Implementing an Agile Mindset: The future of work is agile. This is not a buzzword; this is a set of tools and processes that make up a mindset for collaboration and efficiency. Teams will no longer be siloed but instead make up a cross-functional working unit centered around the best way to deliver value for their stakeholders.
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 Meighan Newhouse, CEO and Co-Founder, Inspirant Group.
Meg Newhouse is the CEO and Co-Founder of Inspirant Group, the disruptive management consulting firm and home of the #Unconsultants who guide clients from inspiration to transformation.
In an era ushering in more digitization and automation, she still believes that humans are any organization’s greatest asset and has focused her career on helping people reach their full potential, both in the work they do and beyond.
Inspirant is Meg’s second start up. Prior to creating the disruptive consulting firm with her two partners, she founded and ran Colette Allen Consulting, a boutique learning and development firm focused on helping people “LEARN to love your work.”
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.
As a graduate student studying instructional design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I worked at the school’s Office for Student Conflict Resolution where I served as a grad assistant and trained mediator, facilitating mediations and training up other staff. On September 11th, 2001, I was assigned an interesting mediation — one between a student and her parents about a minor conflict. As I was preparing to leave for the meeting, I turned on the news and learned that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought what a tragic accident and felt so sad for those involved. As I arrived at the office, I saw some of my colleagues staring with horror at the TV after the second plane had hit. I was scared, confused, and frankly rattled to my core. I couldn’t think about anything else and certainly not with a clear head. When the parents arrived at the office, I apologized to them and their daughter, explaining that, in light of the day’s events, I would need to postpone our meeting.
They became enraged that I was breaking the appointment and insisted we have the mediation regardless. We tried for an hour. But clearly my thoughts were elsewhere. I eventually stopped and said, “I am so sorry, but I can’t really give you what you need today because of what is happening in the world. If you think about what is happening outside of this room today, perhaps that will give you all some new perspective on your own situation.”
It was a tough scenario and a brave move on my part, but being able to stop and do what was right for me was powerful. I didn’t end up meeting with the family again and I do hope they got to a better place in resolving their conflict.
In my mid 30s, I had what I’ll call a quarter life crisis. There were a lot of changes happening in my life and I was not coping with them as best as I could: I had moved out of the city, where the energy made me feel truly alive and I felt a strong sense of identity .I had moved from a job that I was passionate about to one where I was learning, but the corporate culture wasn’t a good fit.
For someone who values working, having a career and being productive, my attitude, mental health and family life started to suffer.
Instead of taking the time to go deeper and address the crux of the problem, I avoided it, usually through a bunch of booze, mindless scrolling, or other activities that made me numb to my pain.
One day, I had a sort of epiphany. I woke up. I was tired of feeling the way I felt and I wanted to be better for my family and friends.
I started a regular yoga and meditation practice, and recently completed my yoga instructor certification. which helped to clear my mind of a lot of emotional baggage and refocus on what really mattered to me and I scheduled more “me” time when I could be solitary, to listen to myself, deal with past trauma, and figure out what I needed to thrive again
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work 10–15 years from now?
I believe that employees will continue to be in the driver’s seat as they will be able to work for employers anywhere in the world which provides them with leverage to be selective.
I think that smart software and machines will continue to provide us with opportunities to work smarter and more efficiently.
I believe the need for upskilling workers will continue to be essential as more tasks become automated.
What do you predict will be different?
I’m hopeful that the nature of work, in addition to the tools and processing for learning, will continue to evolve in new and interesting ways. This will increase job fulfillment and employee retention.
The “old” ways of command and control management will be obsolete. Management will have trained expertise in intentional listening and meeting employees where they are. Customized employee benefits that are bespoke and individualized will be the norm.
Most companies will have remote teams and that the stigma around it will evaporate. Flexibility will be a built in, expected component of an employee benefits package.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
My best advice to employers who want to future-proof their organizations would be to rethink their hiring and onboarding practices. We’ve been implementing “job crafting” at Inspirant Group, where employees have input in developing their roles. This process deepens engagement and puts team members in more control of their career paths. It also increases motivation and can allow for more interdepartmental collaboration.
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?
From talking to colleagues and networking, I think the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect will continue to be added flexibility (particularly for companies in traditional industries) and a need for more learning on the job. The Great Resignation has completely disrupted traditional working models, and employees are not willing to settle for less than what they want. If experiences can be customized in every other single aspect of our lives, why wouldn’t we demand the same from our employment, where we spend most of our waking hours?
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
There’s no question that remote work is here to stay. Many companies were already offering remote work options and when COVID hit, there was no choice. Employees appreciate the flexibility that comes with work from anywhere and so many felt the benefits of having that flexibility. Companies will need to balance the convenience of working from home with the bonding that comes from in person interactions, such as brainstorming and creating, or sharing a meal.
