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In the Age of Rapid Change, You Don’t Want Passengers in the Workplace

Leadership expert and author Andrew Bryant dishes out four ways for start-ups to build a culture of self-leadership

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 14 Feb 2018

In the Age of Rapid Change, You Don’t Want Passengers in the Workplace

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In a world of rapid change and massive distraction, self-leadership — the practice of intentionally influencing your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to achieve your objectives — has never been more challenging and critical.

The fact of the matter is, relates motivational speaker, author, and self-leadership expert Andrew Bryant, focus is a skill that has been lost. “We used to say that the human attention span was around 20 seconds. That’s now down to eight seconds — and a goldfish’s attention span is 12,” he informs.

At the rate of speed of change today, Bryant points out that people — regardless of whether one is an entrepreneur, employee, or the chief executive of a company — need to take ownership of their thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

Of course, navigating the path toward self-leadership is easier said than done. In an interview with Inc. Southeast Asia, Bryant dishes out four principles that will help start-ups get from Point A to Point B:

1. The notion of work-life balance as an aftermath is dated

Self-leadership is when your intentions and values roll with what you are doing. As people spend most of their lives at work these days — going to work, doing the work, thinking about work — they should see work as an extension of who they are.

“There’s no such thing [as work-life balance], it’s two separations. Work is a part of my life, and it should be a self-actualized experience,” he points out, adding that people need to bring a level of presence in whatever they choose to do. “If we’re not in the moment, then we’re not going to enjoy it, so if you’re working, work; if you’re playing, play. The issue is, when you’re in the golf course thinking about work, and you’re at work thinking about being on the golf course, you end up contaminating both,” he states.

2. Don’t treat your employees like economy class passengers

Some of the biggest complaints by companies revolve around employees not taking ownership and accountability. As a founder or CEO, Bryant points out that it is on leaders to build an organization where employees become brand ambassadors for the company.

How do you do that? Treat your employees like airlines would treat their business and first-class passengers. “If you travel economy, you’re just a seat number the moment you check in. But if you travel business or first-class, you’re referred to by your name. And if you’ve had that distinction, it feels massively different. How do you translate this to your organization? Treat your employees like human beings,” says Bryant.

As a start-up founder, it is on you to create a culture in which people are motivated to perform, as opposed to the industrialized notion of performance management where people who do not meet their appropriate targets are treated like arbitrary numbers in a box. “When a manager says ‘Here’s your target for 2018 — hit them or else,’ motivation goes riffraff,” he states.

3. If you’re hiring for the 21st century, hire for self-efficacy, not competency

With the advent of AI and other technologies, hiring people based on competencies that fit tight, inflexible job descriptions should be a thing of the past. “The skills you will need in two years are not the skills you have today,” states Bryant.

In the agile world of tech start-ups where pivots are considered normal, hiring for self-efficacy trumps hiring for competency. “Self-efficacy is having that mindset of trying something new, taking feedback, and making the necessary adjustments. I would rather hire somebody with that attitude, versus hire someone on skill or with an MBA,” he shares.

4. As a leader, it pays to reevaluate your uncertainty tolerance

According to Bryant, if you look back in your career and have not experienced a significant failure, you need to ask yourself this question: Are you where you are in this organization because of your skills or because of the luck of being in the right place at the right time?

If the honest answer is yes, then never having a major failure could spell trouble for you.

“You have a blind spot because you always assume your decisions are always the right decisions because they’ve always worked. But it could actually be that these decisions just worked because you were at the right place at the right time,” he points out, adding that the challenge with leadership is that “they become so convinced that they’re right because they got to the top.”

But with all the technology disruptions that is happening, not asking yourself what you might have missed can be detrimental. “There should be reverse mentoring. You need to have somebody on your team that you can ask ‘What have I missed? What am I not thinking about that I should have?’ Having the courage to do that is something for 2018,” states Bryant.

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