The motivation rules of the industrial game in the last decades can be summarized as a “carrot-and-stick approach.” This worked well for routine, unchallenging, and highly controlled tasks. The process is straightforward and lateral thinking is not necessary, thus benefits and incentives can provide a small motivational boost without side effects. But the environment has changed dramatically, as have jobs in the digital industry. They are more complex, more interesting, and more self-directed…and this is where the carrot- and-stick approach does not work anymore. So what are the new rules of the game? What works and makes us achieve the best performance in these challenging days of the digital transformation?
Climbing the Mount Everest in a Bikini
Thanks to different disciplines from brain research to behavioral sciences, from sociology to psychology, from medicine to organizational development, we possess today more knowledge and scientifically proven evidence on how to achieve the best performance than ever before. We understand today what we do, why we do things, what makes us do things better, and what we can do to increase and decrease our performance in any aspect of life. If we only applied what we knew. That’s the real pity of today: there are all the answers on managing our performance in the best possible way, but in terms of what we apply, what we teach our students, what we incorporate into our organizations, and what we implement in our daily life, it is like climbing Mount Everest in a bikini. No wonder we experience so much trouble with frequently falling down and being hurt, getting off track, not making it to full speed, and never experiencing the greatness of reaching the top.
Ante portas awareness
Thanks to the new values and success criteria embraced by visionary leaders, there is finally a chance now at the digital entrance to the twenty-first century to implement what scientists have been trying to tell us for decades:
- Motivation: People have a strong intrinsic motivation to perform a task, especially where there is a great degree of autonomy.
- Community: A good community will solve any problem, especially complex ones, faster than individual firefighters.
- Purpose: Humans are much more interested in serving a purpose than doing tasks for monetary rewards only.
True motivation comes from within
To understand what is needed for the best performance, one has to analyze what drives us, what motivates us to perform at the top level, to reach our best. Psychologists and management practitioners came up with different theories about and approaches to human motivation: Maslow approached it from a psychological realm, with motivation revolving around human needs and motives. Management scholars like Herzberg focused their theories around incentives and inducement frameworks. And Gestalt psychologists focus on perception being the only determinant of behavior. It is not only the intensity of the motivation that counts but also the quality or type of motivation an individual experiences. Qualitative or controlled motivation occurs when external forces affect an individual’s behavior, whereas the much more appreciated autonomous or intrinsic motivation occurs when individuals feel that the reason for their motivation comes from within, making them act autonomously, according to their will, as they have internalized the reason for acting.
In the flow is the place to be
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi can be described as one of the pioneers and founding fathers of analyzing and understanding top performance and happiness. He observed high performers in different disciplines—sports, science, economics—and realized that they are capable of achieving excellent performance over a long period of time without getting exhausted. He called this state flow—a state of concentration on the activity at hand and the situation, in which nothing else matters. This flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. In order to make a flowlike state and “full happiness” possible, three main parameters must be met:
- Autonomy: I can decide for myself which task I perform when, how, and with whom.
- Competence: I have (or have access to) the necessary skills, resources, and environment needed to perform a task.
- Relatedness: I understand why I am doing this task, what this task means for the bigger cause, and I experience a feeling of security and belonging.
To make the best performance possible in the digital economyy, we need to make sure that these three key parameters for allowing flow to happen are understood by each individual leader and the organization as such. Even more importantly, we change the organizational setting in a way that allows individuals to act autonomously, easily acquire and access the needed competencies, and understand the purpose of the work they do.
For some organizations this sounds like a difficult, tedious task, whereas others consider this the basics of a good leadership practice. Wherever you and your team are on this scale, make sure you are NOW actively having these discussions within your leadership team AND subsequently an implementation of good measures in your organization… because wasting time on these mission-critical pieces is not an option you want to go for!
You might have heard of the board-level talk or maybe were even part of it: Top leaders agree that it is time to change the mindset of the organization. If you listen to all the good reasons why, it sounds so easy. Yet it’s one of the most challenging but also most pressing tasks if you are aiming high with your organization in the future.
The tricky thing with that task is this: It requires just slightly more time than many other tasks on your monthly objectives. You can’t delegate it to anyone and can only act as a model with your own behavior. Finally, you have to treat almost every employee individually. Maybe with the help of this recipe, you can find a good path to change the mindset of your organization in order to lay the foundation for the real transformation that can only be built on this new mindset.
