Unemployment: no more jobs for the boys? Debate 24.09.09

Pause for thought

While it was sympathetic to the challenges of the unemployed, this debate focused much more on the value of unemployment to society and to the individual as a pause for reflection. The most supported statements from the whole debate were:

  • An opportunity to change direction should one wish to.
  • It can be a fantastic moment to rethink your goals and priorities, to make (new) choices
  • We were told twenty years ago about a leisure society yet we still work our socks off…

Compared to other Thinking Tanks, this debate was more reflective, less fast paced. In all however over 100 points of view were proposed by the group, evaluated and ranked.

Personal pain

There was clear acknowledgement of the downsides of unemployment for the individual, particularly in the absence of hope

  • I grew up in a town with mass unemployment (closed steel mill) – the new norm became hanging around feeling hopeless
  • Stress on families

And the detrimental impact on the economy / society:

  • If the unemployment rate is too high, so then, there is a negative economic impact for society
  • Waste of human resources – missing to include these people’s potential

Actions for business leaders

There was a belief that business leaders should be managing for growth and business success and this will in turn maintain employment requirements.

  • There must be very valuable workers in my company, so that, we should redefine new markets. (there are always new opportunities to discover)

Two sides of the coin

On the issue of our role as employers / business leaders, there were clearly two schools of thought. Bipolar Synthetrons (where a statement attracts both significant support and significant opposition) on actions that we can take to address the issues raised by unemployment included:

  • Maintain a relationship with ex employees eg as ad hoc team members while they are looking for next job
  • I can help employees to grow personally while being on the job and by such creating resilience in the face of unemployment.
  • Be aware of the research showing that the hard fast high cutting companies do very much worse after a crisis than the ones that keep some slack, fire in a humane way, let the employees keep in touch with each other, stimulate these contacts, …
  • I can coach people better

This bipolarity was also the case concerning some of the advantages to society of unemployment – maybe reflecting personal experiences.

  • I always learned that a certain degree of unemployment helps the economy to grow, change have a real labour market.. and I do believe that could be a benefit for society if we were all part time unemployed with time to do other important things. now a large group of people work more than 100% neglecting themselves, family and friends, while others do not have any work at all.

The word cloud (below) shows how the content of the debate went—the bigger the word, the more mentions and the higher the support. Most of the larger words are positive and focus on new beginnings. Of course many of the participants are successful in life—maybe due in part to this positive approach.

Business as usual or time for a change? Thinking Tank 27.08.2009

Overall the group are aware of the need for a change in style in this Thinking Tank carried out in partnership with Aspire Coaching. The time for rigid leadership styles is over, in our fast changing world, flexibility is key.

  • Someone like Obama is changing what being a leader means

80% of comments about leadership style are about TRANSFORMATIONAL (traditionally female) attributes.
Communicating is the most frequently mentioned behaviour for a leader today while the need for emotional intelligence and empathy are also well recognised. Teamwork is an important aspect of this approach.

  • The key attributes are good communications, clarity of vision and purpose, high emotional intelligence, openness

The group see a growing need for honesty and openness in the way senior management deal with their teams… as well as a demand for a more ethical and sustainable approach to business decisions

The remaining 20% of comments about leadership style are about TRANSACTIONAL (traditionally male) attributes.
Despite the emphasis on transformational attributes there were also several comments about the need to be tough as a leader.

  • Leadership is a tougher job in an uncertain climate and it takes more than a sympathetic ear for staff concerns!

Some comments are about leadership in general – neither transformational nor transactional
Clarity and focus are important for any type of leader and inspiring visionary leaders are valued. Customers are mentioned in the context of the need to understand their needs in order for the business to survive

Lastly, the process of business leaders in a peer group discussion was seen as useful by many participants and there was a desire for ongoing on-line connections

  • We need some radical changes. Business and people need to be led by STRONG leaders with clear vision and the will to tackle the issues

The wordcloud for the whole debate looks like this (the bigger the word, the more it was used / supported). See full report here.results leadership 0908

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