More and more people are seeing their work as more than just a way to earn money. They want to be creative, to shape things, to contribute to their company’s goals – and in doing so make the world a better place. Work is increasingly becoming a place where people are inspired; a place where they are able to apply themselves and experience the joy of exercising their own competence. This way of working is often described using the term “New Work”. These new ways of working build on self-management, decentralized decision-making (empowered execution), and teamwork between different departments (cross-functional collaboration).
I work with people in the business sector who create places like this: entrepreneurs, start-up founders, and managers in large organizations. They are making strides towards self-management and creating organizations that have this new culture of collaboration written into their DNA.
At heart, this way of working is about relationship skills – the skills of being able to manage oneself and of connecting with others. The more successfully this is implemented, the more barriers are removed and the more capability individuals have to act, allowing creative energy to flow through the organization more freely.
When hierarchies are replaced by the empowered individuals, those individuals need to be capable of exercising greater personal responsibility. In doing so, they benefit from soft skills they will have had little opportunity to practice in traditional teamwork settings.
Together with a colleague, I have developed a Leadership Compass that provides an overview of the necessary skills. It identifies four relationship areas. When these areas are in harmony with one another, they enable individuals to act in a mindful, balanced way. The areas are as follows:
- Self-awareness and self-care
- Contact with others, whether bilaterally or in a team
- The organization, and
- The environment and the world we live in.
A similar division into these four areas is replicated in a wide range of contexts. What is key, however, is what individuals and organizations include in – or exclude from – each area.
When we work within organizations, we implicitly or explicitly orient ourselves towards these issues or pick out individual elements. Harmonizing the four areas means that the organization suffers less from reactive patterns or defensive behaviors, and opens up potentials such as:
Improved communication and conflict management: Colleagues give each other honest feedback and speak more candidly with one another. At the same time, they make space for personal communication, vulnerability, and openness about what each person needs to be able to fully contribute.
Strengthened productivity: The creative energy available to the company is increased. Meetings become more goal-oriented and enjoyable. People are focused more on the matter at hand and less on defending the status quo or mollifying sensitivities.
Safeguarding process continuity: When individuals are aware of their aims, the groups they operate in remain focused as well. It becomes easier for the group to keep a common goal in mind and to stay on track while collaborating.
Maintaining focus and increasing adaptability: Today’s jobs are characterized by constant multitasking and switching between different modes. We work in hybrid settings that are partly virtual and partly face-to-face. Role descriptions and expectations are fluid: sometimes we lead others, and on other projects we allow ourselves to be led by colleagues. Under these circumstances, being able to respond to changing conditions – to recognize them and respond to them appropriately – becomes a key part of adapting processes while maintaining focus. This is the case for both individuals and entire organizations operating in a fast-changing world.
If we succeed, our working environment becomes a place to find solutions for the challenges of our time – and a place that benefits the people who spend their time there.