18. May 2022

Employee management in the new world of work

If you want to manage change in the world of work, you first have to change the way you manage. The time of clearly defined, steep organizational charts and top-down power structures is over. This also places new demands on leadership. A well-balanced mix of strategic skills and authentic role modeling is still required, but in the future this must go hand in hand with a serving attitude and a focus on the strengths of the employees and on the cooperation of the people involved. There is also the dimension of speed, which is becoming increasingly important in adaptation and decision-making processes.

If you want to be fast, you have to be able and willing to cooperate. Steep hierarchies with a high proportion of top-down decision-making will not be able to keep up with flat, network-like and adaptable structures in terms of speed. In order to be able to develop and introduce such responsive management systems, we need a strong culture of cooperation based on psychological safety, i.e. an environment of cooperation in which all participants can express themselves without fear and receive appreciation for their contributions, as Harvard professor Amy Edmondson described very well in her book “The Fearless Organization”. It’s no accident that she was voted No.1 among the global Top50 Thinkers in Management at the end of 2021 for her contributions.

If you want to promote psychological safety, you have to build it on the cornerstones of respect, trust and appreciation. Many people have no problem with this as long as the people they are supposed to give respect, trust and appreciation to are sympathetic to them. But taking sympathy as a basic condition of leadership does not work. What you can do as a manager is to get to know your employees well. I can trust someone I know very well, even if I don’t necessarily like them.

If you want your employees to get to know each other better, you have to implement processes and instruments that promote this easily and sustainably. Science and practice are familiar with a whole range of corresponding methods, which vary in complexity and can be very effective depending on the context. Among these approaches, “Beyond Leadership” is something that the inventors Patrick Cowden, Matthias Mölleney and Prof. Dr. Sybille Sachs call a vehicle because it can be applied very simply and adapted very easily to different starting situations. The core element “Connect” from the Beyond Leadership vehicle takes only a few minutes, but with a very high probability it changes the culture in a team permanently. The “secret” lies in a very consistent focus on the personal values of team members and on deep and authentic mutual appreciation.

If you want to lead in a sustainable way, you have to be able and willing to serve. As a leader, I have to create conditions that make it easy for employees to cooperate with each other and to contribute their strengths and talents. This insight is not new; it was developed, for example, as early as 1960 by Douglas McGregor in his book “The Human Side of Enterprise”. Even then, he called for flat hierarchies and self-determined work. We now have the tools and methods to do this, not least thanks to digitalisation. And now, with Beyond Leadership, we have a suitable vehicle.

About the author
Matthias Mölleney Owner of the consulting firm peopleXpert gmbh, Uster; Head of the Center for HR Management and Leadership at the HWZ Hochschule für Wirtschaft, Zurich; Lecturer in various continuing education programs at the University of St. Gallen