Back when I was working in Europe, I had my tradition to be in the office over Christmas. Undistracted and focussed working time - that is what I was seeking. And I experienced in these weeks that I was able to complete a lot more work in the 5-6 hours at my desk. And here I am reading the scientific evidence of that:
“Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate hard on something,” says Alex Pang, founder of Silicon Valley consultancy Strategy and Rest.
Some companies have tried to reduce their working time down to 5 or 6 hours a day and saw productivity improvements. And the employees enjoyed the additional free time. A perfect balance. And yes, when we focus on work and remove distractions, we able to find a flow that allows us to get more done in less time. My experience is confirming this; when I am blocking 2 hours for a specific task, I am able to create a lot more results than if I am forced to split that into several 30 minutes slots.
Though, it is not all sunshine with the 5-hour workday idea. The increase in productivity will not lead to additional output overall. The new productivity level will not translate into an 8-hour workday. Some managers might wish so. Companies also observed that the stress levels increased. Employees felt pressured to squeeze everything they have done in eight hours before in their new five hour period. This is not always easy and creates tension.
And, in the long run companies observed that connections between the employees and relationships started to deteriorate. There is no time for a joint coffee or lunch break. That's how I felt in my empty office during the Christmas break: great to get things done; though, now I need to discuss my ideas with my peers and get inspired by them.
This leads to another element that is essential for lasting success in a complex ecosystem: randomness. We need time to ponder and tinker; these watercooler conversations often spark new ideas. Idle time is one key ingredient to creativity. That is how we are solving problems.
One final question: do we need to tell people how long and when they are working? I prefer to give people freedom and autonomy to choose their time for work. Instead, let's focus on the achievements which we aspire in our group:
It is great to know that our productive time is limited to five hours a day. Let's use this fact to reduce the pressure from people. Let them choose their preferred ideal working time. And let's start to focus on what really matters.
How will you use these ideas in your team?
Source: The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five, WIRED, June 2021
Yesterday we had a day off; and as so often I was heading into the forest. And every time I am amazed on the impact the dense green has on my mind and body. After an hour surrounded by trees, birds and monkeys, my body and my mind feels refreshed and energised.
This week, I came across this article - The fight for quiet in a world full of noise pollution - introducing a group of people on a quest to raise the awareness of noise pollution and certifying quiet parks. When is the last time you have been in a place that is void of human noise? The group is mentioning a series of positive impacts when enjoying time in quiet places: mental power, overall health, creativity, stress relief - to name a few.
It is weekend - let's go out and listen to the sound of nature!
Photo credit: Shawn Parkin, Wired UK
Here is a conviction of mine, I have been sharing before. In an environment that is complex and continuously changing (who is denying now that we are in this kind of world?), we need to understand how we can create value and we need to act fast.
Who knows best how we can create value? The people at the front. The sales people that talk to the customers, the people that are running through the process steps, the people that are delivering the packages to the doorstep.
How can we act faster? If we allow the people at the front make the decision that will make their work smoother, easier and then creating more value.
As a logic consequence, we leader should let go of control and handover decision making power to the people that are best equipped to control their (part of the) boat. And still, I can observe many leaders struggling with this. Struggling to let go.
One aspect: what else is my purpose of my role? This is answered very easily: provide direction, remove bottlenecks, allocate resources, and create a work environment that is motivating. This is already a lot of work when done properly. So, let's free up some time and give the controls to others.
How to let go? Are there any easy steps? Last week I was introduced to some of the backgrounds of Theory U - a concept that gives new insights how we can tap into collective capacities. When looking at the left side of the U, there are some clear steps that lead to letting go. Here they are in my own words:
Minimise judgement - judging actions as good or bad prevents us from seeing behind the actions and blocks the understanding of the Why people have done a certain activity. When we open our minds, we start to be curious and can see with fresh eyes.
Bring ourselves on the same level - if we think we are better than others, this will block the learning process (the same if you think you are worse than others). Stop critique and cynicism and come down from our high horses. Then we will be able to open our hearts and sense the environment around us.
Let us guide from others - as long as we still want to steer the ship by ourselves, we will not discover the potential in our peers. Let go of our fears and open our will, and totally new possibilities will be unleashed.
What holds you back from letting go? How did you feel when you actually achieved it?
