Employees don’t just make worth judging when they leave, get hired for, or try to get ahead in a job. They see the larger abnormal dynamics around them for what it is. They don’t like looking for a quick fix, nor do they expect their leaders to provide it. Instead, they make the new abnormal core a new view of what leadership should be in these times – collective, cultural, shared and always on the move. What they presciently accept is that there is nothing quick about it, and it will take many, not a few, to fix it. They mainly look for work environments and leaders who see it that way.