A brand new decade is here, and with it a massive amount of change as well as a lot of potential. So here’s a question: why should trends matter to leaders?
For starters, we live in an age of massive disruption.
A decade ago we were still traveling to video stores to rent DVDs, purchasing music to download via iTunes, and taxis still had a monopoly in every city.
Leaders who miss emerging trends miss a lot.
Blockbuster went under. So did Kodak, Toys R Us and for all intents and purposes, so did Sears.
Taxi cab companies have unsuccessfully tried to sue their way back to profitability. And while buying MP3s on iTunes killed CDs, streaming killed purchased MP3s.
Leaders who fail to navigate the disruptive trends happening in our culture won’t be left with much to lead.
For several years now, I’ve kicked off the new year with a post on disruptive trends leaders need to watch.
This year, in light of an expanding audience, I’m doing two posts. This is a post on leadership trends—disruptive factors all leaders should keep an eye on. It’s new for 2020.
I also have this post outlining 6 disruptive church trends for 2020. While the trends are aimed at church leaders, the principles also apply more broadly as well.
So, in the hopes of helping every leader lead more effectively, here are 5 disruptive trends every leader needs to watch in 2020.
After all, if you see the future, you can seize the future. If you don’t, you won’t.Leaders who miss emerging trends miss a lot. Just ask Blockbuster, Sears or the taxi industry. Click To Tweet
1. The Middle is Disappearing
If you’re looking for what’s missing from our culture, it’s the middle.
The high end and low end are thriving. The middle is M.I.A. with a trail of bodies behind it.
While that’s true politically and perhaps economically, it’s also true in the marketplace.
For several generations, the department store was the middle—it had something for everyone at a moderate price. But now the department stores and the malls that house them have failed badly.
What’s left is the bottom and the high end.
Walmart and many dollar stores are doing just fine, emphasizing relentlessly low prices.
Paradoxically, the high end of the market appears to also be doing ridiculously well, with $700 handbags, designer yoga pants, high-end wrist-watches and expensive SUVs and EVs rolling off shelves and showrooms.
Cheap eats and high-end dining are both thriving, as are discount and exotic travel. So are personalized goods. Just scroll through Etsy or Instagram to see what creatives will design or build uniquely for you, from t-shirts to art to furniture.If you're looking for what's missing from our culture, it's the middle. The high end and low end are thriving. The middle is M.I.A. with a trail of bodies behind it. Click To Tweet
So what does this mean?
Well, for starters, it means that being in the middle is harder than ever. While you’ve known this for years, it’s even more true now that leaders who try to be everything to everybody will end up being nothing to nobody.
It likely means you’ll have to decide whether you’re going to compete on being the cheapest, easiest, least costly alternative, or whether you want to offer something of superior quality and enduring value.
When it comes to serving people, it also means you need to decide whether you are going to offer race to the bottom take-a-number/not-my-department/press-6-if-you-want-to-hear-this-menu again customer service, or whether you’ll make your experience more personal, generous, empathetic and human.
Finally, although this will be extremely hard to pull off, it also means the middle is wide open for the taking if you can figure out how to do it.
Anyway, if you’re counting on the middle, as most leaders naturally do, think long and hard. It’s not impossible, it’s just that almost no one has figured out how to crack it in this culture.
Personally, I’d look at making what you do more personal, generous, empathetic and human. There’s so much upside there, and a world that is hungering for it. After almost being obliterated a decade ago, some independent book stores are making a comeback by being more human and creating great environments for guests.
Remember, even if you win the race to the bottom, all you get is the bottom.Remember, even if you win the race to the bottom, all you get is the bottom. Click To Tweet
2. DIY is giving way to DIFM (The Age of Pre-sliced Apples)
You and I live in the age of pre-sliced apples.
People are willing to pay double, triple or 10X the price of a normal apple simple to have someone else slice it for them.
Think about that for a minute.
All you need, after all, to cut your own apple is a knife and about 30 seconds.
If someone told your grandmother this would be true one day, she may have died on the spot out of shock.
It’s not just apples. The next time you go to the supermarket (if you still go to the supermarket), look at how much prep is now done for you. You can buy pre-sliced cheeses, pre-cut meat, pre-cut and washed vegetables, all so you don’t have to.
Subscription clothing services that send you clothes to wear for a month or a season, shave clubs that mail you your razor and gear so you don’t have to shop, and food subscriptions that send you pre-cut everything so you can toss dinner in a pan and eat minutes later are growing exponentially. You can also now buy ready-to-go gift bags with tissue paper pre-fluffed. Just add your gift.
DIY (Do It Yourself) is slowly giving way to DIFM—Do It For Me (yes, I made that term up).
So what’s going on here?
Why would a growing number of people pay ridiculously more to have someone slice their apples for them?
