Steve Flinders – Upward disruption
Text & Photo: Steve Flinders
There is a growing realisation in the business world – something the rest of us have known for rather longer – that senior managers are dangerously out of touch. Even some of the managers themselves have got the message. They don’t have the IT skills of the average 12-year-old, they are clueless about social media, and – since they are mainly white middle-aged, middle class men (male, pale and stale) – they are dummies at diversity, too.
If they were lower down in the pecking order, HR would send them for training, but since they are too busy and important to sit in classrooms, HR has to find a more exclusive, one-to-one approach. One answer is upward mentoring.
While it is no doubt better for the share price when a corporation’s overpaid executives send out less risible tweets, this kind of instruction does nothing to address the issue which businesses should be confronting.
That image is climate change. In November, the United Nations described the future as “bleak”, after a report showed greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at their highest-ever levels. We know that every commercial and industrial sector needs to initiate a process of profound transformation from current to zero net emissions immediately. And yet most businesses are failing to take the urgent action needed to avert climate catastrophe.
We also know that it is the disempowered youth in our societies which is most aware of and concerned about this need.
Empowering the young gets results. Research from the Rotterdam School of Management has established that business projects are more likely to succeed when led by more junior rather than senior managers, perhaps because participants feel more confident about speaking up and identifying problems.
All this demonstrates that the young must be given a voice. The young see more clearly what kind of world they will inherit if it is two degrees warmer than today. The young should drive the reshaping of our business environment.
This means turning corporate cultures upside down. Every business organisation should make upward mentoring on the climate emergency an integral part of its culture. A legal requirement for every large company to have a director for climate emergency would also start to make a difference.
If your company is not doing it already, press for the start of a pilot upward mentoring programme focused on carbon reduction, as soon as possible.
Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their leadership and communication skills for working internationally: firstname.lastname@example.org Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Benelux.
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