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Our CEO Featured on the Talking Business Podcast: The Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity Organisations Have in 2022

Ian Schubach, the CEO of Red Leaf, knows a thing or two about adventures. After spending many years as a safari guide in Southern Africa, Ian experienced first-hand the complex and competitive ecosystems of the African bush. Now, in his role at Red Leaf, Ian designs and facilitates Virtual Teaming Adventures for corporate teams. Through a series of linked video scenarios, participants discover what it takes to lead and perform in challenging natural environments.

Ian was recently invited onto the Talking Business with Leon Gettler podcast. In the episode, Ian detailed many of his observations and insights across the rapidly evolving landscape of the 2022 workforce. Here are Ian’s thoughts about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity facing business leaders in 2022.


Reinvigorating the culture of the organisation

‘There’s a debate raging in the post-pandemic workforce – should people be working from home or working remotely?’ says Ian. ‘However, senior management has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvigorate their organisation from a cultural perspective. If we create two different workforces (with one working from home and the other in the office), with two cultures, we’ll have a double-up, creating an “us against them” scenario. In the long term, this isn’t healthy for organisations. We need one culture, regardless of how we settle on the hybrid workplace.’

Ian believes that now is the opportunity to recognise the benefits of a 2.5-year hiatus and to take significant steps towards building a unified culture that’s robust enough to withstand ongoing workforce changes.

His takeaways:

  • Prioritise a unified culture
  • Recognise the benefits of forced changes over the COVID season
  • Build a robust organisation that’s set up for longevity


How to build a unified culture

The steps necessary to building a unified culture? First, senior executives in the organisation need to define what the organisation is, what it stands for, its mission and purpose, guiding principles and its business priorities. As important as this was for organisations before COVID, it’s more important than ever before as teams face a shifting landscape on the other side of these related disruptions.

The second step requires senior executives to communicate that vision to the rest of the organisation, detailing what they, themselves, believe the purpose of the organisation to be. Here, Ian quoted author Patrick Lencioni: ‘One of the greatest traits of a healthy organisation is the tendency of leaders to over-communicate the key messages in that company…. If a leader can’t ensure that their team can do a good impression of them when they’re not around, they’re probably not doing a good enough job communicating.’

Ian’s takeaways:

  • Over-communicate the organisation’s mission, purpose and vision
  • Understand the business’s purpose on an individual level – what do your senior executives understand it to be?
  • Share that vision with the wider employee team


Look for the heroes within the organisation

Ian discusses the importance of heroes within organisations, pointing out: ‘Too many people are looking for heroes outside of their organisation. There are heroes IN the organisation that don’t get the profile they deserve. It could be something as simple as a single parent, despite all odds, being able to shape their life and move forward to embrace change. We should be making more of those people – let them motivate from inside the organisation.’

Here, Ian highlights the importance of leaders celebrating their team. When employees feel valued, seen and understood, they’re increasingly more likely to bring deeper engagement to their work, ownership and accountability into the tasks at hand. By looking for heroes within the organisation, rather than without, every team member will get to join in celebrating that hero’s achievements, while also being motivated in their career trajectory.

Ian’s takeaways:

  • Create authentic heroes
  • Identify and publicise their stories
  • Celebrate the unique abilities and experiences of your team


The importance of momentum

While planning is of great importance to the ongoing success of the organisation, Ian notes that it’s a mistake for leaders to look too far ahead in an increasingly volatile world.

‘Momentum is really important,’ he advises, encouraging leaders to look at the short- and medium-term priorities. ‘What are the must-win battles of the organisation in the next 6-12 months?’ Ian asks. ‘Align behind those and then communicate what that means for every person in the organisation.’

When it comes to introducing that momentum to your team, Ian advises the need to recognise that organisations have been forced to operate in a completely different way in the past 2.5 years. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it in 25 years,’ says Ian. In practice, this means doing away with the agendas deployed pre-COVID: ‘Forget the same old tired PowerPoints, or the same role-focused presentations. They’re not the way to demonstrate that the world has changed. People need to be engaged to jump on board.’

Ian’s takeaways:

  • Look for the short-term and medium-term wins
  • Prioritise the building of momentum
  • Ensure every employee feels connected to that momentum


Building a high-performance team

In Red Leaf’s Reach for the Summit, the strength and commitment of your team will be put to the test as you trek across New Zealand’s Southern Alps, attempting to summit the highest peak in the range, Mt Cook/Aoraki.

This virtual adventure highlights the ever-changing nature of our markets, where teams are forced to adapt and work differently. Find opportunities for your team to develop resilience, increase their adaptivity, and build their teamwork through grit and determination. Here, Ian’s challenge can be met with action: it’s time to build a unified culture that each and every member of your team feels a part of.

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