1. Mindset is individual and collective at once.
Let’s first get clarity on the definition of mindset: Looking up the term in the dictionary, it refers to a person’s way of thinking and their opinions. Changing the mindset of the organization is a very individual task in the end because you need to change the habits and perspectives of every single person. It’s the sum of all the individuals and their mindsets that makes up your organization’s mindset! To change in this context means to replace the old way of looking at things, the old patterns of doing things, the old principles and values with new ones. For example, if it’s common in your organization to say “I have to do what I am told to,” then this might have to change to “I am empowered to take decisions within my team.” Despite these being two simple sentences, it’s like decades of leadership practices are between those two different approaches!
2. Mindset drives action and vice versa.
Organizations developing toward more agile structures aim for self-leadership and individual responsibility on the individual and team level. As much as you can shift values in your hallways or in your shiny company presentations, there is not much impact if you don’t let the behavior reflect the new values as well. Changing the mindset is only visible when it causes a change in the behavior of each individual — top to bottom and vice versa. So let’s say you aim to make fewer decisions as a boss of a team (the old pattern) and want your team to become more self-driven and have them make their own decisions (the new pattern). In order to achieve this, you have to reduce the number of times you apply the old pattern and replace it daily with the new pattern — in this case, encouraging your team to come up with their decision and take responsibility.
3. Mindset asks for embarking on a fragile journey.
Critical voices often claim that it is not good to change the mindset of people. Some say it is even forbidden to do so. It’s said to be woo-woo and bad practice if you are trying to change how people think and behave. These are all valid points if you don’t care for the critical three: transparency in what you do, how you do it and why you do it. Always accompany any kind of mindset shift with loads of communication. There is no such thing as over-communicating, and in this context, it is essential to spend more than just a fair amount of time on doing the talking, getting everybody on the same page.
And even if you’ve done more than enough of explaining why, how and what, it is still every individual’s right to decide whether they want to join you on this mindset-shift journey. They say yes and embark on this rocket ship? Make sure you acknowledge their commitment and don’t let them stand in the uncomfortable dark, in this fragile in-between-two-worlds. Offer them high-quality support along the way with professional coaching and executive sparring. Top-level leaders especially are so used to knowing how to do things, it’s the most daunting task for them to say “I don’t know.” Explore with them how the new way of doing could unfold, even without having a clear plan of who does what and when. Give them a professional partner who nudges them toward the right structures and habits that are then in line with the new mindset they are trying to adopt and put into practice.
4. Mindset sticks with positive reinforcement.
It’s the oldest learning mechanism: Do something right and get a nice treat; do something wrong and get punished. When it comes to implementing a new mindset in your organization, the same logic applies: Make sure you incentivize individuals in a smart way for demonstrating behavior that is in line with the new mindset. For example, if you continue to treat them with promotions for doing what the boss says (the old pattern), you will hinder the mindset shift that you are trying to implement. Encourage them to make decisions themselves (the new pattern) and don’t punish them if things don’t work out perfectly well; you then reinforce the new behavior that reflects the new mindset.
5. Mindset of the organization starts with your mindset.
There is nothing more powerful than to model the change you’d love to see in others. So instead of wasting more time in board-level discussions about the importance of changing the mindset of your organization, get over it, define what’s needed and start implementing and driving your own behavior in a way that is more and more in line with the new mindset. Be authentic in how you do it. Allow for throwbacks and troubles. Communicate why you do what you do and how important it is for others to join. By doing so, you will kick off a transformation that is much more than “simply” changing the mindset of your organization but preparing your teams for the real transformation that’s still ahead of 99% of all organizations. Well done!
There are constantly articles in the news that rank the employee experience at one company over another. Years back it was cool to have casual Fridays, frequent team events and a budget to spend on personal development. Those goodies have become more of the norm and don’t make a good differentiator anymore. So, what’s next? What should you do as head of talent development, as a recruiter for young talent or even as the CEO of any growing company that is in need of high performers? Sometimes the solution can’t be found through reviewing hard facts or looking to the outside world. Often, it has to come from the inside. The solution lies with you as the decision-maker of an organization! What a company has to offer is important in today’s workforce, but what will set you apart is your organization’s ability to showcase agility. That’s what I believe will attract the next generation of talent.
A company that provides an agile way of working makes for happier, more engaged employees and less turnover. If you want to improve the employee experience your company offers, you need to know what today’s workers want, and you need to make sure that your leadership team is aware of how big of a role they play in gaining and retaining high-performing talent. Let’s take a look at some of the more common “wants” shared by this new workforce.
