It’s almost here - autumn in Seattle. We’ve already gotten drenched over the weekend complete with booming thunder. One more week of sun and then I think we’ll see fall swing into gear. This week of the Leader Reader we’ve got a first-aid guide for the Great Resignation, thoughts from folks who have seen the other side of job change in a pandemic, surprising benefits to ambivalent feelings, myth-busting about tech innovation, and a five-step guide for leaders to embrace the “next normal” with their strategies. Happy reading!

Keeping Your Team Together is an All-In Effort. Jack Kelly in Forbes put the problem squarely in front of us in What Managers Must Do to Ward Off Workers from Walking Out the Door During the Great Resignation:

  • 95% of workers surveyed have considered leaving their jobs. The unthinkable is thinkable.
  • When the best performers start to leave a company, others will follow.
  • It’s a five-part model to keep folks: 1. Provide the work arrangements they need, 2. Challenge, grow, and celebrate them, 3. Pay them what they’re worth, 4. Give meaning, purpose and direction (not just tasks), 5. Let go of toxic employees.

No, it’s not easy. But it starts with you. Your team is counting on you.

For Those That Quit, It’s Leaving one Zoom Room for Another. On the other side of the coin, those that do leave companies during the Great Resignation aren’t finding the grass greener, exactly - it’s the same shade of Zoom Call blue. Natasha Bernal writes in UK Wired that Remote Workers are Trapped in a Quitting Nightmare:

  • Exit and offboarding processes aren’t evolving with the pandemic, and it’s being noticed by employees.
  • Informal networks at work aren’t getting built up during remote work, a critical lack.
  • As a result, burnout and loneliness don’t “reset” with job changes, they just pick up where they left off.

Torn Feelings Lead to Creative Solutions, so Embrace Them. Nonconventional advice but I loved it; HBR’s Naomi B. Rothman, Brianna Barker Caza, Shimul Melwani, and Kate Walsh studied how team members have conflicting emotions (here called “ambivalence” but might be better known as feeling “torn” about something) and how there’s real value to embracing and encouraging those feelings, in Embracing the Power of Ambivalence

  • Especially in the pandemic many workers are feeling conflicting emotions.
  • Not acknowledging these emotions (or papering them over) leads to workers feeling isolated and languishing.
  • Instead, being open to these emotions actually starts a dialogue that can lead to creative solutions.
  • Welcome these feelings; you will likely need to start this by being open about your own emotions as a leader.

I found this article arguably the most fascinating of the week, and shared it directly with my wider team internally.

Who Wins in Technology Innovation? Physics Picks the Winner. What’s the secret to innovating correctly, and is there a winning formula? Why do some innovations take off and others fail? In this extensive article in WSJ, Christopher Mims reveals that it’s less about the innovators, and more about combining existing technologies to take advantage of the underlying physics, in New Research Busts Popular Myths About Innovation:

  • Most technologies improve at less than 20% per year, and patent load is only weakly correlated.
  • Technologies that improve consistently build on base technologies that themselves have high rates of improvement.
  • This is due to improvements taking advantage of underlying physics, and often be expressed in reducing cost of the base technologies.
  • Example: Cost per watt of solar power is 0.1% of what it was 70 years ago. Conversely, nuclear power is now more expensive per watt. Innovations based on solar have a higher likelihood of success using this model.
  • Individual heroics seem to factor very little in this model.

Here’s What Leaders Must Do in the Next Phase. McKinsey’s strategy team says that the pandemic has revealed and accelerated key trends that leaders should be aware of as they revisit their stratgies, in What matters most? Five priorities for CEOs in the next normal:

They are -

  • Center your strategy on sustainability. Climate will be an area of strategic advantage.
  • Transform in the cloud. Companies are only barely taking advantage now.
  • Cultivate your talent. Small teams, coach rather than direct, deploy skills rather than fixed hierarchy, and train/develop.
  • Press the need for speed. Design moving fast into your organization. Embrace collaboration technologies. Anticipate shifts, drive outcomes.
  • Operate with purpose. Making money isn’t purpose enough. Great employees will leave if they don’t feel the company has higher goals in mind.

That’s it for this week! Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Leader Reader! Take good care of your teams and enjoy these last few days of late summer sun.