Home»Letter: To Leaders of Change
Last Updated: Dec 16, 2021|4.2 min read|

Dear {Insert Your Name},

It’s another winter in lockdown here in Sydney, and with lingering restrictions comes more free time. If I’ve grown any wiser, I’ll use more of it to sit and think.

Atlasssian in conjunction with PWC recently published research that should make all of us do more thinking, even if you’re back in the office on a regular basis. It seems the pandemic moved the goalposts again, especially from the perspective of leading and managing change. Just when it felt like we’d begun to grasp some of the complexity, the game changed again.

It isn’t hard to recall that flexibility, autonomy and employer values gained ground and popularity among workers prior to 2020. But something shifted in the ensuing months of isolation, uncertainty and tension.

Across all generations of workers in the US and Australia, Atlasssian’s research shows that people are giving up on “the grind.” They’re now open to turning down promotions, clinging to existing roles or searching for other jobs, rather than accept higher levels of responsibility and compensation, and thereby compromise their mental health. 

The priorities are shifting back to family, well-being and health – all good things, to be precise. But we who bear the responsibility of leadership would be wise to pay attention to what this means, as we steer the ship. This presents us with several problems that, traditionally, we believed (consciously or not) we could solve with more money, responsibility and perks.

In short, we’re going to need to do a lot more homework to get the right people on the bus.

One change I pursued for Unitive during the pandemic was to become certified as a “B corporation,” within the framework of Conscious Capitalism. It succeeded, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that certifications aren’t the same thing as transformations.

In the same way you can’t become a soldier or sailor by simply wearing fatigues, I became aware of how much the traditional, Waterfall mentality can affect even the most well-intended leaders. The ones who want their organisations to achieve the “triple bottom line.” It reminded me of Peter Drucker’s famous line, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” What we deeply believe over many decades doesn’t simply vanish with the stroke of a pen.

I can’t think of a worse trail to follow than one that promises people a seat at the table, and influence / control over co-evolution, co-creation and “co-opetition” – only to renege on it once it appears everyone’s moved on. Particularly if the impetus comes from a place of scarcity regarding finances. Today’s team members have access to far too much information, and can put two and two together much more quickly than they used to.

Especially if you achieve a level of success. That takes us right back to square one – laying off hundreds of low-paid workers, resorting to underhanded tactics, riding roughshod over concerns about communities where we work, and how we treat the environment. A cavalier attitude about these priorities is one thing; it’s quite another if you’re exposed as a fraud, feigning empathy and solidarity, but only in it for the money when the chips are down.

Residual, “unconscious” capitalism could be compared to a cancer – benign at first, but soon becoming malignant. Many organisations start up or reconfigure for a more humane and eco-conscious presence in their marketplace … only to surrender to the older, callous and detached one, focused strictly on the balance sheet. It’s just as daunting for a business as it is for an individual, to make meaningful change without deep core value realignment.

Absent a robustly generous culture to choose from, I turned in my thoughts to the indigenous people of Australia. With a much more profound connection to the earth, family, context and the land they live in, these people think nothing of creating collaborative technological platforms, which they then give away … for free.

When you’re that deeply intertwined with the people and things close at hand, the ones that truly matter – you can develop much more “hands-off” answers to the questions that arise when you move toward triple bottom line.

You get comfortable wondering, “What are my competitors doing?” … because the answer is, “It’s not terribly important.”

You don’t feel at a loss asking, “How can we control our intellectual property, and make money from it?” Why? Because you don’t believe the content is yours to start with.

And it’s far simpler to explore the question, “Are we truly thinking about this the right way?” when you’ve made a permanent break with the obsolete mentality of unconscious capitalism.

There’s more to this, of course, than I can say in a single letter. But I trust you can imagine where I’m headed with it.

I’m always happy to discuss further. If this conversation is one that resonates…reach out Here .

All the best

Joe & the Unitive Team

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