Since about a decade, we talked about a business environment that is constantly changing, complex and exposing our company to disruption. The year 2020 showed us, how real this can be for any business and for our entire life. Over the last five years, I have developed a framework which I think allows us, our teams, and our company to create a platform for lasting success. A conversation yesterday motivated me to share this here again.
The volatile business environment we are in, requires an important revelation: if we continue doing the same thing, we will be getting the same results. So, we need to try new things. Then, the main question is: who should define these experiments? Who should be in control of bringing our business forward? As a change management practitioner, I suggest two dimensions which are highly important to our leadership.
Direction - How often do we define a new strategy and after some time realise that our business is still running in the same way? In my experience, the bottleneck is not the understanding of what the strategy is; rather, there is a lack of understanding and persistence on how this new strategy is impacting everybody's daily work. Here we need alignment and transparency to define and implement the collective dream.
Acceleration - In a next step, there are more barriers for success: who is coming up with the crazy ideas? Only big bets will make us move forward over time. And, implementing big bets seems to be a daunting endeavour like climbing the Mount Everest. Here we need experimentation, focus, safe working environment, cross-silo collaboration, etc in order to innovate and to excel.
How are you able to trigger the change in your company culture to achieve this platform for lasting success? Please reach out to me to exchange thoughts.
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?
After about 12 months of working from home, we finally open up more to go back to work in the office. In fact, I observe more and more managers and companies demanding their employees to come back. They want their teams to be more accessible, easy to reach.
This reminded me of studies from the late naughts around the financial crisis that highlighted that one of the biggest cause of stress at work are distractions - a instant message popping up, the e-mail notifications, and the boss asking important questions. All the while you were trying to focus on designing a new solution for your customer (here a summary). Not much has changed since then. Distractions are preventing us from being productive and deliver high quality work.
This study from ETHZ in Switzerland confirms this in a 2020 study: Workplace interruptions lead to physical stress. The people that got interrupted tested with twice as much cortisol than the other group. It is time to rethink how we are productive in our job.
A few weeks back, a friend of mine, Sebastian, shared with me his future office ideas. Their new office will be very simple and serve two functions. A social space for people to connect informally, share a cup of coffee and ideas, and host small functions after work for networking. A collaborative area will be dedicated to working together on projects, host client workshops, and connect people to brainstorm and be creative. "I can't image my people to be back in the office to send e-mails or write reports", he said.
This approach resonates with me a lot: different activities in our job require different environments. Sometimes we want to collaborate and meet people; sometimes, we want to focus and be free of interruptions. One is best when we physically meet in an office; the other can easily be done at home (or another quiet place). And who is best to make the decision where to work? As leaders, let's give people the choice where and when to work.
How does this resonate to you? What does it take to give your employees control over where and when they work? Are they mature enough to decide when it is best to work in the office?
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?
For the people that know me, I like to promote the concept of People Excellence - driving operational excellence through our people.
This recent article in the Bangkok Post by Arinya Talerngsri also emphasises the people in the transformation work. We are in an age where many thought leaders are talking about how we can robotise our workforce and create fantastic efficiencies. Arinya shares my conviction that lasting success will come by cultivating a workforce of engaged critical thinkers.
Here my key points I took out of this article:
This article also shows that we have great thought leaders in Southeast Asia. Based on the cultural backgrounds within this diverse region, we are able to build on a strong habits that focus on building relationships and putting people at the centre. This is a fantastic opportunity - also for the rest of the world.
What is your story in shifting your focus from technology to people?
Source: Driving digital transformation through people transformation
"How do I motivate my staff?" This is a common question and an exciting one for me. This week I started to bring it in relation with resistance to change. I think these two topics are two sides of the same coin.
How do I motivate? How do I remove the resistance to change? The answer in my eyes is "simple" and from the start, I admit it is not easy to actually do it - let's get later to this.
If you impose change on people, they will resist. This is basically wired in our brains. When you provide the space to people to define their own change, they are excited about the things that will come. They are motivated to start their change journey. This means, true motivation and change comes from within.
As a leader, what do I need to do? Something many people don't feel comfortable to do: let go of control. In their respective scope, allow teams to define what they want to achieve and how they want to get there. This means give them the necessary decision-making power and resources. This freedom is exciting and unleashes a huge potential.
OK, I get that... How do I get started?
Letting go of control is scary. So, let's start with something small, an area where risk is small and where your teams and you as a leader can try out, how the delegation of control works in your environment. In this case study, you can find an example in a factory. Another example is giving ownership of the office coffee area. Recently, I am also suggesting to give your people control over where and when they work. Why not?
