People Developer - 'I get energy from growth, both personally and from my surroundings. By using my ability to learn quickly and think creatively. By always staying close to my own values. And ensuring a healthy body and a healthy mind.'
If you have an idea but no funding or you have a little time to spare you can easily apply this model. The format of the Company of Owners host gigs for people who contribute, without the risks of employment on a fulltime basis. You can pull knowledge and skills from a large pool of professionals in the subject area.
In this Coffeecast I want to talk about a concept that Susanne, co founder of entrepreneurability, and myself wrote about in 2017. A new concept of employment and why this could be relevant in this time.
While writing this post you are probably working from home. Or many of your colleagues are. I hear from many people that working from home makes them (feel) more productive. They have more focus and less distractions compared to being at the office. Now more organisations are slowly opening their doors. Maybe it’s time to rethink the use of our offices and maybe save some money along the way.
Distractions in offices
Before COVID-19 put everything to a standstill, offices were the place people would spend most of their day. And all of them struggle with the same challenge of not being distracted by others to actually get some work done. It doesn’t matter if you work in cubicles (hello 80’s) or in these large open offices where the number of desks available is less than the amount of employees. There is always distraction, birthday celebrations, Town hall meetings, coffee machine gossip. You can spend the entire day talking to others and not do the work that’s needs to be done. This is especially challenging if you are a person who thrives on social interactions. Most of us will probably have to spend a portion of your evening to get our work done.
No meeting rooms available
A totally different type of distraction is meetings. Somehow, managers and specialists tend to spend most of their day at the office in meeting rooms. If they are available. Since we need to fit a maximum amount of desks into the office. Also need some meeting rooms, organisations end up with a little bit of both but never enough. You probably have seen them. Groups of people 5 minutes past the hour waiting outside the meeting room arguing with the group inside the room. Both claim they booked the room. The horror and the amount of money lost!
When working from home, meeting get even worse since they tend to drain our energy dus to a lack of eye contact (you cannot look someone in the eye while videoconferencing). So now that we are slowly moving back to the office. Now might be a good idea to rethink our office spaces and see if we can be less distracted and are able to collaborate more.
What do consultancy firms do?
Good thing is, we can learn from the practices many consultancy firm have. They have their consultans over at customers mostly four days a week. On the fifth day they would get back to their own office. To share knowledge, develop new services, meet and collaborate.
I have worked for two consultancy firm that had quite a different office then the average organisation. The offices were designed to facilitate collaboration and work is done elsewhere. These offices had numerous meeting rooms and large multifunctional rooms. These could easily be converted from hosting events, trainingscourses or large companywide meetings. This worked great and I believe this might work for every knowledge intensive organisation. To do your work, you can work from home or where ever you can be most productive. To collaborate, you can go to the office. Your organisation might probably need less office space and being at the office is a socially engaging event.
These consulting firms did not only have different offices focused on collaboration. They both put a lot of emphasis on creating a strong company culture! From the onboarding of new employees the focus was on embedding this strong culture, sharing stories about the company history, their vision etc. Both organisations had specific rituals and roles. They weren’t dancing and singing in circles, but habits and specific meetings that evolved over time and was embedded in the organisational culture.
Second, they both had a great amount of transparency on the state of the organisation. This way the employees could frequently inspect and adapt to the effects of their actions and behaviour as an organisation.
If your employees or colleagues feel more productive, now that most of the work is done from home. And you have a severe lack of meeting rooms in your office. Now might be the time to rethink the design and use of your office space.
With organisations starting up again and rethinking how we organise our work. People tell me they are able to be more productive when working from home. They get more work done and get less distracted. On the other side, online meetings are consuming a lot of energy and reduce the ability to empathise with others. In this episode I will share my experience from two consultancy companies I worked for that were able to set up their officespace to enable collaboration while the work is done elsewhere.
Please let me know what your ideas are on this topic via LinkedIn or Instragram or send us an email!
Now that we are a few weeks into this global corona crisis. Most organisations have found a way to deal with the operational challenges it comes with. I hope that leaders in organisations that are economically affected by this corona crisis, are shifting their focus. Strategising what will happen after this lockdown or other restrictions are lifted. I believe that it’s not an option to return to business as usual. If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current crisis. Your employees know very well what can or cannot be done at this moment. Do not feel the temptation to invest a lot of your time and energy in optimising your business for the short term. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.
