Leadership Insight #1

Balcony Exercise

Are you often so consumed by the day-to-day business that you can’t find time to think about the big picture or to reflect on what your teams and yourself actually really need right now? We present three ways to get you off the dance floor of day-to-day business and onto the balcony with an overview and this way a change of perspective:

1. Consciously schedule “Holy Me Time” per week and protect this time slot e.g. for “Deep Work”, self-reflection, vision work or thought flow.

2. Consciously sort out meetings – No POP? Let’s drop! POP stands for:

P – Purpose: What goal does this meeting fulfill?
O – Outcome: What is necessary to continue working meaningfully after the meeting?
P – Process: What does the meeting process look like? Is there a clear agenda, clear roles, clear processes and a transparent documentation?

3. Consciously take breaks: For example, by scheduling meetings with a 5 – 10 minute buffer at the end and allowing all participants this break rather than using this time for e-mails or phone calls.


Leadership Insight #2

An analogy, inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, that we discuss again and again in our Leadership Program for Innovation and Agility:

“Hamlet got it all wrong! Hamlet was someone whose doubting made him incapable of acting. Hamlet was frozen. To be or not to be. Hamlet had it backwards. Doubts should free you because once you have accepted that you do not know what happens next and that you can’t predict or plan everything in your life then you are free to act. What’s holding you back? What is there to be afraid of? You have given up the illusion of knowing what could possibly happen.”

What doubts do you have? What can you actively influence? What do you need to observe? We recommend: Act instead of re-act. Shape instead of manage. The aim is to take away the pressure off managers, who may think they need to have all the answers. Rather, it’s important to have the courage to honestly say, “I don’t know the answer – but we’ll find out.”

Leadership Insight #3

Leading High Performance Teams

In June 2021, Flavia Bleuel and Hendrik Stachnau coached an exclusive masterclass for actual participants and alumni of the HPI Certification Program for Design Thinking Coaches entitled: “Leading High Performance Teams”. Below we share the exciting learnings of the masterclass with you.

Hendrik Stachnau provides the following example:

“I only plan from stage to stage, otherwise I have too many nightmares of having to manage everything at once. I need to manage my own energy wisely. I always have to see how big I want a stage to be. If a race course is 1600 km long, for example, I plan the first 100 km. That is productive at that moment to reach the first short-term goals. If I don’t achieve those, I don’t need to think about the rest, because it won’t happen. I need to manage my overall energy, and I can’t waste it on unnecessary goals.

I like to compare this to pinheads. Each stage goal is like a pinhead, and the more experienced you are, the better you become at hitting such a pinhead with one shot – that is, hitting the one goal and then anticipating more pins (goals). The more accurately and confidently you hit the pinhead, the more energy you have for other activities. If you set unrealistic goals, you waste all your energy on hitting the pinhead or constantly missing it. And then your team wonders, ‘What do you do all day?’ ‘I hit 50 pinheads on the first try and we’re successful as a team,’ and others aim 100 times and don’t hit it and then are completely screwed. Getting pins or milestones right is a form of professionalism that you learn for your own particular (business) field. You’d better not shoot that far, but you hit.”

Flavia Bleuel summarizes what this means for leaders and their team:  

Do you set stage goals within meeting distance to manage your own and your employees’ energy? You can only do that if there is a shared vision – like reaching the finish line of the race. This vision sets a framework for a project effort so that decisions are not made arbitrarily and goals are set wisely. When the vision is clear, detailed planning through each stage with milestones can be unproductive and only waste energy – especially for innovation projects. Instead, iterative, shorter-term planning is a better fit for achieving the intermediate goals and the vision.


Leadership Insight #4

The only Constant is Change

You often hear these or similar statements when it comes to transformation or agility. But what does constant change actually mean for employees and managers? Our coaches Flavia Bleuel, Selina Mayer and Hilde Rosenboom, who specialize in leadership, have observed various patterns in the attitudes of employees and managers toward change, which Heike Bruch and Bernd Vogel have summarized in their book “Organizational Energies”* under four phenomena:

Pleasant inertia: “Actually, everything is going quite well, and we don’t need or want to change so really ‘fast and much’.”

Resignative inertia: “The pressure from outside and inside is high, actually we can’t do anything (more) anyway.

Corrosive energies: “This is all very difficult and complicated. And I have to react very quickly to this emergency situation now, no matter what that means for the other departments.”

Productive energies: “Something has to change, and finally we’re all pulling together. Something really good is coming out of this.”

Do any of these phenomena (with the somewhat pointed example quotes) sound familiar? If so, it may be instructive for you to look at your team’s energy level in relation to change: How can you mobilize and foster productive “Organizational Energies” according to your team’s attitude?

*Bruch, H., & Vogel, B. (2009). Organisationale Energie. Wiesbaden: Gabler.