One last question: how did you feel when you took responsibility over a certain area?
Agility is often mentioned to be the accelerator for performance. And yes, when introduced in the right way, agile working methods can deliver solutions that are closer to what customers need within a shorter time frame. At the same time, I observe that these benefits are not so easily reached. One crucial component is how we are planning with agility.
Oh, are we still planning in agile? Yes, we do - and in a smarter way. Let me walk you through some steps which are essential for success. In my eyes and also outlined in this McKinsey article: Planning in an Agile Organisation.
In a first step, we as a team want to get guidance, a direction where to head to. And with team here, I am referring to any size; this can be a regional leadership team, a functional department, a project team, a smaller operational team, etc. And this guidance is typically expressed in strategic priorities, or as I like to call it meaningful purpose statements or a collective dream. Important for these priorities is that we limit ourselves to five strategic priorities at a time - more will be distracting and the focus will be lost.
These meaningful purpose statements are then translated into clear and specific goals for the different teams. And this translation is an effort conducted with the entire team. This allows that the insights from all team members are considered, facilitates the adoption of the goals, and significantly improves motivation and drive.
The strategic priorities combined with the specific team goals act then as a clear foundation to make decisions on the team level. The team should be in control how they achieve their goals; this allows them to become independent and self-sufficient. For sure, they will still consider the larger ecosystem they are embedded in. This delegation of control further stimulates the drive and engagement of the team.
Alignment is created with the direction. The second important element is transparency. This we will achieve with monthly and quarterly reviews which intend to allocate critical resources based on the achievements, priorities and the goals.
As a leader in an agile environment, we are left to focus on two critical activities: guide the teams and develop a clear direction; facilitate experimentation and allocate the right resources. This results in a very different, self-organised path of planning which results in more velocity and value creation.
How are you planning in your teams today?
Yesterday, I talked with a friend about the fact that we tripled the amount of meetings since we enjoyed more freedom of working at home - compared to 2019 where we already complained about too many meetings. The main point we contemplated is that now, we even need to schedule a random chat with our friends. Something went wrong.
Let's face it; most meetings are inefficient and lack purpose and results. Yes, it is great to connect with our peers; at the same time it creates a lot of stress and pressure. When is the last time you had five meetings back-to-back? I guess your answer is 'yesterday'. How can we get out of this vicious cycle?
Since a while I am sharing these simple principles for effective meetings. At the core is the shift away from one-way communication meetings. Who is a culprit to conduct information briefing sessions? Yes, we fall into this trap. Here my core principles for all participant to create a good and fruitful conversation during your meetings:
The other day, I came across this article by Steven Rogelberg: What the Science Says about Meeting Agendas May Surprise You. Here what I take out of it to enhance the above principles:
And let's not forget one thing: let's enjoy these meetings, let's laugh and smile, let's focus on the connection between people. And that might also mean to schedule less meetings.
Which point do you want to try out in your next meeting?
Over the last decade, I could collect many examples where teams and entire organisations tried to accomplish too many things at the same time - with the result that they are advancing very slowly. I observed this in manufacturing environments, corporate functions, product development teams, etc. And I am sure, many of you agree to this. And still, there are so many important topics; how to choose?
Last year, a team approached me to support them to improve their productivity. They organised themselves in a very typical manner: each team member got a topic assigned and worked on it individually. During my observations I discovered two main obstacles. First, the team members felt that they were not in a good position to help each other. Second, the team was not able to accelerate urgent topics fast. That's why we tried a new approach.
How often do you observe similar situations in your organisation?
In this team, we tried to follow the principle: let's minimise the topics we are working on in parallel. We started with selecting one focus topic per cycle - a two weeks period in their case. At the beginning we had a deep dive into the topic to get everyone familiar with the topic. Then, they discussed what are the tasks to bring this topic forward and continued to work together on these activities. With this sequential approach, the team didn't have to select important topics to reduce the number of projects on their plate. There is always the next cycle, where the next important focus topic will be progressed. This gave the team the confidence to spend very little time on the other topics.
During the reflection after the first cycle, the team expressed how they enjoyed to work closer together; this was a great team bonding. In addition, they were able to significantly accelerate the delivery for the focus topic. At the same time, the team struggled with a steep learning curve during the deep dive and shared that they had to find a new balance between working in a group and focus on individual tasks. We agreed that both points will become much easier over the course of the next cycles. Overall, they all agreed the benefits outweigh these drawbacks. The team highly appreciated the switch to a more parallel approach of delivery.
