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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist focused on coaching, consulting and speaking to leaders who've been promoted, but not prepared. For more information, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

Remember Mouse Trap? If you don’t gain new skills as a leader in 2016, you might lose a turn or worse, get trapped in your current role.

Important business trends have been identified for the next few years, but what’s not getting much discussion is how these trends will paralyze, trap, and trip up many well intentioned leaders. First, Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Global posted Trends that Will Have a Profound Impact on Business in 2016. She focused on the maturity of the vertical cloud and how this will impact traditional software vendors, as well as the healthcare and financial industries, and she highlighted regulation aggression. Regulatory bodies have been playing catch up with new technology and she thinks efforts to finally get caught up will result in aggressive efforts to measure compliance. Second, John Battelle, CEO of NewCo, spoke of technology, transformation, generations and jobs, competition and collaboration, in his article BigCos, NewCos, and the Nine Trends Reshaping Business. John’s biggest reveal, large and small companies will start to collaborate, for the survival of transforming large companies, if nothing else. No matter your take on which trends will actually take shape, the truth is leaders will need platters not plates. Leaders will be in desperate need of new and well-polished skills or they’ll find themselves mired in poor performance and likely trapped in unemployment. The way leaders have always done it, even in the last ten years, is about to stop working.

Innovation, Meet Compliance

Leaders have been motivating employees to be creative, read books on innovation and think outside that God forsaken repeatedly mentioned box. Where is that box exactly? However, compliance is about to get serious and just the idea of introducing initiative to compliance behaviors creates the sound of screeching brakes, followed by a sudden halt to productivity.  The same sound and effect could be said for when innovation and compliance collide. Leaders who’ve been focused on engaging team members and motivating them to take risks, demonstrate initiative and come up with innovative and creative ideas will now need to say “Oh, never mind. What I meant was color within these lines so we don’t get in trouble.” With aggressive regulation efforts and continued rapid technology changes afoot, leaders will have to become master change managers, as adept at challenging early adopters as they are at handholding resistors. Leaders must develop masterful critical thinking and judgment around what rules to break and what new rules to make, lest they find themselves, in the financial services for example, financially responsible for the outcomes.  Do these leaders focus on playing it safe and reinforce compliance or continue to take risks to grow the business? The answer is likely both, but it requires constantly operating out of both sides of the brain simultaneously. This is a much more rare ability than merely leading.

Change, Meet Status Quo

Leaders have been talking about change since long before mice and cheese were used to describe it.  Change, among other unpleasant things, happens. We fuss, we adjust, and then we move on. After all, the change was only about one aspect of our role or team. Well, buckle up. If John’s trend predictions hold true, large companies that have moved slowly, are about to hit the rapids with a bass boat. Not only are leaders in large companies under the illusion of job security, but they are about to face an onslaught of change to such a degree that no one will know what they’re doing. Resources, headcounts, and budgets may remain the same, but expectations, objectives, and the way in which performance is measured rapidly change. Not only does this pose a problem for leaders themselves, and the confusion from their boss’s direction, it will also impact how the leader gives directions to team members in their reporting structure. Additionally, those leaders newly hired, may find that what was true at the time the job offer was made, has already changed by the time of their start date. How will this impact attrition? What will this do to leader trust? What will this do to collaborative teamwork if everywhere one attempts to stand the ground seems to be moving? Leaders will need to level with those they lead perhaps more than they have before. Authenticity and transparency will become paramount as that is all one has energy left to show when stress hits a new high and all that is familiar hits the road. The ability to connect, build rapport, and earn respect the moment a new person walks in the door will become the new norm. Without these skills, leaders will be ill equipped and handling conflict and drama the very same afternoon their competition invests that same time in a better digital presence and customer experience.

Leaders won’t have time for drama in the future. Leaders will find themselves faced with a race to hire the cream of the crop in technology that is also native to their ideal target customer, while fending off regulator pressures, matching up misaligned resources and performance metrics, and overcoming unexpected competitors in markets never thought to exist before this. Buckle up, hang on, stay alert, don’t freeze in the face of fear, and try not to get stuck in the middle. It’s almost as if traditional leadership is being hunted and may be endangered. Or perhaps we’re about to see the evolution of a new kind of leader.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

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