You start your day and in your calendar you only see this large brick wall of back-to-back meetings. The expression, "Sorry guys, have to drop for the next meeting" is only getting too familiar. On a Monday evening you feel that you have already exhausted your week's energy. Work life feels like rushing from pole to pole, and the target is not to drown - at least not too deep.
What is the result of that? We feel we are running on a treadmill and not getting anywhere. We lose sight of the big picture, of the purpose that we intended to achieve. We are less capable of being empathic and compassionate. And there seems to be no time to grow the people around us and ourselves.
Growth means innovation, and innovation can only happen with creativity. For this we need a mind that is receptive for new impulses. And for this we need space - physical and mental space. We need to slow down.
The speed comes then with new focus on doing the right things, minimising wasted efforts, and combining different ideas to new solutions. We suddenly can identify barriers that we never identified as such. And we can create a more positive, meaningful, and enjoyable environment.
This Wall Street Journal article - How Being More Productive Starts With Doing Nothing - gives some ideas how to take a break and create mental space.
What are your ways to slowing down? How do you experience the speeding up?
About two years ago, I stumbled across #slowdowntospeedup and this tag line represented a few things that I stand for. Today, this slogan is more relevant than ever. I observe people around me burning out, many peers feel huge pressure to deliver, and many organisations stopped their strategic planning cycles. Just yesterday, a person shared with me that they wished to find 3 hours in their calendar to focus on some work. Does that sound familiar?
This WIRED article - How Slack ruined work - illustrates how the always-on culture is destroying the flow in our work. The various messaging tools we are using, combined with the a high expectation to immediately respond, has created a constant source of distraction. This leads to stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed. It is time to stop - to slow down.
Why do I think slowing down will speed us up? Here three thoughts:
Ok, great - I want to slow down. How can I start? First of all, this is a journey and will take a while. A journey during which we will learn a lot. Keeping this in mind, I suggest create a weekly block in your calendar of 2-3 hours. This big rock is for yourself - for activities outside of your daily work. Enjoy this time off.
What else can you do to slow down and balance your life?
What are your new resolutions for 2021? The start of the new year is usually the opportunity to rethink our priorities, to trigger new behaviour, and to create a new, positive momentum for personal growth.
In the last few days, while asking people about their 2021 priorities, I heard a few times the same thing: "I need to see what my boss tells me". And to be honest, I was a bit shocked. Who is owning your priorities?
Here is what I think: work is part of our life; a considerable part of our life and our well-being and our achievements in our job is defining the success we feel in our entire life. Therefore, I think it is important to first understand what we want to achieve in our life overall. In 10, 20 years, what is the life we want to look back at? What are the fundamental values that define me as a person.
Based on this we can then see how our current work fit into our life ambition. How does our career contribute to the betterment of ourselves? In this sense, now at the start of the year, I suggest to start to think in two steps:
Start 2021 with a new resolution: take ownership and be proactive!
In the last few weeks we all observed a sentiment of fatigue. Many of us feel exhausted of what the year 2020 brought to us and are craving for the festive break. Why did this happen?
From my perspective, I can see two things that have contributed to this feeling of wanting to pause. One is external; the continuous uncertainty of what is coming next. The widespread consequence of the reaction to the pandemic has created big shifts on the economy, how we work and how we interact with our family and friends. The second element is more internal; due to the environment, many of us reacted with activism directed at keeping the lights on, stemming the impressions and impact from the ecosystem, and simply putting the head down and keep running. In this situation many of us stopped pausing and reflecting on the bigger picture. Budgeting and forecasting were not done properly because the felt meaningless. Any long term plan was avoided because we were in survival mode.
Today, when I look back at the last 12 months, I can see many accomplishments and great opportunities for the future. We have learned about many new possibilities which we can leverage. For example, focusing on the essence when forecasting, improving the way we discover the needs of our customers, crating flexibility how we are working, strengthening the work environment with a focus on the value of our people, and connecting to friends in a more meaningful way.
Last month, McKinsey published an article - Overcoming pandemic fatigue: How to reenergize organizations for the long run - that outlines five key points how we can go "beyond grit and perseverance". Which was for me a reminder of the relevance of the Wheel of Antifragility we at Hive17 Consulting have developed.
We believe that these four pillars establish an environment and a culture that enables short-term benefits that evolve into lasting success.
How are you looking forward into the New Year?
