Earth as a stakeholder — The demand for businesses to view the earth as a stakeholder will continue to increase. The rising generations of workers won’t ignore the issues around sustainability and will advocate for companies to address them in more effective ways. The pandemic provided an increased focus on the planet and the impact we have on it, and we all (both people and businesses) need to be doing more in the future.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Bryan Stallings and Jessica Guistolise, CPCC.

Bryan Stallings, most recently with SolutionsIQ (an Accenture company), has nearly 20 years of experience as an Agile consultant, facilitator and coach. Bryan is currently Chief Evangelist at Lucid Software, a leader in visual collaboration, helping teams see and build the future.

For nearly a decade, Jessica Guistolise has been an Agile consultant, facilitator and coach, bringing her passion for experiential learning to teams across the globe. Jessica is currently an Evangelist at Lucid Software, a leader in visual collaboration.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

Bryan: I found the Agile software development community in 2003 and became an early practitioner. This was just two years after the Agile Manifesto, which was authored in 2001. I’ve since applied these values and practices at each of my employers and at hundreds of clients. Agile introduces a radically different way of collaborating and a more humane way of working. To develop further competency, I added deep expertise in professional facilitation and coaching. After 15 years in management consulting, I joined Lucid Software to apply all my learning to helping teams see and build the future, and I’ve found great fulfillment from positively impacting an individual’s work because doing so changes their world dramatically!

Jessica: My dad was one of the most curious people I’ve ever met. His curiosity created space for adventure and discovering that ordinary things can be extraordinary. From volunteering at the zoo so he could go “diving” in the aquarium, to venturing to Antarctica, to the diversity of food we had on the table each night, his adventurous spirit and curiosity for people from all backgrounds definitely carries on with me. My curiosity eventually led me to collaborating with Bryan Stallings. He helped me articulate my purpose, come into alignment with my values, and unlock my potential as I shifted into a new adventure — a career in consulting. This new career path allowed me to work with people who were values-aligned while advocating for employees stuck in negative work environments or circumstances across the globe.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Bryan: We’re looking at a shift to a more human-centric workplace. The intricacies of working within and across teams will continue to highlight the power and results that come from effective group collaboration. From an organizational standpoint, implementing the right tools will be critical to enabling this human-centric workplace. For example, office productivity software is on the way out, giving way to tools like collaboration suites that really empower people to connect and build trust with each other. We’ve also seen an increased flexibility in balancing work and life and how those worlds blend together. As a result, individuals are shifting away from defining their self-worth primarily from achieving success at work, leading to a “working to live” mindset, not living to work.

Jessica: Empathy, diversity and collaboration will continue to be vital. No one told me when I was in school that my entire career would be a “group project.” This is a great opportunity to pay attention to how we collaborate and what tools we use to build deep relationships with colleagues and achieve team goals. Embracing multiple perspectives will result in comprehensive, creative and complete solutions to complex problems, all of which are crucial today and will be crucial in the years to come. People — particularly business and team leaders — will also become more intentional about when, how and why we get together in person. Work spaces will be recreated to foster community and inclusivity in order to better meet the varying needs of different types of workers in different stages of their careers.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Bryan: A key strategy to future-proof the organization is a focus on business agility. An organization that can quickly adapt to today’s changing market environments is by definition one that can persist no matter what the future will bring. For example, in the past, it was only the bigger players that could replace your organization. But today, it could be one of many small, unfamiliar companies that are innovating in ways that could make your entire product line obsolete. We no longer have the advantage of a 3–5 year time horizon for a competitive response. Businesses need to develop the agility to adapt and respond to what is happening in the moment in order to be truly future-proof.

Jessica: Future-proofing your organization begins with an increased focus on people and culture. Listen to and invest in the people that work for your company! Make sure they have the tools to work how, when and where they can be most effective. Part of that includes creating an environment where people can be honest and share feedback. This focus on people should also include your customers. Understanding their needs and helping your employees recognize their impact on the customers is absolutely crucial to ensuring growth and progress.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Bryan: We need to employ strategies that help to solve both human and business challenges at the same time. This starts with accelerating the pace at which leaders develop the people in their organizations. As we develop a team member, they become more capable and ready for greater responsibility, meaning we can promote them and provide new learning opportunities and challenges, ultimately creating people who are more engaged and content at work.