Where do you see areas to implement this way of working?
Many companies are in the process to define the annual performance goals and in this context, we often talk about accountability. Harvard Business Review was recently sharing some interesting insights, how these goals are set; for example, 21% of the employees feel that they can control their goals and 69% of employees feel that they don't perform up to their potential. How are you creating motivation and ownership during these goal-setting conversations?
At Hive17 Consulting, we are conducting Vision-to-Action programs that translate your strategy into changes in people's daily work. In this program, we create an environment where the teams, the employees, are defining their objectives themselves. As a result, we have observed that these teams are taking more ownership of the outcome, are collaborating closer together, and the delivery quality improved.
What are the key points that drive engagement during the goal setting period?
How do you feel about giving away control?
Source: How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability
This year, I am celebrating my 10 year anniversary as a practitioner in the field of change management. I started to get curious about the topic while I was deep in implementing knowledge management programs at a multinational company. We were constantly presenting new ways of working to our colleagues and it was natural to get closer to the levers of facilitating change.
Admittedly, Change Management is not the most popular term and yes, I am not using it a lot either. Still in my heart I know, I found my calling in this profession. On the one hand, I am always eager to look at performance and improvements. On the other hand, I like to connect with people and I am curious about how they are interacting with each other. Both topics are very tightly interlinked. New systems, processes and organisations only unfold their potential when they are embraced by the people involved in them. And, we can only design great systems, processes and organisations, when we deeply understand the human actors in it.
The way I look at the change management is holistic. This means, I suggest that we go beyond the simple implementation of (for example) a new software tool; a better way is to look at the journey and the larger ecosystem where this software is supposed to add value. In this sense, my focus is on how can I enable people to embrace and grow with the constant change that is happening around them. How can we bring more antifragility to the people and to the organisation. in my eyes, this has a lot to do with culture and leadership. How can we create the right space between people that they can grow together; and as a leader, how can I provide a platform that gives people passion and ownership.
How did I get started? In the beginning I read a lot of different books and articles about the topic and followed a course or two. And about four years ago, I also started with my certification. I can really recommend to get in touch with the global Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP); you can find great, like-minded people and lots of resources. They have developed a great professional standard and I like their certification path. Though, most important is to be exposed and learn on the job - consciously applying what you think is right, try new things and develop your own practice.
I want to thank the people that strongly supported me on this path: San-Daleen, Jerome, Sandra, Michael, Björn and many others!
In my practice, I am often talking about three different topics: change management, operational excellence and innovation. For many people, they are very different concepts and many companies assign these to different departments. What makes them so distinct? Or are they not?
For me, they are strongly supporting each other and tightly interlinked. Let's start with innovation. This topic is about creating and implementing new solutions. Change management is supporting innovation by driving the change (behaviours) that the new solution will bring. And according to some studies, about 80% of the innovation are incremental, operational improvements, while still disruptive.
In the same way, operational excellence is strongly supported by innovation methods in order to discover crazy ideas. And, in my experience, change management practices support to engage the people and motivate them bring better results.
Lastely, for me change management is directed at improving the business. This can only happen by cultivating an innovation mindset and driving operational excellence across the entire organisation.
So, instead of distributing these three topics in different corners of your organisation, bring them together. Some successful companies have one (Transformation or Excellence) team which can be the driver for company-wide innovation which includes operational excellence and has strong change management practices.
How do you bring innovation, change management and operational excellence closer together?
We are excited to provide you with the findings of our follow-up study about how leaders in Asia and Europe are working through the pandemic. If you remember, in July we published the first report: Teams Come First - New Business Models Later. Here comes part two...
The second study has crystallized some key questions for the way forward: How do you provide a sense of stability in an uncertain environment? How can you focus on Employee Motivation and Customer Value? And, how can you keep nurturing solid relationships in your ecosystem?
The results also show that people - and that’s employees as well as customers and business partners - are taking center stage. Still, many people indicate that they lack direction and vision.
Complete report: hive17.com/antifragilityreport2021
Now is a great moment to evolve and develop your teams and your business. How do these questions and topics resonate with you?
In the last post, I shared arguments to shift from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. What does that actually mean? What are the new leadership routines? In the context of positive leadership, I am promoting two key activities for an effective leaders: establish a collective dream and actively let go.
