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Leading the unpredictable - a new way of working | Erik Hoekstra, Krauthammer

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The way we currently organise ourselves is increasingly out of step with our fast-evolving environment. What if organisations were to become a societal movement, whose passionate members had the drive to make a difference?

People are dynamic and innovative – organisations aren’t. Yet flextime and connecting via social media are not enough. Let’s envision a new form of management, people engagement and leadership – a world where organisations would adapt to their employees, rather than vice versa. In short, an integrated approach to the oft-cited ‘New Way of Working’ (NWW).

1 Management message - flexibility

Perhaps we need to shelve the word ‘reorganisation’, as it is questionable whether change can be organised on a long-term basis at all. Instead, ‘flexible management’ can ensure truly adaptable work activities. How?

  1. Integrated management versus ‘silo thinking’. Content experts are responsible for advice, managers, for decision-making. Often, these two groups are poorly integrated. Streamlining them is key, with disciplined, collective decision-making at the lowest possible organisational level. Success depends on a culture of shared responsibility, authority and accountability. Decision-making processes should be a yardstick for success!
  2. The physical workplace. As resources erode, home working will transform the office into a meeting space to connect, share and create knowledge. How can we create connectedness if people are rarely present? Or handle our managerial uncertainty when employees are out of sight?
  3. Systems and processes based on control and uniformity, such as performance management, demand change. We must re-focus on individual uniqueness, on diversity, talent and trust. On personal responsibility, giving people clarity on the result and freedom to define the roadmap. With targets, still essential, based on a collective affiliation - a shared drive. With practical stimulation, coaching and recognition as cornerstones for social intelligence. The operational focus? Promoting long term innovation and creativity; based on the collective wisdom of an interconnected group!

2 HRD message - authentic adaptability

If the NWW is to succeed, HR management must connect what energises employees with the organisational ambition. Intrinsic motivators should replace ‘imprisoning’ extrinsic rewards. Both matter, yet synthesising them creates ‘authentic adaptability’. Authenticity, however, demands keen knowledge of one’s passions, talents and values – one’s contribution. Taking us to our ‘sweet spot’, from where we add maximum value to the organisation – and beyond.

leadership model


If people are connected to themselves and their colleagues, customers and shareholders, they will more easily adapt and affiliate. Such affiliation arises from vulnerability, social intelligence and shared passion and responsibility. It spells the end of imposed change programmes.

Self-steering: People – especially new entrants to the employment market, increasingly wonder what their unique contribution could be. Key for HRD communities is to reinforce people’s unique contribution to the organisation.
‘Self-steering’ means fulfilling a number of fundamental needs:

  1. Recognition:  excelling in a specific area, continuously improving and learning.
  2. Autonomy: organising one’s own experiences, actions and ideas.
  3. Belonging: contributing to a greater good, rooted in trust-based relationships.

3 Leadership message – managing on trust

Leaders tell me they trust their employees and give them freedom. Yet I hear many employees saying they feel trapped. Assuming both are right, could organisational structures need overhauling? We must re-learn trust-based - and therefore entrusting – management. I believe that everyone should once again be a leader. Yet employees have forfeited personal leadership, or were not prepared to take its consequences. The new leadership embraces four aspects, therefore.

  1. Co-create a compelling story. People are involved in inspiring relationships, facilitating a collective vision and direction - a passionate community led by people able to show their core.
  2. Clarify contribution. Guiding employees to capitalise on core qualities to contribute to the common goal increases personal leadership. People are coached in (re)discovering their potential, freed from self-imposed restrictions. This enhances their self-image and mutual vulnerability – inspiration and connectedness follow.
  3. Stimulate connectedness. Develop trust and membership, capitalise on and synergise diversity and facilitate continuous learning. Handling the tensions of polarising viewpoints transforms discussions into valuable dialogues – thanks to plenty of space. Trust benefits.
  4. Install an entrusting context. Constrain frustrating processes. And install systems on the demand of the users - not of the controller. Giving people authority to take the decisions linked to their responsibilities renews self-directing behaviour. Entrepreneurship and adaptability unfold.

leadership model


4   Conclusions

  • Leaders will be expected to build communities by engaging in inspiring dialogues, to co-create a compelling story and improve cross border collaboration.
  • Key skills are authentic adaptability, self-steering in employees – generating high involvement and a resilient, innovative organisation. Coaching in personal leadership will facilitate people’s personal growth, optimising their value creation.
  • For operational agility, leaders must create an entrusting context - designing processes and systems to support employee adaptability and innovation.

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