Imagine a busy kitchen with a professional chef in charge. The dishes are being prepared carefully with attention paid to each flavor and ingredient. A pinch too much of one spice could throw the entire dish out of balance and make for an unhappy customer. Chefs have to juggle many people and ingredients in the kitchen and are always exploring new ingredients. To be successful, they must balance flavors and not be afraid to try new combinations.
Similarly, leaders of the future oversee organizations where projects and products are prepared carefully with attention paid to each component. Like chefs, leaders must balance the needs of their employees, shareholders, and customers while also looking toward the future and not being afraid to innovate. In order to be successful, future leaders need to adopt the mindset of the chef. The good news is that there are only two ingredients that leaders need to balance!
As part of the research for my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 top CEOs from around the world from companies like Audi, MasterCard, Oracle, Unilever, Best Buy, and many others. One common thread stood out across all the interviews: the need for balance. To be successful, future leaders must balance the two most important ingredients in any business: humanity and technology. I call this HumanIT.
Often, leaders and organizations place nearly all of their focus on technology. They want to be early adopters of the newest systems and are constantly looking for ways to add technology to their business. While technology is crucial to organizations, focusing on it too much can hurt other areas of the company. Think of what would happen if a chef focused too much on certain ingredients and neglected the flavors of the rest of the dish. The result would be an unbalanced (and perhaps inedible) disaster. In order to be successful, leaders must find that elusive balance between people and technology.
Technology is transforming how we live and work right before our eyes. It’s especially evident in today’s COVID-19 pandemic. We can’t ignore technology because it is coming at such a rapid pace and will surely disrupt us if we don’t proactively find solutions. Leaders of the future don’t need to be afraid of technology. Instead, they should embrace it and look for ways to leverage its power inside their organizations and with customers.
However, technology shouldn’t be added simply to add technology. It should be an integral part of how the company operates and its culture. Technology is best used when it removes a layer to get people closer together, either with internal teams or to connect the organization to its customers. Speed, efficiency, improved decision making, productivity, and the like, all come from technology.
On the other side of the equation is the human side of the organization. This includes things like developing a sense of purpose and building the employee experience. The human side of work is ultimately why people work for their organizations. Employees want to work for a company where they feel valued and seen and where they are excited to come to work every day. Building a strong culture and empowering employees with the tools they need to succeed plays a huge role in the overall employee experience.
Future leaders must be purpose-driven and care about their people. Employees aren’t just cogs in the machine to drive higher profits. They are real people with goals, plans, and personalities. To create sustainable organizations, leaders need to understand their employees and foster strong co-worker relationships. They need to help make work meaningful and create development opportunities for all employees. The challenge when working with people is the combination of skills and personalities and ensuring everyone is in the right place doing meaningful work. Trust, innovation, collaboration, sales, and the like, all come from humanity.
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Creating HumanIT By Working Together
People and technology are both crucial elements to an organization. Future leaders need to embrace both sides. Use too much technology and your organization will be efficient and productive but it will struggle with innovation, attracting top talent, and shaping the future. Use too much humanity and your organization will have top talent and great ideas but it will be too slow to move and won’t be productive or efficient. We need both, but in balance.
Humans and technology have their limits, and leaders need to recognize and appreciate both the abilities and constraints. The future isn’t about pitting technology and humans against each other; it’s about technology and humans working together in a cohesive environment created by thoughtful leaders.
Just like a chef carefully crafts their recipes to highlight the unique characteristics of each ingredient, leaders to need to carefully build their teams and organizations to leverage both humans and technology. Thinking like a chef can help future leaders embrace all of the ingredients, find balance, and pull together individual flavors to create innovative masterpieces.
If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:
1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.
2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader and learn all the skills and mindsets that future leaders must possess to be successful. It has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith.
3. If you are or want to be an entrepreneur than my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did. You can subscribe to that here.