Ways to prepare and take advantage of disruption

Everyone is talking about the Great Resignation as predictions circulate that around 40% of workers will leave their jobs in the next year.

Discussion around the Great Resignation tends to be from an employer perspective, and as a result there’s not as focus on what this plus all the other disruption will mean for business leaders who are looking to take their leadership to the next level.

In fact, it’s a big opportunity, particularly for those who are on the cusp of an executive-level role, or in one already and looking to transform from good to extraordinary.

Everyone is talking about the Great Resignation. All this change can present an excellent opportunity, but only for those who are prepared.

How is it an opportunity? Well, according to this article, the Great Resignation is the biggest among mid-career employees aged 30 – 45, which is a marked shift since historically the biggest movement in jobs was within younger age groups. There’s lots of possible reasons for this, including frustration at working long hours during the pandemic, but a particularly interesting theory is that people who have stayed put for a while have decided that as we move to ‘COVID normal’ it’s time to be brave.

The good news is lots of movement in the mid-career levels means more coveted positions coming up or chances to make a mark in your current organisation when others leave. The not-so-good news is plenty of competition for those top roles. The only way to take advantage of opportunity is to be prepared. Let’s look at how in more detail.

1. Be self-aware – and use it to improve

Anyone who’s genuinely looked back at their leadership will likely find behaviours or incidents from the past that make them cringe. It can be harder to deeply analyse these past behaviours until they can be seen as patterns and then areas for improvement.

Coaching can provide a big boost here, but make sure you pick someone who really understands the role you’re aiming for and can provide specific actions on how you can get there.

At the same time, do not allow yourself to feel like you are a bad leader just because you’re not appreciated at your current job as much as you should be. Lack of recognition can stem from a whole host of reasons, including a dysfunctional workplace and a bad fit for your skills or style.

And if you have been a bad leader in the past, then own those mistakes, and move on, carrying a strong lesson with you as you go.

2. Upskill and reskill

Lifelong learning is an absolute must for any great leader. This goes hand-in-hand with another hallmark of great leaders – the ability to adapt to change.

In its 2021 Global Talent Trends study, Mercer calls it the “race to reskill” and says “the era of apathy around reskilling is over”. With so many options available to learn online and from home, a lack of time is no longer an excuse.

It can be easy to push the need to develop your skills down the to-do list, but it’s not wise in such a fast-moving environment. Upskilling is as essential for leaders as for the people they lead.

Upskilling can take lots of forms and does not narrowly mean studying in the traditional way. There’s so much learning available online now in a variety of formats. One day, you might be listening to a podcast and the next an online seminar. And be open-minded about the skills you choose to improve – learning more about softer skills like empathy or adaptability is going to be invaluable in time.

3. Evaluate your approach

If you’re not getting where you want to go, it’s always good to take a step back and evaluate. Is what you’re doing enough? Are your attentions focused on the right activities?

For example, look at how you are networking. Sending lots of connection requests on LinkedIn might come across as transactional and one-sided. Offering people help and taking steps to develop deep and reciprocal connections across a career is a far better approach.

Also, it might be worth considering if you’re being too narrow in the way you move towards your goal of being an extraordinary leader. Sometimes, it can be valuable to take a sideways move first, or consider other ways of gaining experience like board positions.

Last, but certainly not least, is to ensure you’ve defined your values. Perhaps you haven’t progressed at the rate you were anticipating at your current organisation, but maybe their values do not align with your own. It’s possible you have a more unconventional mindset, which would be better suited to different types of roles or companies to the ones that you’ve traditionally gravitated towards. A change of role or industry might be a consideration in this case, and with the great resignation underway, this may be easier than in the past.

4. Focus on global

For executives it’s possible to end up very narrowly-focused on the market you’re directly operating within. However, opening your mind to global opportunities can produce more opportunities than you might think.

This doesn’t just mean looking for global positions or moving overseas. It can be about roles that have more of a global focus, which you are more likely to be allowed to perform remotely now. Broadening your network to other markets and countries. Or thinking globally about your strategy and looking to what’s happening in other countries for inspiration and guidance.

5. Have a digital first mindset

A report from PwC, The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022 found that 53% of people think technological breakthroughs will transform the way people work over the next five to 10 years.

Alongside this is the acceleration of digital disruption which has been due to COVID .  For example, while there had been a slow but steady shift to online shopping for a number of years, it’s now absolutely exploded. And this is happening in countless industries across the board.

Having a digital first mindset is not merely about being able to use Zoom or a CRM. It’s about understanding customers, how they act and what they want and then using those insights to genuinely give them what they need. Think about someone like Uber – they were successful not because they had an algorithm but because they used it to give people what they wanted.

An executive who can bring this kind of insight and customer-centric behaviour to an organisation will be well-valued indeed.

Taking advantage of disruption and the Great Resignation can present a big opportunity. Those leaders who are willing to put in the effort to prepare and improve are best-placed to take advantage and become extraordinary.

Hunton Executive can support you through your leadership journey and help you transform your perspective to performance

If you’re looking for a place to get started, why not try our Executive Scorecard – it is free, takes just 10 minutes and will instantly provide you actionable steps to improving your capabilities.


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