Last month I asked the question if we are busy or productive. Today, I want to share how this works in practice based on 'Thriving under Pressure' workshops we conducted. At the start, it is important to note that we are not trying to reduce the pressure - here is why.
The first question we asked ourselves, where does pressure come from? The answers clearly indicated that the pressure is created mostly by externalities: competing priorities, work-life balance, various stakeholders, etc. This means, we can't simply take away that pressure. Though, there are means to reduce the stress that this is causing.
One interesting source of pressure shows a different light on the challenge: 'high expectation from myself'. And yes, that is the one part of the pressure we can influence. But how?
In the previous post we talked about: know your priorities, big rocks first, experiment and reflect & energise. How did we apply these in the context of our daily work? Here some thoughts and suggestions:
How are they linked to antifragility? Hive17 Consulting works with four pillars that are spinning the wheel of antifragility: purpose, customer value and experimentation are defining how we are setting our priorities and executing based on them. The fourth pillar is the foundation: the relationship bonds are crucial to maintain positivity and a healthy way to collaborate in environment of crisis.
How do you apply these elements to stay productive?
This year has brought many changes and we all had to innovate with great speed. One of these areas is the way we are working. After month in this frency, I hear more and more people mentioning that they are simply too busy; too many meetings, changing priorities, new organisational structures, people leaving companies... This is stressful and I see people around me burning out. What are we doing wrong?
Inspired by this Entrepreneur article - 4 Ways to be More Productive, not just Busy - I put together a set of simple principles on how to create more value and not simply working more hours. And if you only want one line it goes like this:
1) Know Your Priorities - with external input and based on a good conversation in the team create your own priority list and keep evolving it. Reduce distractions and stop following other people's priorities.
2) Big Rocks First - based on your(!) priorities first plan your second quadrant activities - these are the important and non-urgent items - in your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly calendar. Only then add the urgent stuff.
3) Experiment - avoid perfectionism when you deliver and frequently interact with the people you are are creating value for. Switch to try-to-learn experimentation. This means try things out, build prototypes to test your assumptions and then validate them - it is a learning journey.
4) Reflect & Energise - take regular breaks by simply looking out of the window and pause - wind down for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. This will make your creativity flow and new ideas will pop up.
How are you switching from sprinting to creating lasting success? I am sure that Iolanda Meehan, Veldhoen Company, can provide more excellent advise on this.
May 2020! I clearly remember how we were looking at the later part of the year: a 'new normal' might have st in, the worst of the pandemic might be over and maybe we can travel. We were pretty wrong at the time. What seemed strange in May 2020 has often become part of our everyday life today.
At that time, we started our first survey and now, it is time for a follow-up. We want to send you the second round of our previous survey - the same questions - and we are curious to see what has changed. Please answer as spontaneously as possible. It should take you less than three minutes to complete.
What happens with your answers? They are valuable to understand the urgent - and not so urgent - needs of leaders. We intend to use this data to continuously track the leadership sentiment in organizations like yours - and help you to strengthen your leadership muscle.
About Hive 17 and morethentic:
Hive 17 and morethentic are dedicated to enable individuals, teams and organizations to drive change and growth while respecting everyone’s contribution to success. With offices in Europe and in Asia we help clients to connect cultures and to be successful in new environments.
This survey is created in collaboration with Actavia, your Singapore-based sparring partner to successfully run your business in the region.
Already 15 years back, we heard that the number 1 reason for being stressed are distractions. That's when we sticked red post-it notes on the screen to indicate: "Don't distract me". We are also often heard that when we are distracted from a piece of work, it might take 23 minutes to be back in our 'flow'. Why is this important to keep our distractions at bay? They create stress, kill our productivity, limit our creativity, influence the way we concentrate on conversations, losing focus on what is important... The list might go on and on.
In a recent interview, Andy Puddicombe mentions we are spending 50% of our time distracted. This is a lot of time! And instead of trying to blame externalities for these distractions, he suggests to look inward. Recognising and labelling these distractions is a great start to reduce them. And as we are training our muscles and our stamina with sports, we can train our mind with regular exercises. After almost 100 hours of meditation, I see results. This routine is part of keeping my body, mind, heart and soul fit and strong.
As a result of being mindful, you will look at distractions in a different way; allowing yourself on focusing on small steps. Not getting lost in too many parallel activities and thoughts about things that are not relevant today. This might happen in the context of a conversation with a peer or in the context of a large scale project. Creating a space to reflect and focus on what is creating value.