Let me start with one question: as a leader, are you controlling your entire ship? And is that actually something you want to achieve? How can you ensure that all relevant information is coming to your desk? What are you levers to motivate your teams to follow your vision? What is the behavioural impact of taking central control? And, do you want to take this burden on yourself? This approach of running your organisation might lead to bottlenecks, people not performing to their potential, and slow-down of the organisation and the people. So, how can I engage in the two key activities and give control away?
The start is to create a collective dream (guide); a dream because we want to evoke passion; collective because the dream is created and lived by everyone in the organisation. One important result of this collective dream is that everyone is looking at lasting success, and this is based on a balance between delivering positive outcome and developing the organisation and the people to become better. Here some suggestions:
In one of my recent coaching engagements we talked about this collective dream in the context of a people initiative. While we discussed the objectives and the motivation around this initiative, it became apparent that the goals of the people responsible for the implementation where not aligned with the business intention. We identified a potential resistance and started to work on the alignment of the objectives.
Once this meaningful direction is established, the second activity is to actively let go (facilitate). With this we start to increase decision-making power at the front (where the information is). Here the qualities of curiosity, appreciation and learning are so important. As a leader, you start to appreciate the capabilities and progress people are making; you are curious to discover new approaches to solve problems, and you are experiencing that you can still learn a lot. Key activities in while letting go are:
Coming back to the coaching engagement above, we identified that the regional expert acted as a central node of expertise. This created bottlenecks and hindered learning across the regional group. We then established regular sessions where we facilitated conversations between the local experts that they can share their practices and ask for direct support from peers.
This example also shows that we are creating leaders on all levels. And in my experience, providing guidance via a collective dream is often well understood. Though, many leaders are still afraid to let go.
What hinders you to let go and give control to your people?
Command and control leadership style is outdated - we heard this many times. What makes it outdated? What are the alternatives? How can we establish the right routines for a new leadership approach? There are many debates around this topic and I feel I want to share my belief and opinion.
Control - let's start with this as many of us have experienced it in form of micro-management. Frequent status update meetings ask if the projects are on the right track. Senior managers churn out roadmaps and give milestones on what needs to be achieved by when. An army of analysts provide reports on a number of data points. All this machinery is in my eyes blocking ownership; there seems to be no leeway for experimentation and leveraging experience.
In my experience, people at the front know best where to improve and where we can reduce friction. Though, they need an environment where they can connect with diverse experts and experiment with different options. The objective here is to learn, make quick decisions and continuously improve and excel. As a leader, we need to be the facilitator for this environment, removing bottlenecks, allocating resources, and connecting the right people. And, this requires a big picture direction...
Command - the second dimension is more nuanced. Managers might give commands, telling people what to do and giving them very little room to explore their own methods and defining their own objectives. Again, this is close to micro-management and the lack of freedom where to go is stifling creativity and a growth mindset. At the same time, a commander's responsibility is to give people a purpose and direction, and keeping the teams aligned with a bigger purpose. The big question here: are we creating followers or leaders?
In my experience, I have seen often a gap between a nice mission statement and how people perceive this is impacting their daily work. People need a high-level direction that allows them to define their daily priorities. And, everyone should be involved in defining this high-level direction to add their 'local' expertise and for better adoption. As a leader, we need to be the guide to jointly develop a collective dream. And then, coach the teams to translate this dream into a meaningful direction for themselves.
Based on these arguments, I propose to switch from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. In short, I prefer to call it positive leadership which focuses on appreciation, coaching, curiosity and learning.
Where do you see the pitfalls of command & control?
Image credit: Konrad Frost, Volvo Ocean Race
When is the last time that you have been frustrated that you have not reached your objectives? This might be a personal fitness objective, an ambitious result for your sport or a project deliverable at work. In my practice, I observe that most people are setting goals that seem to be unachievable. Which can lead to frustration and in the best case, lack of celebration. Is this in itself a bad thing?
Setting high ambitions are a great thing. They can induce passion and purpose we want to strive for. This collective dream brings the members of a team together, they create alignment and meaning. There is no doubt, ambitions and objectives are essential. And this collective dream makes us start the journey. Though, they are not good to sustain our motivation.
A true, deep motivation requires that we are disconnecting enjoyment from the actual achievement of the goal. This means, we appreciate the journey that leads towards our ambition. As a swimmer, I have the ambition to reach a certain result in an open water competition. Though, I enjoy the preparation and training that leads to achieving this result; this keeps me motivated. Similarly at work, while we set a specific goal to bring our operations to excellence, we appreciate what we are learning along the way. The goal is almost an excuse to create a journey of excellence.