Like Jessica said earlier, leaders also need to create a culture that encourages feedback and input. For this to succeed, leaders need to create a culture where psychological safety exists. Without it, no one will be forthcoming with the ideas and feedback necessary to create positive change. When individuals are invited to contribute in this way, they are highly motivated to act in bringing about success.

Jessica: Employees today are expecting a higher level of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. There are still organizations today where “control” is a factor, and that is (thankfully) shifting. People want to have a say in topics that affect them at work, and there’s a way leaders can do that to encourage empowerment while also creating alignment between those human and business objectives. To bridge these gaps, we need to look at the things Bryan mentioned about focusing on the people.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Bryan: We both love that word, experiment. Before the pandemic there were advances in technology that hadn’t yet been embraced. Telehealth, robotic delivery, contactless payments, and virtual collaboration tools are a few examples. The sudden shift to working from home created an overnight urgency for the workplace to catch up. Companies became very creative and experimental — building that business agility we mentioned — and learned just what could be possible. As leaders in the future of work, we need to continue that innovation by enabling intentional experiments. We cannot re-freeze and return to our previous posture regarding change.

Jessica: And parts of this experiment did not work; we need that continued experimentation. Early in the pandemic, a friend said to me, “Instead of working from home, I feel like I now live at work!” Each of us are experimenting with boundaries, how to create our own and how to respect the boundaries of others. For example, I am currently experimenting with ways to recreate the “me” time that previously was built into my regular commute. Temporary solutions that companies put in place during the early days of the pandemic need to be revisited as team structures and workflows continue to evolve. As we move forward, it’s important for companies to establish long-term innovative solutions that will empower teams to be productive and engaged while ensuring employees’ needs are being met and there are healthy boundaries that separate work and life.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Bryan: The pandemic gave us a hard shake — the nature of our work and our expectations of work are dramatically different today than just three years ago. This is a time to move quickly toward key changes. A vital priority is access to continued learning in and out of the workplace and the acceleration of its use. Because of the pace of change, knowledge workers must continually learn and adapt to a shifting workplace. The pace at which today’s workforce learns must increase in order to meet the future needs of organizations. Knowledge workers also must elevate their people and communication skills to better collaborate in solving today’s complex problems with increasingly diverse and cross-functional teams.

Jessica: There are a couple of changes that need to be made. First, we need to change the way we talk about — and to — our global colleagues. For example, we should stop using words like “offshore.” These kinds of words can promote “othering” and create a sense of superiority in whoever is considered the “local” team. Small changes like this enable us to create connected global teams, inviting insights and ideas from everyone.

Secondly, relationship work needs to be recognized as real work. Simon Sinek talks about how relationship work is not like a project or a deliverable — it’s ongoing, constant work, a type of preventive maintenance. It doesn’t end, but if we don’t do it, everything falls apart.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

Bryan: The future of work requires change. The most rewarding aspect of my work is to introduce individuals to new ways of working and then support their development as they encounter, embrace and integrate that learning. My efforts have touched thousands of individuals involved in transformative change, and those individuals give me so much optimism! As I witness the delight that these individuals experience as they undertake dramatic improvements in their way of working, my optimism about the future is renewed.

Jessica: I am so optimistic! My middle name is Hope, so I like to think it’s built into me. I believe that as organizations work toward business agility, our human-ness has to come forward. We’re at the beginning stages of celebrating what it means to be vulnerable in sharing the non-work parts of ourselves at work. I hope that there continues to be a global recognition that it’s healthy and important for both individuals and businesses for all of us to share and recognize all the unique parts of ourselves. And it’s more fun, quite frankly. We are solving complex problems, and that takes complex humans in deep relationships to do that.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

Bryan: At Lucid, we’re expected to hold a weekly 1-on-1 with each individual we manage. My manager has a standing time on my calendar. We keep each other informed on both professional and personal aspects of life. This practice improves my sense of alignment, renews the certainty of my decisions, and reduces the potential for and duration of anxiety and frustration. It’s great to see a company working at that relational level to really support employee mental health, and it’s had such a positive impact for me.

