Bernd Steffens | Günther Wirkus
“Agile Leadership” and now also “Agile Strategy” are discussed as future-oriented answers to many current challenges for companies.
What does “agile leadership” actually mean? What’s really new about it? What are the prerequisites, what are the consequences? How would that work in our company?
The whole life is change and yet, especially in the corporate context, we have a hard time with it. Digitization, globalization, industry 4.0 stand for current challenges – for companies, teams, individuals, economically, organizationally, psychologically. How can we deal with it? To what extent are changes still organizational development, where does change management begin?
As we see it, coaching is directed at individuals and fosters their ability to organise themselves in their professional and working lives. Coaching supports the person in shaping their personal development, their social roles and their cooperative relationships as well as in coping with their decision-making and action requirements in working life.
The dialogue between coach and coachee creates spaces for reflection and experience and initiates clarification processes. New perspectives, development potentials and room for manoeuvre are explored, learning and change processes are stimulated and accompanied, and the ability to make decisions and to take action is strengthened.
The basis is the dialogical working alliance between coach and coachee. Coaching is confidential and takes place within a protected setting.
The coaching process is structured, methodically guided and limited in time. The coaching goals and topics are determined by the coachee and agreed upon between coach and coachee at the beginning. Despite the goal orientation, the coaching process remains open to results.
Coaching is characterised by a variety of theories and methods in order to be able to grasp and work on the complex subject area. The theories and methods used originate predominantly from the social sciences and humanities as above all from pedagogy, psychology, sociology, economics and philosophy.
Coaching is based on a service contract in which the objectives and framework conditions of the fulfilment of the assignment (such as place, time frame, procedure, evaluation, fee agreements, confidentiality, etc.) are regulated.
Coaching is neither a psychotherapeutic treatment nor does it replace it. This is not the case even if we offer coaching and are qualified as a psychotherapist.
The coach commits himself to confidentiality and the active protection of the information entrusted to him. The duty of non-disclosure also applies to the extent agreed at the beginning of the consulting relationship and, if applicable, to the contracting organisation financing the coaching. Information may only be passed on with the express consent of the client.
Conducting a Conversation
Although we already learned as a small child, communication causes us problems all our lives. Conversation, feedback, criticism, conflict, meeting, emails – the list of topics for which support is sought is unlimited. How can we improve our communication?
Conducting critical discussions
Managers are often required to hold difficult conversations, e.g. give critical feedback to an employee or communicate an unpopular decision. Perhaps it is also about a difficult discussion with one’s own superior about general conditions or scope for decision-making. All those situations have a common goal, namely to convey a clear, possibly uncomfortable or unpopular message to the interlocutor, which should ultimately bring about a change in behaviour and improve future cooperation. What has to be considered? How can such a thing succeed?
Since corporate cultures can also have a negative impact on the performance of employees and the success of companies, the goal of every corporate culture design is the use of all levers that optimally and sustainably promote corporate success. In order to change culture, a clear analysis of the current culture is required, on the basis of which a realistic target culture is developed.
Culture is derived from the Latin verb ‘colere’: to nurture, to operate. Culture is always a evolving characteristic of a social system. There is not one culture. Each social system develops its own culture. What is especially cultivated within a social system – for example performance, communication and conflict skills, professional competence, assertiveness, creativity, the ability to cooperate … – defines its culture.
We therefore only speak of culture if, in addition to economic values, non-economic values (e.g. social, personal or ethical values) are also implemented in a company. Why are non-economic values so important? Because from a psychological point of view, the identification of people – employees, customers, suppliers – with the company can only emerge from non-economic values. If a company deals exclusively with the pursuit of purely economic values, it does not distinguish itself from thousands of other companies by anything at all. This will make identification impossible.
Leadership culture aligns goals, intentions, people and assets with the company’s current framework conditions in order to ensure entrepreneurial success. This requires personal leadership competence.
Customer orientation as a success factor
Whoever advertises as a service provider with the quality of his products, advertises with something that is completely self-evident from the customer’s point of view when purchasing the product: high quality!
On the other hand, there is still enormous potential in the area of providing services directly to the customer.
Customer orientation is defined here as a personal attitude, which in turn shapes the behaviour that each of us concretely shows in our daily dealings with customers and makes tangible for customers.
Anyone who acts in a customer-oriented manner has recognized that the customer finally remunerates him and the customer must therefore be treated in a way that creates more satisfaction than dissatisfaction. Customer satisfaction has consequences:
- Increase in turnover
- Reduction of image loss
- Increase of customer loyalty
- Reduction of the price sensitivity of the customer
- Strengthening positive word-of-mouth propaganda.
