Get Your Staff Off Autopilot Or Risk Being Disrupted

Get Your Staff Off Autopilot Or Risk Being Disrupted

Disruption is the buzzword of the moment, but if business mangers don’t invest in their staff, no amount of desire will have them disrupting anything. In this opinion piece, B&T’s sales manager Cat Hay details a recent training session she undertook and the key learnings for businesses today.

As business owners and managers, we are all aware (or should be aware) of the importance in investing in your best staff and ensuring their continual development and career progression. But sometimes it’s easy to forget to invest in you.

For many, one of the reasons we love the marketing, media and advertising industry is it is an ever-evolving beast. The rapid rate of change means we are conditioned to continually keep learning and following technology trends and news. Change is always happening.

But even our industry has been phenomenally impacted by the “D” word in the last 12-24 months. Yes, I’m talking about disruption, specifically digital disruption (although it physically pains me to use the most overused buzzword of 2015/6). Redundancies at publishers, restructures at all the major TV networks, closures of print magazines, acquisitions and mergers of agencies: we’ve seen it all.

“D” is undeniably happening, and it’s affecting all businesses, regardless of industry or size. More than ever, senior executives risk falling behind their younger counterparts and competing nimble start-ups if they don’t keep up with technology and growing customer demands. Not only that, they risk losing their best talent with innovative start-ups introducing more flexible working conditions (initiatives like unlimited leave), exciting new digital first products and promising faster career progression.

As executives steer their businesses into a new era and try to fundamentally reposition their modus operandi, there are often casualties. Change is uncomfortable. Routines, operations and entire businesses are being disrupted. Managing this change and negotiating with all staff to bring them on this journey with you is one of the big challenges we face.

I recently attended an excellent course run by Allan Parker, consultant and Managing Director of Peak Performance Development. Allan was invited by the United Nations out of Geneva to conduct a meeting at the World Investment Forum in Ghana, Africa involving 192 representative countries which resulted in a number of key consensual agreements. The course was entitled “Negotiating Change and Leadership”, which I would recommend to anyone who is experiencing change in their business. More than just teaching you techniques and strategies to manage change, the 2 day workshop fundamentally shifted the way my brain operates and my approach to change.

Part of this course is coming to terms with the fact that change isn’t easy. We, as humans, are creatures of habit. Some 46 per cent of what we do every day is the same. We follow the same route to work, we drink coffee from the same coffee shop, we start work at the same time every day and we go to bed at the same time most nights. We don’t like it when our routine is interrupted. Allan describes this as living on autopilot arguing that a business full of staff on autopilot creates an environment that is less conducive to innovation and coming up with creative new business ideas, the very objectives all companies facing “D” are trying to achieve. It’s important to encourage staff and to switch off from autopilot. Avoid doing things “the way they’ve always been done”. Try fresh approaches; mix up meeting times, move desks and people and experiment with new internal communication approaches.

The same goes for hiring policies. How many times do you hear from managers that one of the most important things they’re looking for in a new hire is that they fit with the “company culture”? Allan questions this approach pointing out we’re essentially saying that we’re looking for the same kind of person that already exists in our organisation. Ultimately we’ll end up hiring an individual that thinks the same, approaches problems and the business with the same perspective and cultural background and will likely agree with our way of doing things.

Imagine hiring an individual who approaches business problems with a completely different approach and perspective informed by different opinions on how businesses can best operate. Would that person perhaps bring more to the table in new ideas and fresh thinking? I’m going to take a chance and say yes.

There are a whole host of changes we should all make in our business tomorrow. By attending Allan’s next course, you’ll soon found out why you should:

  • Appreciate your staff and verbalise your gratitude – the small things matter
  • Stop saying “busy” when others ask how you are
  • Think like a child
  • Make sure the quiet voices are also heard in meetings
  • Abandon beliefs
  • Use different coloured pens when trying to remember something
  • Be on time
  • Noticing the non-verbal signals the eyes provide
  • Change the language you use

For more information on Allan Parker’s range of courses and to book into the next “Negotiating Change and Leadership” program in Sydney on 7th & 8th September 2016, contact the Peak Performance Development office on (02)9331 7335 or

Lead image via Kevin Trotman on Flickr.

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