Three keys to faster and better decisions

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on September 5th, 2021 by admin
Decision makers fed up with slow or subpar results take heart. Three practices can help improve decision making and convince skeptical business leaders that there is life after death by committee.
Two years ago, we wrote about how it was simultaneously the best and worst of times for decision makers in senior management. Best because of more data, better analytics, and clearer understanding of how to mitigate the cognitive biases that often undermine corporate decision processes. Worst because organizational dynamics and digital decision-making dysfunctions were causing growing levels of frustration among senior leaders we knew.Since then, we’ve conducted research to more clearly understand this balance, and the results have been disquieting. A survey we conducted recently with more than 1,200 managers across a range of global companies gave strong signs of growing levels of frustration with broken decision-making processes, with the slow pace of decision-making deliberations, and with the uneven quality of decision-making outcomes. Fewer than half of the survey respondents say that decisions are timely, and 61 percent say that at least half the time spent making them is ineffective. The opportunity costs of this are staggering: about 530,000 days of managers’ time potentially squandered each year for a typical Fortune 500 company, equivalent to some $250 million in wages annually. Managers at a typical Fortune 500 company may waste more than 500,000 days a year on ineffective decision making.The reasons for the dissatisfaction are manifold: decision makers complain about everything from lack of real debate, convoluted processes, and an overreliance on consensus and death by committee, to unclear organizational roles, information overload (and the resulting inability to separate signal from noise), and company cultures that lack empowerment. One healthcare executive told us he sat through the same 90-minute proposal three times on separate committees because no one knew who was authorized to approve the decision. A pharma company hesitated so long over whether to pounce on an acquisition target that it lost the deal to a competitor. And a chemicals company CEO we know found himself devoting precious time to making hiring decisions four levels down the organization.In our previous article, we proposed solutions that centered around categorizing decision types and organizing quite different processes against them. Our latest research confirms the importance of this approach, and it also highlights for each major decision category a noteworthy practice—sometimes stimulating debate, for example, while in other cases empowering employees—that can yield outsize improvements in effectiveness. When improvements in these areas are coupled with an organizational commitment to implement decisions—embracing not undercutting them—companies can achieve lasting improvements in both decision quality and speed. Indeed, faster decisions are often a happy outcome of these efforts. Our survey showed a strong correlation between quick decisions and good ones, suggesting that a commonly held assumption among executives—namely, “We can have good decisions or fast ones, but not both”—is flawed.

Three fixes that make a difference

Of the four decision categories we identified two years ago, three matter most to senior leaders. Big-bet decisions (such as a possible acquisition) are infrequent but high risk and have the potential to shape the future of the company; these are generally the domain of the top team and the board. Cross-cutting decisions (such as a pricing decision), which can be high risk, happen frequently and are made in cross-functional forums as part of a collaborative, end-to-end process. Delegated decisions are frequent but low risk and are effectively handled by an individual or working team, with limited input from others. (The fourth category, ad hoc decisions, which are infrequent and low stakes, is not addressed in this article.) Clearly, it is important that these types of decisions happen at the appropriate level of the company (CEOs, for example, shouldn’t make decisions that are best delegated). And yet, just as clearly, many decisions rise up much higher in the company than they should (see sidebar, “Avoiding life on the bubble”).

Even those businesses that do make decisions at the right level, however, complain about slow and bad outcomes. The evidence of our survey—and our experience watching executives grapple with this—suggests that while the best practices for making better decisions are interrelated, there’s nonetheless one standout practice that makes the biggest difference for each type of decision (exhibit).

Big bets—facilitate productive debate

Big-bet decisions can be future-shapers for a company, the most important decisions leaders make. And they often receive much less scrutiny than they should.

