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Steve Carroll: Leadership in a digital age

We live in a turbulent time fuelled by rapidly advancing technology. Research shows business leaders need to adapt to this tech-driven playing field and use digital as a tool to amplify great leadership to recruit and retain good talent. Digital Live’s Steve Carroll shares his insights.

By 2020, millennials will make up 50 per cent of the workforce.

Whether or not you think technology has changed the face of leadership, three things we can agree on are:

1. The expectations of our employees, driven by millennials, are increasing dramatically.

2. The fundamentals are in place. However, they only keep our employees engaged for a short time.

3. If you fail to embrace the digital age, you will become irrelevant.

Did you know that you are competing with the best experience that your employee has ever had? In the digital age, this is not exclusive to that of your immediate competitors.

As business leaders in the digital age, you are compared with every form of service available to your employee across the nation.

Apple is increasing the expectation of quality that improves constantly. Amazon is increasing the expectation of speed in relation to delivery. Airbnb is increasing the expectation of choice and seamless transactions.

As a result of social media, your role as a leader is now compared with government representatives like Barack Obama, inventors like Mark Zuckerberg and influencers like Ellen DeGeneres.

Take Kylie Jenner, an incredibly successful billionaire leader, who recently announced on Instagram that she has more followers than the entire population of Russia.

Shortly after this statement, Coca-Cola purchased a sponsored advertisement in Jenner’s Instagram feed for US $1.2 million.

A colleague of mine, who feels as though she has a relationship with Jenner through Instagram, reminded me I have access to Jenner, one of the most powerful businesswomen in the world, as well.

She says I had better keep that door open, as that is her expectation of me as a leader.

Further to this, it is widely known that the average Australian’s willingness to wait is virtually non-existent.

A product manager who recently visited the US told me that Uber is now available in 100 countries and the most impatient users are Australians. When we order an Uber, and it is more than five minutes away, we cancel that order and re-book with the expectation that a different Uber will appear at our front door immediately.

Just five years ago, we would have happily waited 30 minutes for a taxi.

What does this mean for our business leaders?

It means that you are expected to respond to accessibility at speed.

Otherwise you will become irrelevant.

The expectation of employees to have complete transparency from their business leader is increasing dramatically.

When there is no, or little, transparency employees become restless and business leaders run the risk of losing their best talent.

A former real estate professional, who now owns a successful marketing agency, recently told me about her years in real estate support roles.

“I think we can all agree that the real estate industry certainly doesn’t lack an ego,” she said.

“The manager of the first real estate business I was employed by directly referred to me as ‘just a number.’

“Having spent two years succeeding tremendously in various roles while being significantly underpaid, I was out of there quick smart after that comment.

“Fast forward to January 2019 with a different real estate business, I sat my director down and asked, ‘What can I do to make your business better? How can I help to set you apart from your competitors?’

“Only to receive a response that was, ‘just form 6s and contracts. That’s all’.”

She left the real estate industry and turned her side hustle into a full-time job.

How do you think this highly-educated and tech-savvy employee reacted?

Can you hear the other millennials cheering? It is clear that if you want to stay relevant in 2020, you must respond to the demand for personalisation.

My son Ollie, who is studying at ANU in Canberra, tells me his expectations of future employers include sleeping pods for midday naps, daily yoga and spin classes, and the opportunity to bring Harry (the family dog) to work.

We see businesses all over the country implementing these ideas, evidently increasing employee productivity.

Sir Robin Miller, former chief of the East Midland Allied Press, and the best leader I have worked for, nailed personalisation even before the digital age.

Between 8am and 9.15am, Robin would have meaningful conversations with nine different employees every day.

“Look after your people,” Robin said. “They will look after your company and your customers.”

One leader in the real estate industry to watch is Adrian Reed, Director of Reed & Co Estate Agents on the Sunshine Coast.

Adrian launched Reed & Co a year ago, and he has taken the market by storm. Reed & Co is not just another real estate agency.

Adrian operates a shared space of collaboration with several local businesses.

The team hosts events and informative public sessions regularly, and Adrian often invites his community in to celebrate their many successes.

He sees high value in developing each agent’s personal brand along with that of the company.

He understands that the digital age is the best time to be a leader, as long as you embrace the future.

“Combining youth and enthusiasm with multi-generational experience, we hold over 80 years of real estate experience combined,” Adrian says.

“This thorough involvement within the industry gives us tremendous insight into the local market, previous trends, current movements and future forecasts.”

If that’s not enough to impress you, Adrian raises money for much needed medical equipment at the local hospital.

So, is your business keeping up with the increasing expectations of millennials?

There has never been a better time to Google yourself as an employer. Realistically, how would you rate your real estate business? Are you the kind of leader that a millennial would want to work for?

How are you using technology to be more accessible and transparent to your employees, and are you delivering a personalised approach?

To recruit and retain good talent, these are the questions you should be asking yourself regularly.

If it is time to refresh your skills and knowledge as a business leader, join me and many other real estate professionals at the Digital Live 2020 program.

We’ve engaged 10 of the top digital masterminds in the country as coaches for the program. The program’s full-day events will take place in Sydney on February 4, Melbourne on February 6 and Brisbane on February 9. For more information and to register visit digital-live.com.au.

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