Business is becoming increasingly disruptive and disrupted. Technology innovation is driving huge change across the entire commercial landscape, transforming both how businesses connect with customers and how businesses operate internally to best serve those customers. Futurists predict changes so wide reaching that only the professions that require deeply ‘human’ skills will remain unaffected.
This disruption poses great challenge for business leaders everywhere. The pace of technology transformation is, simply put, testing the strategic decision-making capability of even the most skilled entrepreneur or leader. It’s already becoming hard to forecast what the world of business will look like even five years from now. We know, because research is telling us, that the average life-span of a business is falling – such are the forces of globalised competition and increasingly fickle consumer behaviours. From every angle, competitive edge is being challenged like never before.
Mass disruption is the new normal. This being the case, how can business leaders make sense of their commercial environments to know that the decisions they make are the right ones?
We already know we will all need to up-skill as computers assume the more process-oriented aspects of business. But commercial leaders face an additional requirement, with increasing urgency, to adjust their mindsets and acknowledge that it is no longer the case that successful strategic business decisions can be made without the input of others who can add alternative commercial perspectives. To think businesses can be led and managed by one or two leaders is, to our mind, little short of dangerous.
Today we’re flooded with information and overwhelmed by choice. This is never more true than in the area of technology where we’re continuously told we need to embrace change, sometimes without even understanding why. Technology is transforming every cornerstone of business, and such is the size and scope of digital transformation, how can business leaders be sure they’re making the right decisions and choices at every step?
A pragmatic approach, we believe, is for business leaders to build a professional network of trusted advisors who are all committed to optimising business outcomes. Key to this is objectivity – these advisors should be detached enough from the business to be able to impartially assess the threats, opportunities and challenges. There are several ways in which this can be achieved.
One option is to hire into the business the right amount of senior leadership support. For a smaller business, however, this may not always be cost effective, particularly when the business doesn’t need this expertise on a full-time basis.
Another option for a business leader looking for executive advice and support is to join a Peer Advisory Circle. We recently participated in a sample session of a Peer Advisory Circle, designed by coach and facilitator Sylvana Caloni. These sessions are designed to bring together a small number of entrepreneurs or business leaders to confidentially share commercial challenges and gain support, input and advice from their counterparts in other organisations. Each member is hand-picked so as to avoid any conflict of competitive interest.
Business leaders often describe leadership as a lonely journey and it is usually both refreshing and empowering to be able to share ‘war stories’, gain empathy, build trust and work out solutions to business challenges. Peer Advisory Circles allow business leaders the space to step away from their challenges and quite often, this alone acts as enough of a catalyst to gain fresh perspective. Other members of the cohort invariably have both relevant leadership experience and enough objectivity to be able to add significant value to the conversation.
At Working the Future, we believe that in order to remain competitive, businesses will increasingly need an objective 360-degree view of their commercial landscapes. This will require the ability to review situations through multiple lenses in order to weigh up the various options available and determine the optimum way forward. The day-to-day running of a business seldom allows for this, so leaders will need to, as a matter of priority, create the space for deeper thinking to happen. Signing up to a Peer Advisory Circle creates that space, cements commitment, and facilitates the development of a trusted professional network along the way.
For more information about Peer Advisory Circles, please visit sylvanacaloni.com/peer-advisory-circle/.
Cat’s recruitment career has furnished her with fascinating insights into how people behave in the workplace, particularly in response to change. She has a deep interest in human behaviour, organisational psychology and helping business leaders create sustainable, ethical and values-based working environments.