The dynamic inside many decision meetings doesn’t help. It’s as if there is an unspoken understanding that the meeting should proceed like a short, three-act play. In the first act, the proposal is delivered in a snappy PowerPoint presentation that summarizes the relevant information; in the second, a few tough yet perfunctory questions are asked of the presenter and answered well; in the final act, resolution arrives in the form of an undramatic “yes” that may seem preordained. Little substantive discussion takes place.

In a global agricultural company, for example, the members of the executive committee tended to speak up only if their particular area of the business was being discussed. The tacit assumption was that people wouldn’t intrude on colleagues’ area of responsibility. Consequently, when the top team moved to decide on a proposed new initiative in Europe, the leaders from the US business stayed silent, even though they had years of hard-won experience in marketing and cross-selling similar agricultural products to those new ones under discussion. Nonetheless, the decision was made, the products launched—and sales lagged expectations. Later, the European sales force was frustrated to learn their US counterparts had relevant experience that would have helped.

Whether the cause of such dynamics is siloed thinking or a consensus-driven culture (of which, more later), the effect on decision making is decidedly negative. Bet-the-company decisions require productive interactions and healthy debate that balance inquiry and advocacy. In fact, the presence of high-quality interactions and debate was the factor most predictive of whether a respondent in our survey also said their company made good, fast big-bet decisions.

Leaders can encourage debate by helping overcome the “conspiracy of approval” approach to group discussion. Simple behavior changes can help. For example, consider starting the decision meeting by reminding participants of the overall organizational goals the meeting supports, in order to reframe the subsequent discussions. Then assign someone to argue the case for, and against, a potential decision or the various options under consideration. Similarly, ask the leaders of business units, regions, or functions to examine the decision from outside their own point of view. A rotating devil’s advocate role can bolster critical thinking, while premortem exercises (in which you start by assuming the initiative in question turned out to be a failure, and then work back for likely explanations) can pressure test for weak spots in an argument or plan.

The objective should be to explore assumptions and alternatives beyond what’s been presented and actively seek information that might disconfirm the group’s initial hypotheses. Creating a safe space for this is vital; at first it can be helpful for the most senior participants to ask questions instead of expressing opinions and to actively encourage dissenting views. Productive debate is essentially a form of conflict—a healthy form—so senior executives will need to devote time to building trust and giving permission to dissent, irrespective of the organizational hierarchy in the room.

A final note of caution: minimizing the number of debate participants to speed up decision making could harm decision quality. As many studies show, greater diversity brings greater collective wisdom and expertise, along with better performance. This is also true in decision making. To ensure a faster process, companies should manage the expectations of debate participants by limiting their voting rights and sticking to other agreed-upon processes, as we explore next.

Cross-cutting decisions—understand the power of process

An executive we know joked during a meeting that “a committee is born every day in this organization.” Just then, another executive nearby looked up from his computer to announce he had just been invited to join a new committee. The comedic timing of the line was perfect, but it wasn’t a joke.

Or perhaps the joke is on the rest of us? We often find companies maintaining a dozen or more senior-executive-level committees and related support committees, all of which recycle the same members in different configurations. The impetus for this is understandable—cross-cutting decisions, in particular, are the culmination of smaller decisions taking place elsewhere in the company. And cross-cutting decisions were the ones that executives in our survey had the most exposure to, regardless of their seniority.

Yet when it comes to cross-cutting decisions (involving, for example, pricing, sales, and operations planning processes or new-product launches), only 34 percent of respondents said that their organization made decisions that were both good and timely.

There are many reasons cross-cutting decisions go crosswise. Leaders may not have visibility on who is—or should be—involved; silos make it fiendishly hard to see how smaller decisions aggregate into bigger ones; there may be no process at all, or one that’s poorly understood.

Solving for cross-cutting decisions, therefore, starts with commitment to a well-coordinated process that helps clarify objectives, measures, targets, and roles. In practical terms, this might mean drawing a bright line between the portion of a meeting dedicated to decisions from the parts of a meeting meant to inform or discuss. Any recurring meetings (particularly topic-focused ones) where the nature of the decision isn’t clear are ripe for a rethink—and quite possibly for elimination.