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?
I foresee that continuing the conversation around mental health, work-life balance and setting more boundaries around work will benefit everyone.
I do think that employees will continue to be in the drivers’ seat; it’s our job as leaders and managers to listen to them with intention and then deliver upon what they want. Companies need to revise their talent strategy in order to develop a team that is based on human relationships.
As much as our careers and jobs can provide a certain kind of fulfillment, humans also need time away from work in order to relax, refresh and nourish themselves. Working through a vacation is no longer looked upon as a good thing.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
I continue to be impressed by how well people have adjusted to life during COVID and this indicates a greater openness about embracing change. Talking more openly and honestly about mental health also signals a major shift that I think will foster the development of more people-focused workplaces in the future.
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?
This is an issue we’ve taken very seriously at Inspirant Group. In fact, one of our 2022 pillars is health. This pertains to the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of all of our team members, and how we can best support that. Health also refers to the relationships team members have with each other, their families and our clients. When people can trust each other, show respect and have self awareness of their own behavior, healthier relationships abound. When you trust your team members, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions. And you don’t have to waste time or energy “watching your back.” At Inspirant Group, we care about the greater good and give our team members the freedom to talk about mental health and wellbeing, and take the time for doctor’s appointments, etc. as they need to.
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?
Clearly, today’s leaders are not changing fast enough with the times.
It’s critical for management to take the time to “figure yourself out” so that unnecessary emotional baggage from past trauma is not brought into the workplace. This can come out as microaggressions, condescension, cruelty and more.
From my experience in leading a management Unconsultancy, I know that people are our most important asset, and that the relationships that I maintain with my partners, Amir Azarbad and Chris VanAvermaete, our team and with clients, have made us a more successful and sustainable company.
Looking inward with complete honesty is not easy but can be revelatory. I recognized certain behaviors I wasn’t proud of; things I could do better.
During the “Great Resignation,” the insights we can glean about ourselves as leaders are even more pressing.
What we’ve referred to historically as the Golden Rule no longer applies. It is time to treat people how THEY wish to be treated. CEOs should remember that leading people is a special honor. As such, your behavior can make the difference to someone loving or hating their job because of the environment you’ve created. Great leadership involves: self awareness, conscious decision making, embodying your company’s core values, and understanding what fulfillment means for each person on your team and figuring out how to support them
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Teaching Emotional Intelligence will become a mainstay in employee learning and development. We’ve started teaching our employees about Emotional Intelligence as part of the “next level” content in their onboarding package because we think it adds tremendous value to their employment experience and tenure. The fact is that once people become more self aware, pay greater attention to how they are feeling throughout the day and notice how their emotions impact their decisions and actions, they will establish better team rapport, be increasingly productive and be empowered to carve out a career path that is fulfilling. This also includes developing awareness of one’s own interpersonal communication, how best to read social cues and when, where and how best to respond in a variety of situations. It’s also empowering for people to know how they are perceived by others so they can make adjustments in their communication.
- Encouraging and Embracing Experimentation — One of our 2021 pillars was Experiment and I believe that embracing experimentation in the future will result in an abundance of innovative solutions throughout one’s organization. This includes providing people with freedom to experiment even if the end result isn’t a perfect solution. When people are empowered to experiment it eventually powers up an organization’s competitive advantage.
- Staffing for Resilience: the unpredictability of the past two years is the perfect reason why successful companies need to staff up with people who have overlapping skills. This better prepares an organization to be resilient during unforeseen, unplanned circumstances, which will continue to occur in our complex world. I also believe that staffing for resilience empowers team members and over time, deepens their connection to the organization.
- Less focus on job titles, more focus on skills: When we formed Inspirant Group to disrupt the management consulting industry, the first thing we did was to strip away the layers of bureaucracy. This has resulted in a flat organization where peers are working collaboratively across the board. We think it’s a better, more efficient way to work.
- Implementing an Agile Mindset: The future of work is agile. This is not a buzzword; this is a set of tools and processes that make up a mindset for collaboration and efficiency. Teams will no longer be siloed but instead make up a cross-functional working unit centered around the best way to deliver value for their stakeholders.
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?
Keeping true to my “people first” beliefs, two of my favorite life lesson quotes are “Success is liking who you are, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” (Maya Angelou) and “There is no such thing as work-life balance. It is all life. The balance has to be within you.” (Sadhguru).
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.
Without a doubt, the person I’d most like to have a private breakfast or lunch with is Mellody Hobson, the president and CEO of Ariel Investments and the chair of Starbucks Corporation. Like me, she grew up poor in Chicago and from a young age, knew what she wanted to do with her life. I’m incredibly impressed by her focus and ability to constantly acquire new knowledge and find the right mentors.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Feel free to reach out and follow me on LinkedIn. I love making new connections and exploring business synergies with like-minded people. .
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.