In order to build this motivation, I suggest to keep reminding yourself about the feeling that is created by the activities (and micro-achievements) that lead towards your big picture goal. Make the journey worthwhile and valuable in itself. Then you might never lose momentum to reach your collective dream!
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!
A special year is coming to an end and I want to thank all my families, friends, network and followers for your encouragement, conversations and learning opportunities. Despite all the difficult moments, I think I have been lucky and grateful of all the things that have happened - maybe it is by choice?
The New Year is coming and if we can predict one thing, it will be different from the past. Will it be better? I think, this depends on what we make out of it, right? For myself and for all the great people around me, I wish that we are getting ready for what will come. First, I think we will need curiosity to discover the opportunities; we want to understand our passion that gives us a big picture direction. And then, let's start with small steps towards this collective dream, and building together with our network of people.
Wish you a fantastic start of the New Year!
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?
Keeping traditions... Huntsman's technical campus in Shanghai celebrated again an Innovation Day last week. This is the third iteration since I met the local leadership team in 2015 and a great routine to keep.
In my recent experience, many companies and teams are pushing for daily delivery without pause and reflecting are we running in the right direction and are we using the right gear. And I am observing that only after a few months in this mode, teams are getting exhausted.
The Innovation Day in Shanghai is reversing this trend and the leadership team understands the wider purpose and benefits of such an event:
Thank you Enshan, Renyi and Stella to keep this tradition alive!
Great to read the outcome of an interesting conversation with Rachelle Lee and Michael Zimmel about how innovation and creativity can shape the way finance professionals are looking at their work.
One key pillar for success is understanding how we are creating value for our customers. This starts with exploring who we are creating value for. And then get inspired by their needs and insights. Where are the pain points and how we can we make these groups of people successful.
In the past, finance professionals were routinely creating standard reports piling up lagging financial indicators. In today's ever-changing, complex world this is not creating value. I suggest to look at leading indicators that we can directly influence and have an impact on the success we are aiming for. We can see a huge potential for finance teams to tremendously increase the value they can create for their 'customers'.
Read more in this interview: The Changing Mandate of Finance.
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?
We heard this a lot - especially in the current pandemic: stress is causing our brain to react with flight, freeze, faint or fight. And this reaction is blocking our creativity and problem-solving capability. Stress can come from so many directions: uncertainty, feeling threatened, lack of job security, work overload, lack of control, feeling insecure, feeling lost...
Neuroscience tells us that a positive emotional state restores this creative thinking which allows us to solve problems and accelerate the much needed innovation. As a leader, we can switch the work environment from one of fear & challenges, to one where we can discover great opportunities. This will also strengthen trust and self-esteem.
Here is one surprising source for this positive environment. According to this IMD article is humour! Feena May describes in The incredible lightness of being: use humor to inspire your team during a crisis "humour as a leader's capacity, ability and willingness to share themselves in service of the situation" with lightness of spirit, kindness and presence.
As so often, the intent is important. We want to use humour in order to enlarge and open the space between people; take them out of their shells and caves and bring them together with purpose and fun. Humour is not the same as jokes; these are often making fun of a certain group of people, which is counter-productive. The silent clown can be an inspiration; the apparently simple acts of holding space, creating connection and encouraging exchange. And often, a simple smile and light-hearted comment by a leader can create positivity which removes the stress and uncertainty.
Feena mentions three reflection points:
There are many ingredients to accelerate excellence, drive productivity and strengthen innovation. One of them is humour which creates fun and collaborative environment based on positive leadership.
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.
The last two days I joined the 4th Annual Open Innovation Virtual Summit as a participant and as a speaker. It is great to from large companies (ABB, Givaudan, Orange, Roche, etc.) how they are facilitating and rewarding ideas and innovation within their organisation. A common thread is that it is vital to put the customer at the centre of the innovation process and work together with the external ecosystem. This was creatively underlined by Gregory Poletta's introduction of the Da Vinci Mindset - think impossible!
People Excellence was at the centre of my speech where I highlighted that a new, positive leadership style is a fundamental driver for innovation and therefore vital for lasting success in today's business environment. Empower and facilitate creativity & experiment based on great relationships and a meaningful purpose.
Big thank you to the organiser Milana Dreo, Vonlanten Group, and to the two hosts Jordi Rafols and Andy Wynn. With great curiosity, I am looking forward to the next summit!
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.