Forward to the book

Lucy Barkas is writing her first book. Her aim is to help leaders to create an culture of accountability and personal responsibility in the workplace through connection, trust and total clarity. Lucy will share her insights and tools that transform business performance by transforming cultures. Lucy wants to start a positive ripple effect that helps leaders to impact peoples lives, homes, communities and ultimately the world.

The world around us is a disruptive one. The rate of change in all areas of our lives seems to be so rapid that us mere human animals are struggling to keep up. Human evolution takes time and our bodies and minds are still pretty similar to the homo sapiens of 50,000 years ago, yet the rate of change over the last week, month, year, century is difficult to comprehend. All predictions suggest that the rate of change will accelerate as technology, artificial intelligence and robots change the way we work, rest and play. They already are.

Although we are programmed to be flexible, agile and creative, we are becoming victims of our own success and this impacts our work, our relationships and our sense of order and place in the world. In many cases, changes have made our lives easier. We can now talk to a robot in our lounge and ask it to control our TV’s, our heating and lighting or even create our shopping list. We have apps that organise, assist and deliver what we need, when we need it. We don’t need to leave the house if we choose not to, because most activities, from personal trainers, groceries, virtual meetings, banking or even medical consultations can be done from our own sofas.

Yet where on one hand we can outsource many of our tasks and mundane actions to robots and technology, there are some critical elements that cannot be outsourced. Our sense of happiness, wellbeing, connection, purpose and fulfilment is diminishing. Stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, OCD are spreading in our cultures like a disease.

As human beings, we are neglecting our most fundamental needs that we need to live a healthy life. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model demonstrates our core needs, and most western cultures have the basic met. We have clean water, shelter, heating and rest. The World Bank Groups mission is carved in stone: “our dream is a world free of poverty”. In the last decade, there has been a radical shift in poverty levels worldwide and whilst the level of people living in poverty worldwide remains unacceptably high, as a world united we are moving to a world where the first need of physiological needs is being met.

The next need is safety. We don’t have the sabre- toothed tiger preying on us any longer, but we feel more unsafe now, fearing our neighbours, our colleagues, the stranger walking down the street. Our sense of safety is being rocked. Advances in technology and sociological shifts change means the work we do evolves as we do. From agricultural days where a bad harvest meant starvation to industrial where city living broke communities, to service where brain power overtook physical power, from women entering the mainstream working world post war, to mass immigration enabling western societies to grow and rebuild, and now an aging population, demographics have always fluctuated.

We should feel safe in our work, as we have more opportunity than ever before. No longer are we tied to a job for life, but have multi careers. We are more educated and have knowledge on our phones in our back pockets. More people are starting their own business as start up costs are as little as a laptop, phone and wifi connection and global connectivity means customers and colleagues can be found on networks and online. Work and money should be easier to gain than ever before yet people feel scared.

Writing this in 2018 in the UK we see the lowest levels of unemployment ever, and over 75% of the working population are in work. 3.7 million jobs have been created since 2010 and there are 770k jobs created every month. So why do people feel unsafe in their work? Have we forgotten how to live in trust?

To be happy and psychologically safe humans needs 3 core elements. We need autonomy in our lives, a sense of freedom to choose, to make decisions and have control. In a world that is rapidly changing, we often feel a sense of being out of control and unable to adapt and change. This causes a sense of insecurity and anxiety, stress. We need to feel a sense of competency, personal mastery or expertise in what we do. Again, for many people, as soon as we become skilled or a master of what we do, someone comes along and changes the goal posts or changes the technology. The modern world needs specialists, but specialists that can adapt, change and continue to develop themselves.

And finally, we need a sense of belonging, a connection and purpose. We need to feel like we are contributing to something greater than ourselves. Where once we lived in our communities, close to family and friends, we worked in locations and formed close relationships with our peers, and often seeing the start and end of the manufacturing or production process. Now we live separated from our families, sense of community is often found on social media, our colleagues our global and we may only meet infrequently or virtually. Our core needs are not being met, and we are struggling to reach our next level of the hierarchy of needs… love and belonging, which means our self-esteem is being knocked and we are rarely reaching self-actualisation.

So, what has all of this got to do with a leadership book? I am not alone in believing that leaders hold great power and responsibility in helping their people, their employees in leading fulfilled lives. It is their human obligation to lift others and to create working environments that help others to be the best they can be. It is what employees want. Many Baby boomers are leaving their careers for life to opt out. They are frustrated with the commutes, long hours, stress and unrealistic expectations. They choose quality of life, work life balance and work that excites and fulfils them. They millennials have seen their boomer parents work hard and sacrifice family/life/pleasure time for the job and they want the opposite. They are opting out too. They want to either work for leaders that inspire, motivate, care and give or be one.

You may still be resisting the idea of leaders being responsible for the happiness and fulfilment of humanity. So let us talk business performance. Research shows that happy engaged people have an increase of 30% over unhappy and disengaged people. It isn’t just the soft fluffy stuff either. This is hard science. Neuroscience shows us that stressed, depressed and anxious staff operate from amygdala, where the constant fight, flight and freeze responses literally shut down the human brain. It is the prefrontal cortex that creates, strategies, thinks logically and rationally, connects, designs and has ideas. These are the human qualities that we employ. These are the skills that artificial intelligence simply cannot yet do. It is a leader’s responsibility to cultivate an environment where their people can become fully human and fully valuable.

When asking leaders what creates value, their responses are categorised under brand, relationship, innovation, ideas and design. Let us just think about this for a second. These qualities add value to a business. Not the machines. Not the software. It is the human element that adds the value. It is people that add value, which makes the business create value.

And the leaders of the businesses and organisations create the cultures that cultivate their most valuable asset. “It’s not you it’s me”, it is time for leaders to start taking personal responsibility for their business performance by taking personal responsibility for the business cultures they create. It is time for leaders to take responsibility for the impact they have on their people, the impact they have on their families, communities and ultimately the world. Are you ready to start your legacy, to start creating your positive leadership ripple effect?

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