At least two things are under this trend:
time famine; and
In a culture where most people feel overwhelmed, overcommitted and overworked, people are willing to pay money for anything that shaves off minutes or does the thinking for you.
DIFM is the cry of a culture that no longer has the time or energy to DIY anymore.
So…think about the opportunity here.
Maybe the reason people aren’t accessing your product isn’t your product…maybe it’s the delivery. Maybe it’s just too complicated to access.
What can you do to make things simpler, to do what you do for people rather than asking them to do it themselves?
What would it mean for you to slice the apple for the people you serve?
In March 2020, I’m going to slice the apple for leaders in a way I’ve never done it before.
It’s something new I’m calling Leader’s Circle. It’s about gaining a new level of mastery on critical issues without investing massive amounts of time. And it’s about hand curating the right things, not more things for you.
And, it’s about trend #3 below: access. Something that’s all too rare and at least for me, of increasing importance.
Curious?In a culture where most people feel overwhelmed, overcommitted and overworked, people are willing to pay money for anything that shaves off minutes or does the thinking for you. Click To Tweet
3. Insight and Access Have Become More Valuable Than Content
Content used to be scarce. And as a result, it used to be valuable.
To gain information, you had to purchase a book, buy a CD, attend a conference, jump on a plane for the meeting, or buy the magazine.
The last decade slaughtered that value system.
What happens to the value system when free content is everywhere? From podcasts, to TED Talks, to blogs like this, to YouTube to, well, anything, people now hate paying for content.
When information is free, it’s no longer valuable because scarcity drives value. And now there’s so much of it no one knows how to process it.
Which actually creates a new value system.
What’s missing from the current sea of information in which we’re all swimming are two things:
Insight (or meaning)
Information is not the same as insight. Insight brings meaning out of content, and that’s rare. Hence, it’s valuable.
Ditto with access. More and more these days, I read free content (or even a book) and find myself thinking What I really want is to sit down with the author and get answers to my specific questions.
Because content is everywhere but insight and access are not, there’s a value inversion that’s happening right now in live events.
Value is increasingly related to the size of the audience. And it’s inverse. The smaller the audience, the greater the value.Value is increasingly related to the size of the audience. And it's inverse. The smaller the audience, the greater the value. Click To Tweet
Think of a leader you respect and admire. How much is it worth to you to be in a room with that leader with varying amounts of other people:
- 1 (you)
You might pay dozens or low hundreds of dollars to be in the room with 10,000 others. Maybe you’d pay the same to sit for a day with 1000 others.
What about with 30 other people? And what if that leader fielded your questions during a Q and A? My guess is you’d pay more for that.
How about a day with your favourite author/speaker/leader and 5 other people in an interactive day? Even more, right?
And what would it be worth to you to get 1 on 1 access for a day?
See the value inversion?
In an age where content and information is available for free to anyone, the smaller the group and the more custom the insight, the more valuable it becomes.
This has financial implications of course, but don’t just think of it in terms of money.
Your time and insight and the access to you as a leader has value. You can give it away if you want (and often you will), but to see the value is to be able to leverage the value.In an age where content is available for free to anyone, the smaller the group and the sharper the insight, the more valuable it becomes. Click To Tweet
What this means for leaders is that who you give your time to and how you share insight drives value.
That’s true of your most valuable staff, customers, guests, attendees, volunteers, team members and audience.
So…one big change you can make in 2020 is to stop treating everyone the same.
Your best leaders/team members/customers should get the most access to you, and they should also get your best insights.
When you value people by being generous with your time and insight, they’ll value you more as well.
Just because you can’t do it for everybody doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it for anybody.When you value people by being generous with your time and insight, they'll value you more as well. Just because you can't do it for everybody doesn't mean you shouldn't do it for anybody. Click To Tweet
4. Focus is a New Super Power
As technology continues to develop and expand into every area of our life, it’s harder and harder to avoid distraction.
One study shows the average person touches their smartphone 2617 times a day. And that’s the average user. Heavy users touched their phones 5427 times a day. That’s not an encouraging trend.
And that’s just your phone. It doesn’t include myriad other interruptions from knocks on your office door, to impromptu meetings, to the million other things that distract you.
Here’s what’s true: a distracted leader is an ineffective leader.The average person touches their smartphone 2617 times a day. And that’s the average user. Heavy users touched their phones 5427 times a day. A distracted leader is an ineffective leader. Click To Tweet
What this means is because so many people can’t stay focused, the ability to focus is now a superpower.
As Nir Eyal points out in his best-selling book, Indistractable, in an economy increasingly dominated by automation and AI, the most sought-after jobs now are those that require creative problem-solving, novel solutions, and the kind of human ingenuity that comes from focusing deeply on the task at hand. (Nir, also the author of the incredibly influential book Hooked—which changed Silicon Valley—will be a guest on my leadership podcast in 2020. You can subscribe to my podcast for free here.)