Source: Headspace Co-Founder Andy Puddicombe Says We Spend Half Our Lives Distracted. Here's His Simple Solution.
This June was the first time I came across this word - Antifragility. Grant Rawlinson mentioned it as a strategy he applied during his adventures. Recently, more people started to mention it and I got curious. The story is simple. When we are fragile, we break under pressure. We start to be resilient; that means we don't break under pressure - we are surviving. The idea of antifragility is that we are growing and becoming stronger under pressure. Nassim Taleb defines it as:
"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty."
How can we become thriving under pressure? Buster Benson summarised ten principles based on Taleb's book. Here are my thoughts around it:
In order to create lasting success, we might want to build a collaborative foundation and have a clear direction where we want to go. Then, we can combine this with curiosity to experiment and with a common understanding who are we creating value for. This might be a formula that avoids the trap of short-term thinking and shortcuts that ruptures our strength over time.
Source: 10 Principles to Live an Antifragile Life
While coaching teams to become more agile, I am observing teams that are rushing after their action log. Things don't go according to plan and friction starts. That is normal. And, what is the impact on the morale and the quality of the collaboration? This churn can't go on forever, that is for sure.
This is why teams regularly meet, sit back and reflect on their daily work. Some call it after action review, some call it retrospective. Different teams use different structures to conduct this meeting. The tools are not the most important. As an observer, you can identify how well the is collaborating; how the dynamics work; uncover friction. These are the important parts during the reflection sessions; looking at the bigger picture.
Typically, the team members share things that went well and then the group has lengthy discussions about what went wrong and what we should do differently. In this article, I don't want to write a guide on these reflection sessions. Though, I want to highlight one single thing.
The end goal of your reflection session is that the team feels confident and energised to go back to their daily work.
Often that is forgotten or neglected.
What is your routine to boost energy?
Uncertainty has been discussed for some time and in 2020, we experienced it in a new dimension. I used to ask leaders to show me their 18-months plan from 18 months ago. Now, I think it is clear that past plans don't hold a lot of guidance anymore. How can we still lead our teams and create confidence and success?
Anita Sands shared in this article the seven habits for highly effective leaders in times of uncertainty. A great real life experience sharing what works for some of the best leaders. These seven points allowed me to reflect on four pillars of my Wheel for Agility - I haven't been so far off.
1. Balance Realism And Optimism - People in general prefer bad news over uncertainty. Not knowing what comes is very stressful. At the same time, even the worst situation holds opportunities. As a leader it is important to strike a balance between the two. Get the people out of a downward spiral.
2. Communicate Often And Authentically - Proactive communication goes hand in hand with the first habit. Vulnerability shows that we are human and that creates better connections. If we don't have an answer for the future, we still have the values we are proud of. Let's continue to live by them.
3. Focus On Purpose And Culture - Many successful leaders have evoked passion in their employees and their customer base. Why am I giving a lot of my life's energy for this company? A leaders provides a meaningful answer to this question. I like to call this creating a collective dream.
4. Nourish Yourself - As a leader we are giving a lot of energy to the people around us. Do you have enough energy yourselves that you can give away? This means we need to continuously fuel our body, mind, heart and soul. Be generous to yourself!
5. Evaluate Competitive Positioning - Many organisations fell in a fight/flight/faint/freeze mode due to the huge negativity created in the past months. As a leader it is important to create a positive environment that allows creativity and the discovery of new solutions that bounce us forward. This also requires a deep understanding of the needs & challenges of our customers.
6. Get And Stay Curious - New solutions only come from experimentation - let's try things out and evolve from what we learn. As a leader we need to be curious ourselves, and we need to empower our teams to be curious and experiment. Further, curiosity is correlated to resilience; it enables a range of cognitive, emotional and social capabilities that allow us to cope with duress. Let's walk around with a beginner's mind.
7. Pause And Celebrate Successes - Simply rushing forward might make us blind to understand if we are on the right path. Regularly pausing and reflecting on what we have achieved and learnt; this gives us the space to focus on the right opportunities. Celebrating even the smallest success, will bring some of the positivity back. This gives us a glimpse of the blue sky above the clouds.
How do you inspire your teams?
