By Jeannette Terry

For CEOs, 2019 is already off to a challenging start. As stocks continue to underperform and new obstacles in technology and the workforce arise, leaders must adapt more quickly than ever.

All that said, what are the issues most pertinent to the C-suite this year? In this post, we run through the three most critical trends on the minds of the world’s business leaders.

The “Agile Drumbeat” Accelerates

Agile is associated with a work culture that responds quickly to new opportunities that can be leveraged or threats that must be minimized. The agile model has been starting to appear in more traditional, hierarchical organizations.

Why is this trend gaining speed?

The two main benefits of adopting agile are productivity gains and the ability to foster innovative thinking and problem-solving.

Studies show that people working in small, multi-disciplinary teams can complete projects faster and with more innovation than traditional command and control models. The agile approach breaks down “siloed thinking,” shortens cycle time to market, and drives higher employee engagement.

For agile methods to take hold in a traditional organizational structure, company senior leaders must be willing to act as visible champions. Often, at the beginning of an agile implementation you’ll see strong head winds from entrenched company culture or resistance from some management. It’s often easiest to pilot agile when:

  1. A significant business problem must be solved quickly
  2. New thinking and innovative solutions are required
  3. The perspectives of multiple stakeholders are needed to achieve the highest quality solution

In 2019, watch for increasing numbers of forward-thinking leaders to get on-board with the benefits of introducing agile principals and methodologies in their organizations.

Employee Engagement as a Strategic Business Advantage

A 2017 a Gallup Survey reported that disengaged employees cost US business between $483 and $605 billion each year in productivity losses.

As the tight labor market and competition for talent continue to escalate, organizational leaders need to be aware of the critical role that employee engagement plays in both quality of work and in the company’s ability to attract and retain talent. High employee engagement is no longer just “nice to have” – it’s a strategic imperative.

Improving employee engagement begins with understanding current engagement levels. Experience has shown that the best way to obtain honest, actionable feedback is through a survey administered by an outside third-party in which the results are anonymous. In order to ensure the company derives maximum benefit from the survey initiative, key themes – both positive and negative – should be shared with employees so that they see visible evidence that their feedback was heard, valued and will be acted upon by management.

As the “war for talent” continues in 2019, it’s critical to know which work culture factors are currently most closely associated with high levels of employee engagement. These five regularly appear on the list:

  1. Individual & Team Recognition
  2. Respectful Treatment
  3. Open & Transparent Communication from Management
  4. Interesting & Challenging Work
  5. On-going Opportunities for Learning & Development

Trends in Leadership Development

As we move into 2019, many company leaders are focusing on how they can ensure that current and future leaders are adequately skilled to meet upcoming challenges in the business environment. Based on recent results from extensive studies by The Center for Creative Leadership, Deloitte and others, it’s clear that we should be concerned. These studies pinpoint to glaring skill deficiencies in so-called soft skills, which are essential to success as a leader in a highly competitive business environment. This skill gap is consistent across multiple industry sectors including power, chemicals, oil & gas, renewables, and engineering & construction among others. They are:

  • Building & Developing Teams: Specifically, keeping teams aligned and focused on critical priorities, coaching and developing subordinates for more responsibility, addressing conflict proactively, and handling performance issues.
  • Interpersonal Skills Deficiencies: Establishing and maintaining trust-based relationships, improving active listening skills, motivating and engaging individuals and teams, and mediating disagreements and conflicts.

This year, watch for an increased focus on strengthening soft skills in leadership development initiatives as part of a strategy for reducing business risk.

For example, leaders and project managers may be highly proficient technically, but “tone deaf” in terms of coaching and motivating teams and individuals. These types of leaders may contribute to increased turnover and present barriers to winning the competition for the best talent. OfficeVibe recently re-confirmed that up to 75% of people who leave companies are leaving their manager – not their job.

Bottom line: It’s time to acknowledge that it’s often the soft skill competencies that allow technical experience and expertise to be fully leveraged.


Do you anticipate that these trends will affect your business in 2019? Follow TerconPartners on LinkedIn to join in on the conversation!


About the author

Jeannette Terry

Under Terry’s leadership, TerconPartners has grown from a regionally focused firm in America to an international human capital consultancy. Terry has extensive experience supporting major capital projects, where she has collaborated with project executives and teams to achieve performance breakthroughs and to dramatically improve organizational capability. She has coached leaders and developed multi-cultural and multi-discipline teams on five continents and in several off-shore facilities.

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