Personal customer orientation is the basis of the behavior that we practically demonstrate in our daily interaction with customers under various social and emotional conditions.
It is becoming increasingly important to be able to make decisions together with others in such a way that optimal solutions are achieved while at the same time reducing errors and mistakes.
There is no rational objective decision. If there were, there would be nothing to decide. A decision is made by the decision maker according to important decision criteria. Subjective aspects such as expectations, interests and needs influence a decision just as much as the eagerness to make a decision and the desirable and undesirable consequences of a decision.
In addition to methods of decision making, the attitude of the decision-maker to seek to find a solution cooperatively with others plays a decisive role in the truest sense of the word.
Development of personality
Every human being is a unique individual, a personality. But what makes personality, how does it manifest itself in behaviour, in communication with others, how does it influence teams and organisations and what happens when very different people come together?
To truly understand personality and its impact on leadership, development, constructive cooperation and conflict management, it is essential to deal with this comprehensive topic. This can be done in different ways and depending on the area of application, different methods can provide support.
Leadership and Management Development
What do people expect from leadership today? How can people and result-oriented management succeed? Which leadership style is appropriate for the different situations and people in everyday life? How can you lead people remotely, virtually? What do agile working methods mean for the role of leadership? What is the understanding of leadership in different cultures? How can you learn to lead?
Conscience is the personal judgement immediately preceding an action about the responsibility of the action. The commonly used “bad conscience” follows the action and has nothing to do with responsibility at all – this usually means feelings of guilt, shame, fear or inferior value.
Leadership ethics is based on an attitude in which leaders do not judge their actions by a bad conscience, but by economic and social responsibility towards the company and the people working in it.
However, those who can only ensure their magnificence by making fun of others, by fooling others, or by making them small, or by demanding or showing “corpse obedience” – will hardly be able to do anything with ethical principles in the company. This is where the wheat separates from the chaff, the manager from the leader.
Various principles of leadership ethics can be found on which a leader can base his or her decisions. There have been many ethics in the history of mankind, in each case appropriate to their time. The majority of scientists today favour Fromm’s approach. Erich Fromm has formulated a supreme, priority 1 ethical value to which others are subordinated. This value is formulated as a so-called biophilia maxim: “Act and decide in such a way that your actions and decisions increase rather than diminish the personal life in you and other people”. Personal life here means the musical, physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual, erotic … handicraft life.
In short, for everyday leadership life: “Act and decide in the company in such a way that you help others and yourself to grow as a person and personality. Don’t make people small”.
We regard consulting as a process. Consulting processes have a double benefit for our customers. On the one hand, we see a company, a department, a team and individuals as a social system that, through consulting, is enabled to meet future challenges independently and without outside help. On the other hand, structures, procedures and processes are questioned and, if necessary, enhanced in order to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
We consider the people factor. Consulting without this factor will hardly be effective. Based on this background, we collaborate with our clients to elaborate solutions that correspond to their situation.
Conflict discussions are the first step to solve conflicts constructively on your own. In the next step, an external moderator (mediator) can support this.
Mediation is an effective way of dealing constructively with conflicts. This is carried out by an all-party and neutral third party.
The aim is to support the conflicting parties in finding an appropriate solution to their field of tension on their own responsibility. Conflict parties may be two persons or several parties.
Successfully completed conflict resolution processes often lead to relief, clarity and trust in the future.
Mediation is part of successful conflict management in companies and significantly supports the goal of conflict management to achieve a systematic handling of conflicts in order to reduce conflict costs.
Mindfulness can be interpreted as a specific mode of focusing attention on the here and now, on the current moment. So not to be trapped in memories or future plans or ruminations. It’s not just about concentrating on what’s happening. It’s about a changed attitude towards oneself and thus the way to shape one’s private and professional life.
Attention means perceiving all life processes – physical, rational, emotional, social -, bringing them into consciousness and then deciding how to deal with perceived feelings and thoughts.
Mindfulness and attention are not just techniques to be learned. Then a prudent pickpocket in the pedestrian zone or a terrorist would be true experts in mindfulness and attention. It is about a respectful attitude for oneself and others in the sense of a humanistic life orientation: does it lead to more human development and higher well-being?
Motivation refers to the entirety of all motives that lead to the willingness to act, i.e. the human striving for goals or desirable target objects based on emotional and neuronal activity.
Motivation is the direction, intensity and endurance of a willingness to behave towards or away from goals.