Challenging times are dragging us down. We see that among our friends at work, and we observe that about ourselves. We feel frustrated, overwhelmed, angry and this feeling lingers and gets stronger. Why is that? This downward spiral is often related to negative self-talk. But, how can we prevent this?
Andy Puddicombe says that you have a choice. Either you choose to succumb to your challenging emotions and make them worse with your own thoughts. Or, you can choose to observe them, to live with the challenges around you and let them go.
What does that mean in your daily life? The idea is to start to feel in balance and get at ease with the many challenges and opportunities in life. Focus on what is real and the things you can influence now. And, accept the things you can't. Then, you can slowly view the positive impact of the challenges and try to turn them into opportunities. Judgement of others and of yourself will peel away and you have the brainspace to focus on the actions to succeed.
As a leader, you can be patience with your team members, recognise when they (and yourself) have a bad day - that's part of life. In addition, define (collectively) meaningful goals that provide the big picture; this allows to turn current challenges into a stepping stones for a successful future. Don't fret when your team members do mistakes; they are part of the learning journey. The same way as they were on yours.
And what is in it for the company? Happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones. And this also stimulates creativity as well - so important for innovation.
Until not so long time ago, success was defined by following a plan through, or you designing a product that is flawless, or you following the process to the dot. Management schools and project management standards have contributed to this push of perfectionism. The base for this are assumptions that markets are stable, customer needs won't change and operations are easy to map into processes. With the current crisis, and even before that, we experienced that we can't rely on these assumptions? The world is changing faster, the future looks uncertain and ecosystems are complex.
Why do we as leaders feel it is hard to move away from perfectionism?
"In the midst of great uncertainty, leaders across all industries are adjusting strategies and supply chains, rewriting the rules of operating, and sometimes making things up as they go. This kind of leadership demands mental agility. However, there is a challenge: our minds are not naturally built for agility." This Harvard Business Review article shares insights on how we can address our mental barriers to agility.
The first challenge are the distractions. Every day hundreds of messages are asking for our attention. And, we tend to get involved in too many activities; too many priorities are demanding our input. It takes courage and new habits to remove these distractions and focus on the things that matter; the old 'signal versus noise' situation. We can achieve more agility when we focus on small steps, intermediate achievements, instead of keeping a constant focus only at the top of the mountain.
The second challenge is about our ego. I had success with this in the past; my opinion is correct; I already have invested a lot. All this is fixing our mind and prohibits fast adjustments. Instead, as leaders we need to look at the collective wisdom, listen to all the people that are close to the market. Authentic leadership allows to be closer to reality and removes the self from the equation. And as a result, we and our team members can be more self-confident.
The third challenge is empathy. In a crisis we are expected to recognise and resonate with the emotions of the people involved. This is a very important step to overcome the difficulties and come out stronger than before. At the same time, we might reach a paralysis and are not able to make decisions that might hurt some people; then empathy might slow down our agility. As a leader we can find a balance with constructive compassion. This means we are respecting the emotions of people, we treat them as humans. Keep looking for the value these people are bringing, in the larger context of things.
Is your mind ready to conquer the opportunities of the next crisis?
Illustration by Keith Negley
The first half of 2020 is over - and wow, this was a rollercoaster, right? As a leader, what did you learn? Which new routines did you start? And what is on your list that requires immediate attention?
We have asked manager in Asia and Europe about their top priorities right now. Our findings have been positive and alarming at the same time.
Positive is that leaders care about their people and employees are confident that they are supported. There is a human touch in the leadership in Asia which might be based in the more collectivistic cultures in the region.
On the alarming side, we conclude that companies make limited efforts and plans for a new future and set up their business for success. Are companies putting themselves into hibernation and expecting to wake up and continue in the same way? This might not happen and operations, business models and ways of working require a creative remodeling.
Read here the detailed study: Teams Come First - New Business Models Later
Thank you, Björn Kälin and Emmanuel Montet, for your collaboration and support.
Photo credit: University of Maine
Agility is for many the path for success, and I see many teams trying to run faster, sprinting and simply spinning the wheels faster. In my experience, this is not a sustainable approach; you are burning energy, burning people.
Velocity means that all your efforts are adding value and none is wasted. In this way, we are achieving results faster and with higher quality. To make sure, we know where to add value we need to be close to our customers, get their guidance on where to focus our efforts. This means we need to build relationships and connect frequently with the customers and stakeholders of our products and services.