Necessary actions are taken
The longer this crisis and the restrictions are upheld. The more likely we have to fundamentally rethink how to run our organisations. It would be naive to think we could just pick up where we left off.
Maybe in the last couple of weeks you and your organisation have restructured your processes to be able to deliver the best possible value to your customers. Many organisations have decided to let their flexible workforce go, cancel training courses and stop all non essential investments. These are relatively easy and logical actions taken to create room to breathe on the short term. And because the economy is in low output mode, the remainder of the workforce can deal with the remaining work at hand.
Once restrictions are lifted, you customers won’t automatically return. You probably don’t have the funds or work to hire new employees. Or make too many investments. I would expect leadership teams are already thinking about what can be done to restart their organisations. Think about what will likely happen. Which approach might help and how this situation can be used to rethink their current method of operation. If not? Keep reading!
Before the corona crisis
Since the industrial revolution, we have been trying to optimise our value creation processes. We have created an impressive number of ways to govern it. The variables below used to be extremely influential in determining how successful we are able to do this.
Those who were able to control and utilise the three primary factors (resources, labour and capital) were successful. Large corporations dominating the markets because competitors are unable to obtain the natural, monetary and labor resources. To maximise these rewards we adopted numerous ways to optimise them.
When the restrictions to manage the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted. The scarcity of resources will not have changed. Maybe the oil prices are lower at this moment, but they will eventually rise again quickly. Organisations have probably used a significant amount of their financial reserves to prevent them from going out of business. They might not have the funds to (re)hire the flexible workforce they have let go. Organisations will resume their operations with less capabilities than they used to have. That might feel like a disadvantage. But in fact it’s an opportunity to do ‘things differently’, be more effectively with less.
The ability to optimise the utilisation of the production factors is entrepreneurship. This involves five elements:
Taking initiative – Action oriented and driven by forward motion
Strategic business decision making – Based on a clear vision and strategy being able to make decisions
Innovation – Exploring and experimenting
Bearing risk – taking the consequences of the previous three elements regardless the outcome.
Focus on maximising outcome!
The last couple of months, I have been working with my clients to focus more on maximising outcome delivered. Many organisations tend to focus primarily on maximising the output. Being extremely efficient to deliver an assumed outcome. If there is no crisis at hand, you might get away with this. However, in a couple of weeks or months from now (who knows when). You will be restarting your business. Probably with fewer people available and with limited (financial) resources. The worst thing you could do is resume to the state before the corona crisis. Following the same procedures etc. I predict the outcome will be significantly lower.
The restart of your business will provide you with the opportunity to rethink your modus operandi. How you can maximise the outcome with the capabilities you currently have. And the only thing you have to do is to involve your employees and tap into their entrepreneurial abilities.
Inspect and Adapt
As a leader, you will have to set clear goals (outcome or even impact) and clear boundaries. Also, you might want to adopt an empirical approach to inspect and adapt. To navigate uncertainty (maybe you are have been using frameworks that assist you on that). This way you can reinvent your organisation in small iterations. Rethink all the things you used to do if these is necessary (procedures, protocols, documentation, sign-offs etc). Do these actions add value to your customers? Or can you achieve the same results with a different approach. Give your employees the freedom to change things without compromising on quality or safety. Most organisations have been practicing this approach for the last couple of years. For example, adopting the Scrum Framework or attempting to ‘transition’ towards more agility.
The time will come to really put all these investments into practice. We will be facing a time with a lot of uncertainty. So, the only way to deal with that is to set up your organisation to frequently inspect and adapt the value it delivered. And how to get better at doing this with the limited resources available.
If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current corona crisis. Your employees know very well what can or cannot be done at this moment. Do not feel the temptation to invest a lot of your time and energy in optimising your business for the short term. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.
Listen to a blogpost from Entrepreneurability. This episode is about: If you are a leader, you should not be micromanaging the current corona crisis. Shift your focus towards the long term and how to restart your business.
Listen to a blogpost from Entrepreneurability. This episode is about: Shocked, humiliated and heartbroken. That’s how I felt. In complete shock because I was under the impression I worked in an psychologically safe environment. We were enabled – and even expected – to speak up when we had different ideas. That’s what made it a great company. But somewhere along the way, things had changed and I hadn’t noticed there was no longer a safe environment.