Wanted: Agile leaders … but please make it authentic and real!
An agile leader is someone who wants to include every member of their organization so that they can work together and strive for the company’s highest goals while remaining flexible to what people need. Leaders like this are inclusive. They want more feedback and ideas from every person they surround themselves with. The goal is to take knowledge from everyone and create the greatest possible employee experience because that translates into the greatest possible experience for everyone involved. That boosts how clients feel and get treated, which makes the company better as a whole.
Wanted: Transparency … but please make it go both ways!
Many people in supervisory or leadership roles want to know what their employees are up to every moment of the workday. However, they are not willing to provide the same transparency in return. Employees want to know that they are part of a bigger goal. They want to become part of the organization’s culture and be able to respect the leaders of the company. An agile leader will be transparent. They will respond when people ask what projects are being worked on. That way, the employee can see how his or her project relates and feel as though they truly are part of the bigger picture.
Wanted: A coach … but please make it a good one!
In order to create the best work environment possible, agile leaders look at themselves in a more unique perspective. The goal of an agile leader is not just to lead, or even to instruct others, but to coach others on how to grow. When leaders begin seeing themselves as coaches, role models and guides, they approach their employees differently and see higher performance, more passion and happier employees in return.
Wanted: The chance to learn … but please let me make mistakes first!
There is an old saying along the lines of, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.” This is true when it comes to employee experience as well. True leaders want their employees to reach out, try new things and learn from the experiments they conduct along the way. Some of the things they try will produce amazing results. However, there will also be things that fail and this is a good result. This teaches the employees and the leaders what to avoid in the future while allowing for team building as the experiment goes along.
Wanted: Good old feedback … but please make it open!
When an outstanding employee experience is the goal, thoughtful feedback is a must. People want the chance to talk about what is imperfect about a company so that it can be fixed. In my experience, if there is a constant circle of feedback and you’re able to fix what’s not working, your people’s jobs become their passion and their individual performance will rise even higher — so will your company’s overall performance! It goes from a way of earning a paycheck to a dream career. Agile leaders strive for more feedback at every turn. They use the feedback given to help iron out any bumps in the organization’s culture and create a happy, healthy environment full of inspiration.
I believe the digital transformation is less about technology and more about people and their ability to thrive and perform at their best. Make sure that someone in your leadership team has a hard-coded goal to create an agile organization where young leadership talents have space to thrive and find their passion. Teach your existing and more seasoned leaders how to become more agile, more inclusive and resilient in today’s business world and nudge them into more and more self-reflection. The question should be, “What can I do personally to be the leader my company needs, so I can have some of the happiest, healthiest employees around?” The time to show an agile way of working is now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow — now!
There is no need to explain that these are special days we are currently trying to make our way through: whether you are 70+ years old, afraid of catching a virus that could mean your days are counted or you are 7 years old, just started first grade trying to learn how to write and read numbers and letters but now being sent home to study all by yourself without friends. Most likely, if you are reading these lines, you are between the 7 and 70 years old, struggling with your personal version of the challenge that all of us face right now.
Willpower beats Brainpower
Your position, your personal circumstances, your age or your social surroundings – none of those things are truly critical to how you master any tough situation, any crisis that life throws at you. The only critical parameter is your willpower and how this willpower beats brainpower – in other words: how you get in the driver seat of your life.
It’s time to realize that you have the freedom to choose your experience, how you interpret and judge situations and ultimately, how you shape your very personal world. The question is not, whether this is an easy or a difficult task – hell yeah, sometimes it’s very difficult to choose – it’s rather this question we need to ask ourselves over and over again: How am I showing up today and how do I decide to live the next moments, hours, days, weeks, months? – There is no better place to start answering this question than right here, in this very moment, the moment you are reading these lines. Because willpower can only be applied in the moment, one moment after the other, adding up to a strong hour, a strong day, strong weeks….
5 mindsets to get in the driver seat of your life
There is no magic formula, that will help you apply 100% willpower in every moment, thus get’s you in the driver seat of your life. but there are 5 mindsets you can apply and you should make it a priority to train yourself making them a habit, in order to proactively shape the direction of where your life is heading …..because being the co-driver is not what you are meant to be doing in this life!
- Focus on the future – yes, we are supposed to live in the present, in the moment, in the here and now. Nevertheless, you should have a strong vision of what the future you wish to have, looks like. Not only being optimistic about the future but also having a clear, vivid picture of what you are working towards will serve like a magnet, drawing this desired future to you.
