Challenged, inspired and valued: strategies for thriving in the great rethink

Have you heard of the great rethink? It’s a concept that encourages senior leaders to take action and rethink the way they keep people inspired, challenged and valued. Leading on from this is building cultures that make this work effectively.  In this article, we discuss how companies and their senior leaders can come out ahead in the great rethink.

You might have heard a new term enter the lexicon recently, and that is the great rethink. We have been discussing the great rethink for a while – and it is a thought-provoking concept. Compared to the great resignation, the great rethink presents us with opportunity and encourages us to take action, rather than risking feeling paralysed into defeat.

However, like all of these concepts, unless you take it and use it to improve, then the great rethink risks becoming just another buzzword. For employers, the great rethink should provide fresh impetus to think beyond the traditional employer/employee relationship and offer an environment that really challenges and inspires employees.  For senior leaders and executives, it’s a call to action to improve skills and decide what they want out of their career, to remain feeling challenged, inspired and valued.

To ensure you stay ahead of the great rethink, here are some strategies to refocus your thinking as we head deeper into 2022 and beyond.

Compared to the great resignation, the great rethink presents us with opportunity and encourages us to take action, rather than risking feeling paralysed into defeat.

Rethink work/life relationships

For some time, we’ve been hearing that people are rethinking their priorities in work and life. This has been slowly happening, but of course the pandemic has pushed these along much faster. So instead of the long-held belief that we should be balancing work and life, we now talk about work/life integration.

This is a sensible conclusion to come to, because after all the world has changed and the role of technology in our lives make it difficult to go back. Phones let us know when we get a work email at all hours and social media allows us to share details of our personal life. This study shows that as of mid-last year, employees in Europe, North America and Middle East were spending an average of 48.5 minutes per day extra time at work than they were pre-pandemic, and email traffic had increased. The pandemic in simple terms accelerated that work life integration we were already experiencing. And because you can’t have both integration and balance at the same time, we have to let go of the idea of balance. Coming to that realisation is a very positive step.

The crucial point to remember about integration of work and personal life is that the conditions on which people are willing to integrate work into their life have to be appealing. In other words, if someone is going to have work as part of their whole life, they want that work to be inspiring. People are willing to work hard, but they want to feel valued in return.

In practice, this means employers have to rethink the employer/employee relationship. It wasn’t long ago that firms were tooting their horns about benefits they offered such as financial and wellbeing packages, flexibility in work location and hours, and social events to show appreciation. These are no longer enough. They are merely hygiene factors now.

Employers must work harder to create an environment that challenges and inspires people, especially as their careers progress towards and through senior leadership. And they need the trust to make sure this all succeeds.

Also, in the great rethink, the employee and employer relationship is far more balanced and equal than ever before. Both are more aware now that it is a mutually beneficially agreement between two parties, rather than employer dominating the employee. The employee works hard to deliver strong results and helps the company achieve revenue and growth targets and competitive advantage. In return the employer invests in their personal growth and provides a meritocracy that recognises their contribution in both financial and non-financial terms. A win-win for both parties.

This relationship turns not only on employers investing in people’s personal growth, but employees themselves defining what it is that challenges them. There’s no use sitting around complaining about not feeling valued or inspired if you do not have the motivation to find them for yourself.

There are a number of senior people wanting to move roles, but they do not necessarily jump ship for no reason or resign without a job to go to. However, they are open and even actively looking for roles which are inspiring, particularly if their current position is falling a bit flat. The right culture and a company that offers a good employee/employer relationship is what will win them over.

Building a culture fit for the great rethink

With the employee and employer relationship now being mutually beneficial and also mutually accountable, companies are onto a Win-Win. However, this ideal situation hinges upon getting the culture right. What are the building blocks of a progressive culture that can improve employee engagement and accelerate performance?

  • Responsibility from both sides. Employers and employees should both take responsibility for their part. This means both sides set clear goals and expectations, as well as believe in the company values and purpose. With this comes self-development, networking internally, stakeholder management, feedback and assessments and finally, enhanced social and emotional awareness. 
  • People-first leadership. Organisations must make sure the organisation has people-first leadership. For leaders, this means that instead of concentrating on progressing yourself and your next position, focus on developing leaders around you to promote their careers. This in turn will develop your own career and attract more talent to your business. 
  • Strong talent development. From there, build real and effective talent development programs that are executed in real time, not delayed. Hire leaders that have the right skill and attitude, and this will rapidly transform your business. Balance external talent with internal succession planning which will give people the opportunity to grow as well as bring in new perspectives to the business.

To take talent development to the next level, think about it in the form of the S curve – from launch pad, sweet spot to mastery.

The S Curve (image credit: HBR)


Leaders and employees need to know the signs of mastery to keep themselves challenged.

Talent development will include succession planning, not just for the organisation but for individual leaders. Retaining them for the business will require career planning with the S curve in mind. 

  • Think global. Employees and employees must be open to opportunities for above-country responsibilities to learn more about strategy and macro level as well as in-country execution and micro level. Having a broader perspective of social, economic, political, and market environments helps you to understand your local role more deeply and provides a bigger picture perspective. Both sides must open their minds to global developments and trends to improve local activity, regularly plugging into broad information flows scanning wide networks and diverse sources of data to find relevance in information that which may provide an early sense of where change is coming.
  • Do more with less. Everyone is doing more with less. Leaders, HR and Leadership & Development need to work together to execute the work that needs to be done whilst simultaneously planning for the future through their talent. But employees do also need to take ownership of their own development and assessing gaps. 

With every role the expectations are greater. The right skills, alongside a humility and bias to action is important. Now more than ever, people must be able to get things done and deliver results, quickly.

  • Promote a high-trust environment. Everyone wants to work in a place where they feel psychologically safe – free to speak up and express High trust will also flow from people-first leadership and progressive cultures, as described above. This is in addition to the hygiene factors like flexible hours and wellness programs.
  • Understanding your market deeply. This includes being on top of social, economic, and political trends, so you can be confident in predicting the future and making decisions based on these forecasts, as well as offering meaningful contributions to industry-level policy deliberations. This then feeds back to a happy and productive culture.


Progressive companies will be able to succeed in the great rethink, building the best cultures and teams. Some of these points will involve taking risks, stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing well beyond what you’ve done before. However, the rewards of successfully negotiating the great rethink will show in performance and competitive advantage well into the future.

Hunton Executive can help you utilise the great rethink as an opportunity to take action.

Have you got a solid strategy in place for the great rethink? Give Hunton Executive a call to learn how we can help you build strong cultures, extraordinary leaders and a workplace that inspires.


Related Articles