The Age of Anxiety

What are the top challenges facing businesses today? We are conducting business in a unique environment of rapid change and immense risk. We face complex national and international challenges. It’s a wonder that our economy continues to run as well as it does.

Predictability provides peace of mind. Uncertainty creates anxiety. Ours is an uncertain age. The Information Age is behind us. We are now in The Anxious Age. It feels like our world is falling apart. As I write, my family in London, England is coping with yet another terrorist attack. This one on Westminster – the symbol of democracy. #WeAreNotAfraid means we don’t know what else we can say or do. Deep down inside, we worry about what’s next.

We are the most educated and well-informed people in the history of mankind. Yet, we are facing the worst problems ever. Some are existential in nature. It is an age when we can take nothing for granted. It is an age where our experience is a poor predictor of the future. I am preparing a keynote to address the top challenges business executives face. So far, I am reflecting on three. Some of the top challenges facing business leaders are:

1. Employee Engagement

Your people are dealing with more stress in their lives than previous generations. This mounting stress is leading to unprecedented levels of depression. Use of anti-depressant medication, illicit drugs and alcohol is increasing. Many are turning to extreme forms of entertainment. Everyone is trying to find ways to cope. One of our clients specializes in helping large corporations spot depression in employees. People shut down when they feel overwhelmed. Depression is one of the ways our brains shut down. You need engaged employees to inspire your clients. Without engaged employees, your business will decline. As our world continues to change, your customers face more complex problems. You need engaged employees to bring their best thinking to client problems. Without engaged employees, the spark of creativity will seep out of your business.

Employees struggle to balance their work and personal priorities. Employers must now also take part in this struggle. You must take an interest in this balancing act.

Another one of our clients has an incredible high performance work culture. What is different about their high performance culture is how much they care for each other. They have built a culture which is productive and supportive. Their support extends beyond the work environment. They have developed personal friendships. People feel needed and appreciated. They derive great satisfaction from their work. How are you doing connecting your employees to the core purpose of your business? Employee engagement will continue to be a key challenge in our changing world.

2. Customer Loyalty

Getting attention is hard enough. Once you’ve gotten it, keeping it is now even harder. As your client’s world changes, their priorities change. As their world and priorities change, they face increasing anxiety. Doing business with you may no longer be one of their top priorities. Commoditizing your services may give them a sense of control and security. Finding a cheaper alternative may give them a false sense of accomplishment. This is especially true if your employees have not been as engaged as they once were. You must earn customer loyalty. That means your loyalty to your customers has to come before their loyalty to you. Win-win means you win after, not before, your customer wins. The more successful you can make your customers, the better customers they will be. Take the risk with your right-fit customers. Help them address their current priorities. Remaining relevant will be one of the greatest challenges your business will face.

3. Effective Leadership

In the simple world of the Industrial Age, leadership was about command and control. We broke work down into discreet units and we employed arms and legs to perform the work. As the world has grown in complexity, we realized that we needed people’s heads as well. We put the discreet units back together. We ask our employees to own their work and make appropriate decisions. As the pace of change accelerates, we need employees who care about their work. We are now asking employees to bring their heart, and not their arms, legs and mind to work. We need arms, legs, head and heart – we need entire human beings to show up. We humans are complex creatures aren’t we? Managing complex people in a complex, fast-changing world requires a different leadership style. The command and control style of the Industrial Age no longer works. People check out when they feel exploited or undervalued. Command and control ignores the internal lives of employees. It was about getting the job done. Period. Today, it’s about outcomes and results. You need people who commit to outcomes. People who commit to outcomes need a leader they can respect. You need to be humble, but decisive. You need to be calm, cool and collected as you navigate your company in a sea of anxiety. Your people need to see your heart. You need to be transparent and humble, but not soft or weak.

Your leadership needs to extend out to your clients and suppliers. Personal development must be a key priority for you. As the pace of change and increasing complexity heats up, character flaws will show up. When character flaws show up in leaders, followers can be unforgiving. You must commit to personal growth in the age of anxiety. As those who depend on you see you grow, they will grow.


Our key challenges are:

1. Keeping our employees engaged,

2. Keeping our clients loyal and

3. Providing leadership.

If you’d like to explore a program to address these challenges with your team, reach out to me for a complimentary consultation.

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