- Seek the challenge – the true beauty of life are the moments where we are presented something new because these unknown circumstances or things are like special treats to our brains: something new triggers a pioneering spirit in us, the feeling that we are not tied to the given boundaries but have the potential to stretch, to explore new, unseen areas. We enjoy this inner confidence, that we can handle any challenge we face and we will only show up stronger, more mature and having learned to trust in our ability to rise to the demands of any situation
- Immerse yourself fully – make sure you engage with full curiosity, excitement and flexibility in the world around you, avoiding to judge everything based on old, known patterns or rush from one situation into the next one without taking the learning opportunity being presented. Stay alert and more receptive to what’s being presented to you and keep in mind that the journey is as important as the destination – so immerse yourself fully in the being-mode!
- Stay connected – there is so much you can learn by listening to other people’s present moments, their dreams and fears but also their stories about life. Try to focus unconditionally on other human beings that come your way and have authentic, true and focused interactions with them. Go for relationships that are anything but superficial: caring, sharing, thoughtful and loving. It’s the relationships in your life that add the real flavor, that are like the real vehicles towards an engaging, meaningful time spent here.
- Stay to your own beat – true, deep relationships with others are just so much more valuable compared to being on the race-track all by yourself. Always welcome company on your journey but stick to your own beat, stay on the tracks that you decided to take, even if this means that you can’t make everybody happy or be everybody’s darling. Stay brave enough to find and follow your own course, the one that makes you happy and that brings you closer to your vision.
Practicing and implementing these 5 mindsets in your daily life is more than just adding a morning workout-routine to your schedule. Once you truly understand how impactful these 5 mindsets are and how much beauty they can add to your very moment, you will realize that they are almost like a gift. The only thing you have to do is unwrap this gift, because it’s already sitting inside yourself, ready to be uncovered, ready to shine and ready to position you in the driver seat of your life!
Every leader and entrepreneur is familiar with the saying “structure follows strategy” but legendary Peter Drucker is the author of one of my favourite quotes, because he added what makes the true difference with really good leadership: “…and culture eats strategy for breakfast!”
Company Culture is the sum of individuals
Every organization has its own distinct culture that evolves based on its purpose, priorities, values, and most importantly, the individuals who are part of this business structure. It is a combination of these factors that contribute to a company ecosystem, which is also referred to as the company culture or company spirit. So, how do we define a healthy and positive work culture? Is it one that helps employees feel comfortable, safe, and valued? Is it one where there is an ample scope of prosperity and growth? Is it one with high levels of productivity and team spirit?
The Fundamentals of Company Culture
Company culture plays an integral role in the operation of any business. It is the backbone of a happy and high performing workforce that not only helps in recruiting the cream of talents in the industry but also enhances your overall employee experience factor. On the one hand, many employees struggle to find meaning and real value in the work they do without a positive company culture. And on the other hand, organisations with a strong and positive work environment witness bottom line financial success by helping employees produce best results.
Talking about “Human Resources” is misleading
Employees are humans, not “human resources” and humans want to be valued. No doubt about it. They want to enjoy their work, have a feeling of autonomy, relatedness and competence which motivates them to go above and beyond. A successful organisation has a company culture that is strongly maintained and widely accepted. Not only are the structures, habits and strategies implemented in a way that is in sync with the anticipated culture of the organization. Even top management is interacting with their talents across levels in a way that reflects the purpose, values and principles of this ecosystem and the implemented reward systems are aligned with the present company culture.
Why you should care about company culture as top-level leader
Successful companies have a consensus on their top priorities, focus on individuals as well as the enterprise as a whole and make sure their goals and objectives are in line with their values. Here are top 3 reasons why you should make your employee’s experience and your company culture a personal priority for 2021:
#1 – Hiring the cream of talents
Let’s start at the very beginning. As leaders we understand that a strong company culture helps in attracting the best talents in the industry. Positive employee experience and workplace atmosphere ensure that all individuals have a fair chance to achieve healthy high performance which will become more of a competitive advantage than we‘ve seen in the past industrial age. When the best employees work for an organization with a healthy company culture in place, the outcome is not simply about employee satisfaction but the ultimate customer experience as well, which directly relates to bottom line financial success. Yep, this is the new KPI you should look out for as a visionary leader building an organization for the digital future!
