Making predictions is always a tricky undertaking. Looking ahead to business trends in 2022 is particularly hard, and the Covid-19 whiplash has created greater uncertainty than ever. The one certainty is that nothing is certain anymore and disruption is here to stay.
I believe that many forward-thinking leaders have learned lessons from the pandemic that will be front and center no matter how circumstances evolve during the year. As I wrote in my latest book Culture Ignited: 5 Disciplines for Adaptive Leadership, “You can turn crisis into opportunity.”
As 2021 came to a close in discussions with senior corporate executives and respected researchers, I’ve further analyzed the workplace culture attributes I envision playing a leading part this year. The competitive advantage that I see being embraced is what I like to call “a peer-powered culture of agility.” In a nutshell this means developing a workplace culture that revolves around leaders working collaboratively with their peers while demonstrating a willingness and ability to readily adapt to ever-changing situations.
Let me explain.
Covid-19 highlighted an understanding that ‘we’re all in this together.’ Collaboration and cooperation trumps competition. Company leaders will interact with their peers for mutual advantage.
Thought leader Leo Bottary, author of Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High Performing Teams, writes, “A culture where everyone is in it together is an indomitable force. Anchored by purpose and values, the leader, the team, and the individual team member enjoy a shared responsibility for learning, growing, and being more productive and agile—the critical ingredients to building an adaptive organization.”
The twin themes of the need to be agile and adaptive are also emphasized by Mike Richardson, author of Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive’s Manifesto. Mike recently told me, “People want a voice in how they work. They want to see that their company’s values align with their personal values. Executives need to listen to their teams and be agile and flexible on an ongoing basis.”
Covid-19 has been a wake-up call. The world of work has changed forever, but I’m encouraged but what I’ve seen and heard. Many leaders have acknowledged the need to adapt to the changed circumstances and that, for long-term results, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. You can’t change corporate culture and the ingrained attitudes of traditional leadership just like flicking on a light switch. It requires a commitment to make it happen, in addition to long-term planning and execution.
Is this a “new normal”—a terminology I’ve been loath to use?
As Korn Ferry stated, “If anything, 2022 may be when the idea of normal finally goes out the window for good. Companies and individuals have to learn to conform to a constantly and rapidly changing environment. As one expert put it, the enemy is no longer the competition. It is circumstance.”
I have written extensively about trust and authenticity being key leadership elements for positive workplace culture. The phrase used earlier “we’re all in this together” in relation to the benefits of “peer power” equally applies to relationship with customers.
Futurist Bernard Marr, author of Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That are Redefining Organizations, agrees with this attitude. He points to research that as little as one bad interaction with a company is enough to stop many of us from ever giving them our business again. He also says technology will be an increasingly valuable tool, noting that businesses that place their investments towards innovations will build trust and earn lifetime customers.
While the use of technology was not something I envisioned in my earliest formative years the other attributes I have outlined were always there. I grew up in the Midwest, in a small rural community in Iowa. I sincerely believe that our upbringing really shapes the type of leader and teammate you become. That upbringing gave me a deep-rooted set of personal values to live by that are applicable in business, and especially in 2022: Be authentic, take responsibility for who you are and what you do, and have a core work ethic.
Company leaders today appreciate more than ever that, as change becomes constant, these are the requirements for a winning workplace culture combined with peer-to-peer collaboration along with agility and adaptability.