Is mindset fast becoming more important than skill-set?

03 Jan 2019

Is mindset fast becoming more important than skill-set?

Getting management teams and workforces to embrace change fast enough has emerged as a universal problem across APAC. And the key to change is no longer about skills.

In previous chapters, the term ‘mindset’ has emerged more and more. This has become a common phrase in business. And, in responding to the ‘pace of change disruption’, it represents the toughest issue that leaders are facing.

Most of the 70 MNC senior leaders we interviewed across APAC spoke about their attempts to change the way their managers and workers see their business as they transform their business models. Universally, getting that management team and workforce to embrace change quickly is a real issue.

The CEO gets it, they get it, but at the next level, the awareness of the need to change is much lower and people are not hearing the message.

If we accept Thomas Friedman’s theory that the pace of change being driven by technology has now overtaken our ability to adapt, just about every employee is affected by this, and thus the impact on leaders implementing change is huge.

“Human adaptability will be put to the test. The pace of business is accelerating in a steady way and will pop in about five years from now.” Said one of our interviewees.

“I am an anti-hype person, but today, there is a massive change. The pace of change is significantly higher today than ever before. It’s an acceleration of a whole lot of things. The traditional ways of thinking will not work.”

This same executive estimated that 50% of his management team across the APAC region were not right for the future, even though they were the right people when they were hired.

Managers ‘not being right’ for the future was mentioned several times and in every case, the interviewees said they had an issue with ‘half’ of their team. Of course, this is not an estimate with any science behind it, but the fact that it is a consistent number is alarming.

Cut in half

It’s just not possible for every large company to replace half of its management team when all of their competition also have the same issue. We would be saying that half of the world’s management workforce has suddenly become redundant. Finding good talent is already hard. Halving this pool would be disastrous.

New companies don’t seem to have this problem though. And newly-hired executives don’t have anything to hold onto, as this Private Equity firm Chairman said. “A new CEO has no baggage.”

This comment was telling, as this company became the global leader in their sector because of what they describe as the precision and consistent reliability of their products.

“People here are good at precision, but not good at uncertainty.”

The rise of Chinese competitors has forced a pace of change that their obsession with excellence is just not able to keep up and results are impacted.

It seems that a history of success clouds the view and mindset. “I took over a business that is doing very well. Getting agreement to accept change is tough.”

And this comment was repeated by many. “Middle management is the hardest to change.”

Blocks and limits

In the last chapter, we explained how people are so overwhelmed with information that they are not hearing everything. The complexity of APAC adds to this load. “Managing the disruption we face is slowed by the daily issues we face in complex markets such as China and India. We are behind because of this.”

And this executive has a willing team, but without experience beyond the successes of his company, he fears that they are limited by their past. “We have a young dynamic leadership team who are willing to change, but they have only seen what they have seen here.”

Making a start

It’s just not realistic to expect people to change if their leaders don’t set the example. Changing the mindset of the broader management team and workforce starts from the top.

This has always been the case, but it seems that many leaders are seeing the pace of change affecting them as individuals too. They are consciously changing the way they lead.

“Traditionally, as a leader, I expected to be largely in control. I never felt that I was not in control. I am now in territory where I have no control.”

“Making quick decisions means there will be important data that will be missed and lead to wrong decisions. We need to accept that this is now normal.”

“I don’t think this environment suits all leaders. I think the intuitive leader will be in great demand in the future.”

Managing time and focus of attention was a common theme.

“How you allocate your time as a CEO is different to ten years ago. The amount of noise and information is accelerating and it is important to know where to spend your time. We are nowhere near the peak of this. Our minds were not made to take this level of input. The demands are greater than ever and as an executive, I need to be fit and focused. Over the last five years, I have become very disciplined about managing my time. This is a pace demand.”

“I could spend my whole day taking in relevant info, but I can’t. There are many more competing priorities today and it’s hard for a leader to know the right path and how to best help the team. It’s about courage and awareness.”

“For me, the leadership challenge is getting the time to change as the market changes.”

There were also comments about prioritizing time to think. “A CEO's primary job is to think.”

“I schedule think days – create space to think.”

Is there any good news here? Can leaders find those with the right mindset, and what about the ones who don’t? In the next chapter, we’ll provide some hope, and some answers too.


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