Occupational health management
The basis of any successful company is a motivated and healthy workforce. Occupational health management (OHM) includes “systematic and sustainable efforts to design structures and processes that promote health and to empower employees” (Expert Commission 2004). The aim is to create a healthy work environment and encourage employees to behave in a healthy manner.
Scope of Self-determination
The personal scope of self-determination consists of three dimensions,
- the diversity of tasks (suitable variety of activities)
- Possibilities for decision-making and impact (appropriate scope for discretion)
- Possibility of cooperation (suitable collaboration)
which are granted within an appropriate entrepreneurial framework. The aim is to balance the three dimensions in terms of personal stress prevention.
The aim of reflecting this scope is
- Personal awareness of the importance of individual scope for action for one’s own job satisfaction and health,
- to sensitize management to take on co-responsibility for individually appropriate scope of self-determination for their employees in the sense of maintaining performance, health and motivation.
- All forms of appraisal interviews and one-on-ones
- Team workshops on in-company health improvement
- Addressing smouldering conflict situations
- coaching processes
Professional skills, intelligence and commitment are certainly important factors for success and performance, but these alone are not enough. The changes in the modern world of work require more and more personal responsibility. This often leads to higher stress levels and a growing number of psychological diseases. The maintenance and enhancement of the ability to work are becoming increasingly important.
An essential resource for dealing with this is in our brain. It is personal self-empowerment competence. It can be specifically coached and methodically supported. The better it is developed, the more consciously people can deal with challenges and create suitable coping strategies. Self-empowerment competence consciously uses functionalities of our brain and enables us to influence our personal stress experience. On the one hand, this reduces stress and its consequences. On the other hand, it has a positive effect on people’s health, job satisfaction and performance. And that in turn benefits the company.
With this leadership model, management expert Ken Blanchard offers a pragmatic approach and a set of tools to lead employees according to their tasks and personal development level. The diagnosis of competence and commitment leads to 4 development levels, to which 4 appropriate leadership styles are responded. In addition to result orientation, the goal is also to continuously develop the employee. Situational leadership combines task and people orientation. It is based on dialogue and relationship.
The model also offers corresponding methods for leading teams, for self-management or for specific situations such as leading in change processes, in a virtual or intercultural context.
Supervision is used to support competence development, to clarify conflicts and problems within a team or a department in order to increase work performance and efficiency.
Team supervision focuses on the interaction between team members. The aim is to learn together, create synergy effects and elaborate solutions. Contents are e.g. teamwork, goals, processes, structures, values and culture. This also includes personal topics – these are, however, only dealt with in supervision to the extent that they particularly hinder or promote the joint collaboration process in the team.
The advantage of team supervision is that what has been learned can then be put into practice together.
A team is more than the grouping of people under a common umbrella term. What makes a team and how can I, as a manager, successfully lead and develop teams?
Team development – means for us…
- Clear goals
- Clarified roles and responsibilities
- Customer orientation
- Open and clear communication
- Allow and discuss different perspectives
- Dealing with conflicts constructively
- Appreciation and trust in dealing with each other
- Accepting the diversity of the other
- binding nature of agreements
- Flexibility in dealing with the unexpected
Leaders today have to take responsibility for more and more decisions and actions themselves. Different values – above all economic and private values, but also political, cultural and social values – compete with each other. The competition of values then leads to inner psychological tensions and conflicts (topic: work-life balance) and a lack of orientation: What should I use as a basis for my decisions?
Nowadays, the resolution of these tensions is individualized and left to the individual – and no longer supported by an overriding entrepreneurial value. Such a ‘meta-value’, a corporate ethic, would have the function of governing all the values mentioned in the company in such a way that they are implemented in a socially acceptable manner. This is necessary because the economic, political, cultural, social and also private values themselves generate social compatibility only by chance.
People already behave in a socially acceptable manner to a minimum extent if they do not harm each other physically or psychologically – in other words, if they enable their own and others’ lives.
If a company or a partnership has no binding moral value that makes all thinking, decisions and actions socially acceptable, there is a high likelihood that living together and working together will be exclusively for selfish and individual benefit, i.e. tends to be socially unacceptable and exploitative (family, partnership and company and itself).
The solution lies in the manager’s decision for an ethical value that regulates professional and private life and seeks to optimize the human life of the partners to each other, the parents and children to each other, the leader and the employee to each other in all its dimensions (cultural, intellectual, psychological, religious, musical, physical…).
1-2 decades ago there were almost no virtual teams. Technology, globalization, rapid market development have brought about a dramatic change in leadership and collaboration requirements. Today, most teams work partially or completely in a virtual context. Which are the factors that influence virtual management and which ones if hierarchy is not available? What skills do managers and employees need? Which tools are helpful?