If you really want to grow your leadership and skills set in the future, focus on your ability to focus.
While this is a much bigger issue that I can tackle in this post, here are a few things to get you started:
Set your phone and devices to Do Not Disturb….forever. I’ve done this for years. I promise you it’s powerfully freeing.
Turn off all notifications on all apps on all devices.
Protect at least 3 hours each day to do your most important work, and let nothing distract you.
Give up on multi-tasking and focus on one thing deeply at a time. Multi-tasking is no-tasking.
Go to bed earlier and make the morning undistracted, productive time.
The result of constant distraction is stress, scattered thinking and shallow decision making—all of which are exactly the opposite of what you require to lead well.
If you want more, I’ve helped thousands of leaders focus more through The High Impact Leader course, which is available on demand.
A focused leader is a far more effective leader.If you really want to grow your leadership and skills set in the future, focus on your ability to focus. A focused leader is a far more effective leader. Click To Tweet
5. Freedom and Autonomy are The Next Generation’s Currency
We’re about to watch the office as we’ve known it die over the next decade.
Don’t believe me? Ask most leaders under 40 what they think about having to come into the office at set hours when they would much rather flex their hours and do at least some work remotely.
8-4 makes total sense if all the tools you needed to do work stayed at the office. It also makes sense if you have a car assembly plant (or a coffee shop, or a retail store). Then you need workers to show up exactly on time for a shift.
But for information workers, the internet happened. And as a result, a very good chance you’re holding almost everything you need to do your job in your hand.
As a result, if you want to attract and keep great young talent, 8-4 doesn’t work anymore. Common, set hours are not nearly as necessary as they used to be.
Yet far too many leaders are stuck in the mindset that people have to be in the building from 8-4 no matter what.
You know what many workers would love more than anything?
Freedom and autonomy.
Freedom from 8-4.
Liberation from rules that no longer make sense.
The autonomy to set their own work hours and locations (coffee shop, home, the back porch, a beach).
The desire to be evaluated not on the process (did you stay till 5?) but on the outcome (did you crush that project?).
It’s 2020. You can give that kind of freedom in a way leaders maybe couldn’t a decade or two ago.
There’s a delightful surprise in store as well: When you give great leaders freedom, most will give you back far more than you expected in return.
Control them, and not only do you stifle them, they eventually just leave or start their own thing. By 2027, the gig economy will be 50% of the US economy.
If you’re hoping to attract younger high capacity leaders by inviting them to an 8-4 office culture, you’ll attract them to the interview and then simply watch the best and brightest (the ones with the most options) walk away one after the other.
I have a lot more on how to give freedom and autonomy to team members and set up a stronger, healthier future workplace in my High Impact Workplace course (which opens again for enrollment again in late January 2020)
In the meantime, here’s a download outlining 5 questions you can ask in your one on one meetings that will spike employee engagement and raise productivity.If you want to attract and keep great young talent, 8-4 doesn't work anymore. Common, set hours are not nearly as necessary as they used to be. Click To Tweet
The Fastest Path To A More Effective You in 2020 Is…
If you’re honest with yourself, how did your time management turn out in 2019? Looking back, would you say, “Man, I was so on top of stuff, I’ve got no issues heading into 2020?”
Or are you thinking, “I need to do better with time?”
Here’s one of the challenges with time management.
Nobody’s making any more time. Everybody gets 24 equal hours in a day.
The most productive person you know gets the same amount of time you do. So why are they more effective than you?
That’s why I developed The High Impact Leader course.
The High Impact Leader course teaches you the system that I’ve used to manage my time now for almost 15 years.
I couldn’t believe the difference this approach has made for me. Before I created the system, I was leading a fraction of what I’m leading today. I also worked more hours and I was busy exhausted. My old approach led me to into burn out.
On the way out of burnout, I realized I had to live differently.
So I started reprioritizing my time, managing my energy, figuring out how to stop getting my priorities hijacked by other people, and in the process (by accident), I became far more productive, so now I can write books, I lead a new company. I speak all over the world, host a podcast, and still actually have time for my family and for myself. I even get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
How do you do that? I’d love to show you how to do that, in the online, on-demand High Impact Leader Course.
I’ve helped over 3000 leaders free up hundreds of hours each year and often 3 hours a day to do what they feel they never have time for and get healthier in the process.
The course is designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favor.
Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day. That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.
Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?
Click here to learn more or get instant access.
What Do You See?
These are five leadership trends I see for 2020.
Obviously, there are so many more. But these are 5 that I think can really move the needle for you, regardless of what you’re leading.
I’d love to hear what you’re seeing and any comments you might have on this post.
Scroll down and leave a comment!