Managers who love people — There is really only one trend that I believe will make or break the future of work and it is a lead-indicator of future success; creating, hiring and retaining managers who ‘love’ people. The greatest cause of the great resignation, lost productivity and damaged wellbeing is people’s belief that they are not supported by their manager because their manager is focussed on results and upward management instead of on them.

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 Paul Holbrook.

Paul spent 20-years in tech in the City of London where his biggest frustration was how managers neglected their people.

He noticed more and more how the people around him were burning-out and becoming demotivated. This is where he spotted the gap in traditional leadership development.

He created Diary Detox, to help managers decide if management is really for them and allow them the time to lead their people; only then will we have a world of better-led people.

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.

I left a 20-year career running large technology divisions in the City of London having become frustrated at the lack of leadership displayed by most managers despite the huge sums spent on Leadership Development every year.

I worked for an organization whose people said they felt only 44% well-led. Having spent millions on a leadership development programme, each manager was put through a 3-day course. One-year later they re-ran the survey and it said their people felt 34% well-led.

I attended the course. The content was great but there was a fundamental problem.

When I asked a senior executive what they thought of the course they said, “It’s okay but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. The question is how am I supposed to find the time to do all of this new stuff when I have so much else on my plate?”

This was a bombshell moment for me.

What that executive had said was that everything on the course was not new. They knew it already. But they believed that their current approach (that made their people feel 44% well-led) was more important than using a new approach.

I realized that there was a foundational problem with leadership; most managers already thought they were leaders despite their people not feeling led.

I decided to leave and create a world of better-led people. That starts with eradicating accidental management.

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?

SAME: I think hybrid working is here to stay.

DIFFERENT: How we relate to it. At the moment, there is still some confusion about what it is and what it isn’t and about what will work and won’t work. That will start to dissipate as we navigate the ‘new normal’ and it becomes second nature.

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

Focus your efforts on creating managers who love people.

While we’ve known for a while that leadership development is a key area to invest in, despite the $370 billion a year spent globally, the leadership conundrum remains.

There’s a gap in leadership development that has, until now, remained unfilled.

We need to build firm foundations for future managers and eradicate accidental management. This is where culture comes from; not from values or mission statements.

Culture is what we tolerate. It’s what our managers do when no-one is looking.

If we invest in creating managers who love people, those managers will finally do everything to bring out the best in our most precious resource naturally.

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?

The freedom to choose how, when and where they should work.

Most think that flexible working is about working from home or not, working normal hours or non-normal hours etc.

In fact the greatest measure of flexible working is how much choice the employee has.

In most cases, it’s accidental managers who ruin that choice. While they believe they’re there to micro-manage their people to deliver results, they feel out of control as

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

It’s given everyone a sense of what’s possible and I don’t think there’s a way to put it back in the box.

Now we have to navigate the swing from one extreme to another. E.g. all at home to all in the office etc.

I’m glad you called it ”Working from Home”. Many called it ‘Flexible Working’, but working in a confined space, not allowed to go out, with all of the family in close proximity with no down time didn’t feel very ‘flexible’.

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?

People realize that without a healthy head, life is meaningless.

We got fooled into believing that work is everything and look where it’s got us. Burnout, poor family wellbeing and poor mental wellbeing.

I think society has to also shift away from time spent as a measure of contribution, to value delivered. We spent too much time running around like busy fools to no avail.

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

The fact that the employees now have the power. They are standing up for what they believe and are telling organizations that they’ve had enough. You only have to look at the prevalence of the Great Resignation and the effect it’s having to see democracy in action.

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?

First, encouraging employees to know the true cost of what’s in their diary.

Don’t just use your calendar to store meetings with other people. Include everything else that those meetings bring with them; prep time, follow-up time, travel etc.

Once you see the true cost of what’s already in your diary, you become more ruthless with your time and procrastinate less; because you realize how little time you actually have.

Second, encouraging employees to work less.

Hack Parkinson’s Law by turning it on its head with a new law…Holbrook’s Law.

‘Reduce the amount of time available for work to expedite its completion’.

Created a skeleton of tasks that are focussed on ensuring you look after your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing and put that in your calendar before anything else. I call it your FOUNDATION WEEK.

This includes breakfast, morning and afternoon breaks, exercise, lunch and a walk — perhaps a dog walk — at the end of the day to signal when it’s time to stop.

This obviously reduces the amount of time you have for work and could lead you to believe that you’ll get less done.

But you get more done, in less time.

The gaps you have for work are smaller and hence you remain more focussed; Holbrook’s Law.

And by putting your exercise and lunch in the middle of the day, you feel more energetic for work in the afternoon.

Having your foundation week planned in your calendar means people can’t book over your personal time. You can always move it if you want, but you’re encouraged to not RE-move it. Because, if you do, you are removing your recharge time.

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?

Although we keep hearing that money is the solution to the Great Resignation, it’s not.

If you consider that:

75% of employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job 65% of employees would choose to take a new boss over a pay-rise 58% of employees trust a stranger more than their manager and 50% of employees leave their job because of their manager. The answer is hiding in plain sight.

We need to hire, create and promote managers who love people.

While we might like to think that each company has a single culture, actually each company has many cultures. That culture comes from its manager and we have too many accidental managers who get stuck in the weeds and have no time for their people. This leaves them feeling disillusioned and disheartened.

By putting in place managers who love people, positive cultures form. No one walks away from that, because they’re so rare.

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

Managers who love people — There is really only one trend that I believe will make or break the future of work and it is a lead-indicator of future success; creating, hiring and retaining managers who ‘love’ people. The greatest cause of the great resignation, lost productivity and damaged wellbeing is people’s belief that they are not supported by their manager because their manager is focussed on results and upward management instead of on them. Often this is caused by accidental management; promotion due to expertise instead of a talent for dealing with people.When accidental managers come under pressure (an inevitability for new managers) they revert to what they know best, being an expert. This can lead to them neglecting their people and taking on tasks themselves because it’s ‘easier’ or ‘quicker’. It isn’t. Results are delivered by people so managers should be focussed on delivering people through nurture and coaching. Managers who ‘love’ people do this naturally, without thinking.

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?

“You have two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion.”

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.

Warren Buffett. I once saw an interview with him and Bill Gates where Bill asked Warren for his personal diary to show how much space was there for unexpected stuff. Warren explained that the space was for thinking about strategy and people, something that many leaders never have time for. This is 100% my view on life. When I created Diary Detox®, I included the use of color to help managers see the value of how they spend their time. I’d love to talk with Warren about which color he would use for the space in his calendar; I imagine he would use ‘green’ as that’s the color used for ‘leading’.

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 connect with me on LinkedIn (Paul Holbrook FLPI). I’m always happy to start a conversation.

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

You too!