One excellent way to do this is with prototypes. Why are prototypes so important? They make our ideas, achievements and challenges more tangible. The customers can imagine how the future solution will add value and where we need further tweaking. In addition, it is a fun way to celebrate what we have achieved within the team.
During my observations, I realised one thing that many teams forget. Demonstrating your prototype is a great opportunity to obtain direction and priority from your customers and key stakeholders. Prepare questions that provide this guidance in key areas.
Which achievements have you been proud of? How did you demonstrate them to your customers?
The current times create a lot of disruption and uncertainty. Many try to stick to old recipes and the old normal. Still, we know we are heading into a new normal, we are in the need to find new ways to be effective, profitable and valuable. This part of the journey can be daunting and paralysing. What can we do?
In situation of conflict, confusion, disorientation I always try to review the original objectives. What did we set out to achieve at the beginning? Often this purpose brings us back to the right direction and. Today can be an excellent time to review and reflect on the Collective Dream of our organisation. What was our vision at the start of your endeavour? What are our values? What do we as a team, as individuals stand for?
Why is this important in situations of uncertainty? Isn't it better pushing hard and running forward? Here are my thoughts around this:
This Harvard Business Review article confirmed my thoughts around this topic. We might want to rush and run forward, though we might only run in the wrong direction and waste a lot of energy. Allowing yourself a pause, reflect on your purpose and then accelerate in the right direction will give you confidence to create value for the people around you.
When will you invest in reflecting your collective dream?
At Hive17 Consulting, we are supporting organisations to accelerate operational excellence. This means we aim to cultivate creativity and agility within teams. You might ask yourself, what does agility mean and why is it so important?
Do you feel that your business is facing raising uncertainty and complexity? Are you facing with increased competition and customer requirements? In such situations, successful companies act with speed and they focus on delivering maximum customer value with their current assets. As an organisation, you want to quickly address changing customer needs, regulatory frameworks and pick-up new opportunities. And it is not sustainable to rush, increase pressure and centralise control.
How does leadership look like in an agile organisation?
Basically, we have identified four foundational drivers to cultivate agility as a leader:
Where do you find the biggest barriers to drive agility in your organisation?
Image credit: copyright by Lloyd images, Extreme Sailing Series, Carbon 6ix, Best, Land Rover
In my experience when facilitating teams to accelerate their operational excellence, I like to talk about two things. And, they seem to be a contradiction.
"Sustainable change is effortless!" This is similar when you are fixing a screw and at the start it is hard; a simple correct alignment will do the trick and the job is much easier. Many transformation are getting launched with too large climbs and with methods that simply doesn't fit to the style of the people. Too much efforts during a change journey might often be a waste.
"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. (Mario Andretti)" This means that a great challenge creates a lot of excitement and motivation. When we are too comfy, then we are not trying hard enough. Pushing our own limits is actually fun.
How does these two thoughts match? They are helping us to create a balance. Too much push - especially from outside - will drain our energy and is frustrating. Too little effort will make us slow down and kill the momentum. The balance in between will allow us to run at the edge effortlessly and for an infinite amount of time. This is essential to successful transformations.
Where do you find this balance?
We are all getting used to our remote working situations and the virtual meetings. We know that we need to connect frequently, use video for a richer conversation, use collaborative tools for discussions and brainstorming. Why does it feel that it is not effective?
From friends I hear different issues. Some get overloaded with topics and discussions, loose track what is the objective of the call. Some are trying to initiate a good conversation and are confronted with silence. Some feel they need to rush through many things because we are inefficient. All these situations cause stress, confusion and additional uncertainty.
From my knowledge management experience, I think we can try to achieve less in one call at the time; focus on one topic. As we have frequent calls we will still be able to cover many things. Here some tips for effective virtual meetings:
What did work on your side? Share your experiences...
For a while now, I am an advocate for empowering teams to reach their northpole autonomously - a human-centric and sustainable formula for success and growth. Recently, I got introduced to the story of the USS Santa Fe, a submarine that was commanded by David Marquet from a desolate state to the best operated submarine. A story of positive leadership.
Captain Marquet took a totally different approach to his role on the vehicle. Instead of being the centre of operation where all the information is gathered and he is making the decision, he delegated decision-making authority to the different units and ensured the relevant information is flowing between all units.