Over the last couple of decades we have been training our management in developing so called soft skills. There is an entire industry that provides managers with new ‘skills’ like ‘emotional leadership’, ‘coaching from your personal life’s mission’, ‘inspiring productivity through storytelling’ or ‘emotional hopping towards your annual plan’. I am just making these up but I can imagine you have attend a training like this. While there might be some value in such courses. What is lacking in day-to-day practice is actual leadership. That means you don’t have to nice all the time. Or have to create a fluffy world filled with unicorns for your employees. I believe we have gone soft on the soft skills.
Don’t be nice, be clear!
Being a good leader doesn’t mean you have to be nice all the time or need to be liked! At home I lead when I take the horses outside or when I walk the dogs. They all have learned the few rules they need to obey. A set of clear boundaries they need to stay within. For example, always walk behind me or no pulling the leash. If they break one of these rules, I will let them know this is not accepted. Sometimes I only need to make a sound and raise my voice a little and that’s is enough. We move back to the required state and continue. That is how I am able to walk with 5 horses holding them in one hand. Leading them!
A true leader is fair, is clear about what’s expected and takes decisions when needed. Take a look at a clip from a well known Dutch basketball coach, Ton Boot.
What do you think, did this player make it to the team? No, he didn’t! Not because he was a bad player, on the contrary, he would have been the best player on the team. But he did not meet the rules laid out at the beginning of the training. These rules apply to all team members. These were clear and if not met, there are consequences to it. That’s leadership! Even if it means you have to let the best player go.
A positive spin to something bad
When I show this clip during a training, many people feel uncomfortable. They are not used to this. They feel bad for the player and don’t like the coach very much. And that is what is wrong with today’s leadership from my point of view.
One day I received a question if it would be possible to spin a bad outcome in a positive action for a leader? If someone broke the rules, if we could frame that in a positive way?
Why would you? There has to be a consequence to a bad outcome. We don’t do it when it’s the other way around, do we? Downplaying a huge success, we never do that!
So, why should we spin a bad thing into something positive? It’s not fun, and you should not like to do that as a leader. But you are obligated to do it, your role is to have your employees improve. Not to harm them or just to make them feel bad. But to provide them with the ability to learn from what happened. We have all fallen down many times before we learned to walk. There is no other way or slide deck with a 5-step-approach to teach you that! So toughen up a little, will you?
It’s that season again. LinkedIn is flooded with people sharing the news of a new job. What I notice is, some people, who I would identify as a voice of the system, left their company. Whatever reason these people had to leave, I believe the leadership team of these companies should take a deep and hard look at the reason why they left. Maybe something is broken in their system and they have to start to listen to the voice in their system.
The Voice of the System are people who do not only have (and share) their individual opinion or vision. They sense and share what is happening in the system. Are closely connected to the values of this system and they function as the air valve when there is pressure in the system. They speak on behalf of the system they are a part of. Another entity for leaders to take into account and to listen to.
Unheard voice left the company
Last year, I had a conversation with a department manager and asked him who the voice of their system is. He fell silent, after few minutes he replied:
So, I asked him, how he felt about this person leaving. He replied that he was a little relieved to see this person go. Because this person was continuously pointing out things that to his eyes were not OK. Sometimes, this resulted in some irritation and frustration with this manager. I asked him, after this person left, if things got better? To be honest, he replied, no! Someone else, who hardly spoke up before, now started doing the same thing.
Transfer of the voice
This is the most interesting aspect of the voice of the system. We think, if someone speaks up, they do so on their own behalf. However, the voice of the system speaks on behalf of the entire system, it just happens to be very close to their personal beliefs. There is a very thin line between these two voices, one’s personal opinion and that of the system.
Some of the companies I follow closely on LinkedIn have seen over 3 to 5 voices of the system leave within a few years. Most likely there is a problem in the system that is still not fixed. Over time the new voice will also leave the company. A decision they do not taken overnight but is the only thing remaining a voice can do to be heard.
The Lewis Resistance Line
Before a voice of the system leaves the organization, there are other types of behavior that occur first. These signs of resistance are visualized in the Lewis Resistance line. Starting with (sarcastic) jokes and if unheard, eventually results in war or withdrawal (people leaving).
Have you ever seen or heard yourself or someone within your company show this kind of behavior? Ask yourself, what could possibly have lead to this behavior? If you look back at the people leaving the company, have they all walked the Lewis Resistance Line?
Begin to listen to this voice of the system! Otherwise you’ll lose committed people who’ve had the courage and cared enough about your company, to speak up.
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