#2 – Having a herd of unicorns
It’s in the DNA of any good leader to develop things further, not to be satisfied with the status quo but to outperform and to reach new horizons. In a perfect world, you want your employees all to be potential “unicorns” regarding the skills, talents and the passion they bring to work. This means though, that employees can’t be treated equally with a standardized approach when it comes to formal training or personal development. Instead, companies with a true employee experience commitment, understand the value of treating each talent individually, ensuring the growth of the entire organization by best possibly supporting the growth and development of each and every employee. Effective leadership development and people development programs at this kind of organization aim at providing key talents with 1:1 sparring partners or leadership coaches as well as facilitated peer groups and mastermind programs, making sure that all the potential within each team member and leader is given a chance to rise and grow.
#3 – Outperforming your not-yet-known competitors
All companies at some point arrive at the decision of documenting not only shared beliefs as value statements but also strategies, processes, procedures, etc. All of these documentation efforts are worth nothing, if at the core of your organization’s operations the talents at work do not FEEL what your organization, your products, your service level and your defined values are truly about. As responsible leader, you have to make sure, that every talent in the organization understands how the company’s values impact the experience your customers have with your brand. And every talent should be able to identify the organization’s core values and purpose when experiencing your leadership and way of guiding people. If you picked the purpose and values carefully, if you can make sure they are reflected in every day work, every customer touchpoint and in your leadership style, then you are for sure way ahead of the competition when it comes to employee experience.
Conclusion: It’s a mix of 3
Making it a priority to be spot on purpose and values with any business initiative and assuring as top level leader, together with your leadership team, to live according to these principles, you’ve for sure won half the battle. Adding then the right dose of listening to your people and providing them the best possible environment to grow their skills but also to leave their comfort zones and develop themselves as human beings, that will empower your organization to achieve the bottom line impact you might be dreaming of.
Unsure where to start? No idea where your organization is now? No clue about your status quo as a leader with the way you work today? Feel free to reach out to me personally as a reader of the GlobalBusinessPlaybook and we get on a personal 1:1 momentum session to identify possible strengths as well as areas for improvements. Contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter and I have recently visited the butterfly house in Vienna, where hundreds of colorful flying creatures were causing lots of “AH” and “UH” amongst the handful of visitors. We used our cameras to zoom in and zoom out in order to see the detailed structure and the beauty of the wings. In the next moment we had to zoom out so we could catch a group of wonderful bright blue butterflies enjoying the morning sun high up in the air. It’s not a big deal to zoom in and zoom out on any camera – just using 2 fingers on your phone, right? And both perspectives are essential for me and my daughter in the butterfly house to catch the beauty of the moment – in small detail as well as high up in the air.
From BIG to small
“Zooming” is not a skillset that recruiters currently look for actively, but it’s my personal synonym for being able to adapt, being agile and nimble, yet not overlooking the beauty of the moment and the bigger picture. To go from “big” to “small” just with a tiny move – like 2 fingers in case of our camera – will allow you in the volatile world to investigate the latest little detail on bites and bytes level and with the blink of an eye change perspectives and see the bigger connections.
We need that type of thinking that allows us to detect patterns, networks, cycles, symmetries on all levels. It’s those dynamic, vivid structures and relationships of people as well as data that play a key role in our digital future. The one who is able to recognize these patterns has a huge advantage to navigate through a fast-paced, complex world. Because this ability does not only help to have guidance in whatever you are doing it also allows to create new, simple, sustainable yet viable solutions on all levels.
There is so much power in this interplay – to zoom in and zoom out with the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, we have been trained to be consistent. To start in one way and not switch right in the next moment. We’ve been encouraged to study 1 subject and become an expert. We’ve been advised to stay with one employer at least for a certain time. We teach our kids to “decide what you want” and stay with their decision. It seems we are constantly tempted to play around with the zoom-factor whilst we are being told to decide for one over the other.
The more perspectives you can have, the higher the chances are to discover even more impactful patterns. It’s about sharpening your awareness for the big differences as well as the most obvious commonalities, in the “big” and in the “small” world. In a disruptive environment the one who is able to use the zoom in both ways will be the one ahead of the game. What’s easy to do on a camera for catching the beauty of butterflies, is in the real world of business an art, a true skill that you need to start practicing if you haven’t done so. Give it a try in the next hour: whatever task or challenge comes your way, try to zoom out for a moment to check the perspective and then zoom in within the next minute and see what if you did a deep dive to uncover the underlying patterns….it’s worth a try and both perspectives will be attractive, just like the colorful pattern on the butterfly’s wing as well as the group of butterflies dancing in the air!