In an interview he mentioned that a first key change was the way he formulated orders. A typical command is direct like "sail the ship to this location at this speed and that depth". He started to express an intend: "I intend to be at this location in order to achieve that". Then the relevant units are required to suggest the right method to achieve this intention. This changed how people got involved and shared their expertise.
Other learnings shared by David Marquet:
How can you apply this in your leadership role?
Learn more about the story:
In the current period, most companies are struggling - either their income is plummeting (e.g. airlines), their efficiency and productivity drops (due to unusual work conditions), and some are totally overwhelmed with a new level of demand (e.g. online grocery shops). When I hear the people in my network, we agree that old recipes won't work to overcome these challenges.
Many people are afraid in these times of uncertainty - nobody is able to say where we will be in 3 months time. This fear provokes negative feelings and rush reactions. Some leaders resort to old habits, like pushing people to reach financial targets at all costs, like adding more control over their employees, like neglecting what the company and team stand for. These reactions might work for today, though they will create frustration and might very well jeopardise a quick recovery in the near future. And we are all guilty reacting with a quick fix, right?
We at Hive17 Consulting suggest a different approach - an approach that requires a little bit of reflection at the start. This will allows the leaders to guide their teams, their companies to a fast and sustainable success - Slowdown to Speedup. In our approach we suggest three ingredients: positivity, creativity and agility.
Positivity - Neurosciences tells us that in moments of change we are preferably in a positive emotional state; then our neurotransmitters can establish new connections and better adapt to change. As a leader, this means we should feel healthy and content ourselves and maintain a positive outlook for the future. With this foundation, we can guide our teams through this uncertain times and give them a meaningful direction, a collective dream. In my experience, empathy and a good understanding of the people around us help us to convey these messages successfully and engage all of us with authenticity. Let's put some enjoyment back in our work.
Creativity - Old recipes won't work. This means we need new solutions to new challenges. How can we use the uncertainty to our advantage and strive? At first, we suggest to to formulate the "problems" as opportunities; for example, instead of cutting costs, let's say that we want to maximise the value creation with the asset we have. Many people say that creativity is innate - we all have it in us. As leaders we can facilitate creativity by removing restrictions and encourage bold, crazy ideas.
Agility - Once we have these crazy, positive solutions, we need speed to execute them. Though, agility is not only velocity; it also means flexibility and importantly a learning attitude. The collective dream gives us the long-term direction. And, this will be the input to make decisions while we execute smaller parts of the big solution. During the implementation we might have many assumptions what will work best; let's get started and test them out - step-by-step. As a leader it is important to maintain a safe environment to experiment, fail and encourage learning. Speed is the natural result.
Some of you might say, this takes too much time - I need to react now. Based on my past experience, the actions above might take a couple of days and the first positive results can be seen in 2-4 weeks. On top of that, the teams will achieve magic; rewarding efforts, empowerment and a clear long-term vision will bring the best out of your teams - now and in future.
Our current COVID-19 situation is accelerating at an enormous speed and we can only wish that the peak will be getting closer and all our families and friends stay healthy. At the same time, it is not all gloom - it is an excellent opportunity to take responsibility for our own excellence.
The article here - How Will things Be Different When It's All Over? - is rightly asking the question: what can we as business leaders do now to prepare for the next three phases: Rebound, Recession and Reimagination.
Rebound: are your teams aligned with a collective dream? Do we all run in the same direction? And did we establish effective collaboration routines that create transparency while avoiding micro-management? When I talk to teams struggling with working from home, I often hear that people lack motivation, trust, efficient tools, etc.
Recession: one way to react is to shut down everything - total cost management. For me another question is more forward-looking: how can we maximise value creation with the existing assets. That might mean, we can find new customer groups that have an interest in utilising our assets. And we can take the economic slow-down and review our operations and make the fit for the rebound.
Reimagination: here we can be creative and see new opportunities unfolding. And a human-centric approach will allow us to go deep in understanding our existing customers how their needs have changed. Where are the new value generation opportunities? How did preferences have changed? How can I react fast to deliver on this value? Everyone in the organisation is part of the customer journey; in my experience we all need to work closely together to create an experience for our stakeholders.
Back to the article, it suggest a few inspiring success factors:
Thank you, Daniel Benes, for sharing!
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.