Jessica: I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all “fix” in regards to mental health and wellbeing — it’s always going to require a multi-pronged approach. Access to apps like Headspace, Calm or Insight (yes, I have them all) is a great start, but that’s not a complete strategy. Organizations need to ensure physical and mental health are prioritized in benefits offerings, internal programs and employee relationships. It may also help to invest in professional coaches at all levels of the organization, which studies show can result in measurable reductions in emotional exhaustion and symptoms of burnout, while also improving resilience and overall quality of life. Ultimately, it comes down to connecting with individuals and truly caring about their wellbeing.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

Bryan: The pandemic was a forced jettisoning of many things that few want to see return, and people will continue to show a willingness to accept employment elsewhere rather than be forced to return to those old ways of working. Companies need to scrap those old command and control systems and move on. Like we mentioned before, people want that autonomy and want to be involved in the evolution and experiments of what work looks like in the future. Inviting that input and ownership is crucial to building future-proof company cultures.

Jessica: Leaders need to understand that resignation, reconfiguration, and reevaluation are not about salary. If we look at the research of Donald Sull and others, it actually comes down to people no longer accepting toxic cultures. The role of leaders is changing from the command and control Bryan mentioned. Leaders need to instead focus on creating healthy, inclusive cultures and developing environments in which people are able to do their best work — and therefore bring their best ideas to the table. This is marking a real shift from “management” to “leadership,” and, as leaders, there is work to do to develop ourselves in this area.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

Hybrid work means flexible work — According to Future Forum’s summer 2022 pulse survey, 94% of employees want flexibility in where they work. Companies are revisiting old and new office protocols, with many going through those intentional experiments of what work styles are most effective for their employees. But the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution because every employee has different working styles, needs and preferences. Some departments may thrive in a hybrid setting while others may lean toward being in the office. Business leaders, departments and teams will continue needing to collaborate on what hybrid formats work best for their people to succeed.

Digital collaboration solutions — Daily work applications will no longer be oriented around text-based documents, whether print or digital, as the medium for expression. Word processing and presentation software simply don’t fit the ways we communicate and work any longer. Our work moving forward will be increasingly focused on social, collaborative interactions, such as dynamic brainstorming sessions in a virtual whiteboard with an infinite canvas. Giving up the limits of the page and presentation slide will enable less formality and more creativity in many of the deliverables we create, lcreating significant time savings, innovation and engagement.

Earth as a stakeholder — The demand for businesses to view the earth as a stakeholder will continue to increase. The rising generations of workers won’t ignore the issues around sustainability and will advocate for companies to address them in more effective ways. The pandemic provided an increased focus on the planet and the impact we have on it, and we all (both people and businesses) need to be doing more in the future.

Human-centered leadership — Our concept of leadership will continue to change. Leadership should no longer be equated with “management.” As we look ahead, executive and management roles will move away from controlling mindsets to instead seeking to create space for high performance, reducing obstacles and supporting individual development. We can see this shift today in how leaders at every level are reading the words of Adam Grant, Amy Edmondson, Brene Brown, Lynda Gratton, Ray Dalio, Robert Kegan, Simon Sinek and others who encourage this human-centric leadership, and that will only continue moving forward.

Diversity, equity and inclusion — We have an opportunity to use tools that have enabled hybrid work to further bring a more diverse set of voices to the table. One way we see this happening is an increase in how people work asynchronously, as opposed to bringing everyone together in an ever-increasing number of meetings. For example, a parent can pick up a child from school and later return to a brainstorming session that took place earlier and still contribute ideas. On a global scale, asynchronous work makes it possible for teams across time zones to share feedback, voice concerns and bring up new priorities together within the same space, even if not at the same time. This is a real opportunity to bring diverse voices, collaboration styles, experiences and locations together which, in the end, means that our solutions, our products and what we can do for our customers will be that much better.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

Bryan: “Attitude determines your altitude.” I was a teen when I first read this quote. It was on a poster I purchased to hang in my grandpa’s hospital room, and the picture showed a chimpanzee riding a mountain bike! It made us both laugh, but more than that I recall wanting to influence the perspective he held about getting well. Many times since, I’ve felt like a monkey trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible and those words have enabled me to shift my perspective about my potential.

Jessica: “And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth” — Frightened Rabbit. I love music, and the first time I heard “Heads Roll Off” by Frightened Rabbit it resonated with me deeply. It helps me to remember that I am here to do good. It’s the idea and hope that while we are here, we can have a positive effect on the earth and on others who share our spaces. A tiny positive change is like throwing a stone in a lake: depending on the conditions, we might not even know how far the ripples go.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Bryan: Lunch with Brené Brown would be incredible! Her research is fascinating, she is a brilliant teacher, a fascinating storyteller, and so funny and down to earth.

Jessica: Simon Sinek — I value his pragmatic optimism.

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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.