What is the story of your organisation? And who are you? And what is your future work-self? These are the uncomfortable, yet vital questions leaders, managers and employees have to ask. In our complex, constantly changing world, a new organisational practice is required, and Frederik, who studies organisations and the people in them has a ton of valuable insight to share.
Montessori or Gulag
One of the most interesting revelations in our conversation for me comes when Frederik highlights a great dilemma organisations are currently faced with. How do leaders and companies respond to the VICA world, which is characterised by a lot of uncertainty and a lot of complexity? They either tighten the reigns and exercise a lot of control, design very clear and strict rules for the behaviour, or they offer a lot of freedom in which people can work whenever, wherever. We also see a lot of knee-jerk reactions from leaders that abruptly end certain freedoms or permissions, very recently IBM that rolled back its teleworking as well as yahoo a couple of years earlier. The answer lies obviously somewhere in between the two, but these subtle nuances of leadership which is not one or the other extreme is not that easy to come by.
Bring your whole self to work
Why is there an epidemic of stress and burnout? According to Frederik, one of the reasons is that people do not feel appreciated at work, and don't feel they can bring their values and their true selves to work, instead have to conform to the culture of the organisation - no questions asked. This is also rather typical of recruiting and on-boarding too: take a person that fits a list of desired characteristics and skills and let's mould her or him to the culture and values of the organisation. The research shows however, that if people can behave authentically, they feel much better at work, are much more engaged and productive. If employees feel they can also express their own values and character during the "honeymoon" phase of being in a new company or job, the links and connections that will be forged early on will be more authentic, more real, and therefore more human and more sustainable.
Instead of feedback, try feedforward next time
This new Leadership paradigm or perspective can be embedded into the DNA of an organisation at a number of different anchor points, and performance management is one of them. In traditional sense performance review happens in retrospect, we discuss what went well, and what didn't go so well in the past 6 months. (By the way, a Millenial will think their Gen X boss is crazy for waiting 6 months to give this feedback...). However, to engage someone truly in the life and story of the organisation, it would be, according to Frederik, much more valuable for all parties involved to design how to make progress from now. Asking employees about their future work self, and what do they see themselves doing and how they may get there in the next 3 years is incredibly rewarding. What behaviour is needed to achieve those outcomes. Designing together how an employee can make progress towards their desired future work-self is incredibly motivating and engaging. Not least, because one of the most motivating things in life is progress. People build skills, self-confidence and grow into their future work selves if they feel supported, understood and encouraged.
These are just a few snippets of thoughts from our fascinating conversation with Frederik. Listen to the podcast to hear the entire conversation. To get in touch with Frederik, you may also follow him on Twitter and via his University profile.