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BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING THE SOFT STUFF

I f executives, entrepreneurs, managers, individual contributors, and those preparing for (and helping to prepare others for) these roles were to cultivate effective communication and relationship building, the so-called soft stuff, a number of good outcomes can emerge.

First, execution might be faster, better, and simpler if the purpose and strategic direction of an organization is clear up, down, and across the organization. Leaders could get better results if they understand the business strategy and how their teams contribute to its successful execution. Furthermore, as business conditions change, organizations could be more nimble in refreshing their strategy and moving ahead without losing traction.

Second, executives—both in large organizations and small start-ups— would be better informed, be closer to the action, and be more accountable. Their willingness and ability to both lead and listen would set an example for the rest of the organization, keep them in touch with reality, and help them to move their businesses ahead.

Third, employee engagement could remain high despite turbulence in the marketplace. With confidence that their leaders are making and communicating sound decisions, people are more likely to stay the course and focus on how to make the organization succeed. A more engaged workforce performs better and gets better results.18 Relationships create "stickiness," which increases the likelihood that talented people will stay with the organization. This applies for the future employees who are now at universities as well as those already in the employment market. Given the pace of the business environment, globalization, and the benefits (and dangers) of remote connectedness through social media and the Internet, many leaders know that the soft stuff of relationships and communication will be even more important in the future.

Finally, organizations would be positioned for leadership continuity. A work environment that fosters engagement and develops social capital while getting business results is likely to be more attractive to the next generation of leadership talent, who is likely to be less hierarchical than the current generation of leadership.

THE SOFT STUFF IS INDEED THE HARD STUFF

The workplace of the 21st century is a demanding and complex environment. As organizations globalize, industries grow, companies consolidate, and competition intensifies, success is likely to become increasingly elusive. Though there is no substitute for technical competence and expertise, the true winners of the future may be those who can overcome differences, cultivate agreement, and move with others into the future. That, then, is both the challenge and the opportunity. The future is yours.

NOTES

Many thanks to Bianca Jochimsen for her outstanding assistance with this chapter.

1. Schneider, William E. 1994. The Reengineering Alternative: A Planfor Making Your Current Culture Work. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

2 . Merchant, Nilofer. 2011. "Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time." Harvard Business Review Blog Network, March 22. blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/03/cul ture_trumps_strategy_every.html.

3 . DeLong Thomas J. and Vijayaraghavan, Vineeta. 2003. "Let's Hear It for B Players," Harvard Business Review 81(6): 96-102.

4. ChiefExecutive.net. 2011. "13 Percent CEO Turnover, Highest Rate in Six Years," ChiefExecutive.net, September 8.

5 . The Investment Blogger. 2011. 2011 "Mid-Year Mergers and Acquisitions Update (Part 1)," The Investment Blog, July 6.

6 . Galbraith, Jay R. 2009. Designing Matrix Organizations That Actually Work: How IBM, Procter & Gamble and Others Design for Success. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

7. Kowske, Brenda J., Herman, Anne E. and Wiley, Jack W. 2010. Exploring Leadership and Managerial Effectiveness. Kenexa Research Institute WorkTrends Report.

8. Ferguson, Niall. 2011. "America's 'Oh Sh*t!' Moment," Newsweek, November 7 and 14.

9. Dotlich, David L. and Noel, James L. 1998. Action Learning: How the World's Top Companies Are Re-Creating Their Leaders and Themselves. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

10. Galbraith, Jay R. 2009. Designing Matrix Organizations That Actually Work: How IBM, Procter & Gamble and Others Design for Success. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

11. Galbraith, Jay R., Downey, Diane and Kates, Amy. 2002. Designing Dynamic Organizations: A Hands-On Guide for Leaders at All Levels. New York: AMACOM.

12 . Napier, Nancy K., Raney, Gary, Freeman, Ron, Petersen, Chris, Cooper, Jamie, Kemper, Don, Balkins, Jim, Fee, Charlie, Hofflund, Mark, McIntyre, Trey, Schert, John Michael, and Lokken, Bob. 2011. "Gang Rules: Creativity in Unexpected Places," People and Strategy 34(3): 28-33.

13. Crossland, Ron and Clarke, Boyd . 2002. The Leader's Voice: How Your Communication Can Inspire Action and Get Results! New York: SelectBooks.

14. Galbraith, Jay R., Downey, Diane, and Kates, Amy. 2002. Designing Dynamic Organizations: A Hands-On Guide for Leaders at All Levels. New York: AMACOM.

15. Schneider, William E. 1994. The Reengineering Alternative: A Planfor Making Your Current Culture Work. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

16. Herman, Anne E. 2009. Onboarding New Employees: An Opportunity to Build Long-Term Productivity and Retention. Wayne, PA: Kenexa Research Institute.

17. Colvin, Geoff. 2008. Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. New York: Portfolio.

18. Kowske, Brenda J., Herman, Anne E., and Wiley, Jack W. 2010. Exploring Leadership and Managerial Effectiveness. Kenexa Research Institute Work Trends Report.

 
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