Good meeting discipline is also a must. For example, a mining company realized that its poor decision making was related to the lack of rigor with which executives ran important meetings. As a result, the top team developed a “meeting manifesto” that spelled out required behaviors, starting with punctuality. The new rules also required leaders to clarify their decision rights in advance, and to be more deliberate about managing the number of participants so that meetings wouldn’t become bloated, on the one hand, or lack diverse views, on the other.

The manifesto was printed on laminated posters that were put in all meeting rooms, and when the CEO was seen personally reinforcing the new rules, the news spread quickly that there was a new game afoot. As the new practices took hold, the benefits became apparent. In pulse-check surveys conducted over the course of the following year, the company’s measures of meeting effectiveness and efficiency went up by almost 50 percent.

A social-network analysis, meanwhile, allowed a global consumer company to identify time wasting around decision making on a heroic scale—as many as 45 percent of interactions were found to be potentially inefficient, and 23 percent of the individuals involved in an average interaction added no value. In response, the company broke down complex processes into key decisions, clarified roles and responsibilities for each one, defined inputs and outputs for each process, and made one person accountable for each outcome. After conducting pilots in several countries, executives used two-day workshops to roll out the process redesign. The resulting benefits included a significant financial boost (as employees used the freed-up time in higher-value ways), as well as an arguably more important boost in employees’ morale and sense of work–life balance, which in turn has helped the company attract and retain talent.

Delegated decisions—make empowerment real

Delegated decisions are generally far narrower in scope than big-bet decisions or cross-cutting ones. They are frequent and relatively routine elements of day-to-day management. But given the multiplier effect, there is a lot of value at stake here, and when the organization’s approach is flawed it’s costly.

In our experience, ensuring that responsibility for delegated decisions is firmly in the hands of those closest to the work typically delivers faster, better, and more efficiently executed outcomes, while also enhancing engagement and accountability.

Our research supports this view. Survey respondents who report that employees at their company are empowered to make decisions and receive sufficient coaching from leaders were 3.2 times more likely than other respondents to also say their company’s delegated decisions were both high quality and speedy.

A vital aspect of empowerment, we find, involves creating an environment where employees can “fail safely.” For example, a European financial-services company we know started a series of monthly, after-work gatherings where leaders could meet over drinks to discuss failure stories and the lessons they’d learned from them. The meetings were purposely kept informal, but top management nonetheless established ground rules to ensure that the stories would be meaningful (not trivial) and that employees telling the stories would be protected. The meetings started small but became popular quickly. Today, a typical session includes 40 to 50 of the company’s top 150 leaders. The climate of trust and openness the sessions encourage has translated into better ideas, including practical lessons that have helped the company speed up its release of new products.

As this example suggests, empowerment means not only giving employees a strong sense of ownership and accountability but also fostering a bias for action, especially in situations where time is of the essence. That’s easier said than done if there’s no penalty for avoiding a decision or sanction for escalating issues unnecessarily.

Executives who get delegated decisions right are clear about the boundaries of delegation (including what’s off-limits and how and where to escalate what’s beyond an individual’s competence), ensure that those they entrust with decision-making authority have the relevant skills and knowledge to act (and if not, provide them with the opportunity to acquire those capabilities), and explicitly make people accountable for their areas of decision-making responsibility (including spelling out the consequences for those who fail to respond to the challenge). This often means senior leaders engaging in conversations and dialogue, encouraging those newly empowered to seek help, and in the early days subtly and invisibly monitoring the performance of those participating in “delegated” forums so as not to appear to be taking over. Leaders might want to start mentoring their reports with a small “box” of accountability, slowly expanding it as more junior executives grow in confidence.

For leaders looking to become better delegators, it’s not a question of choosing between a style that is “hands-on” or “hands-off,” or between one that is “controlling” or “empowering.” There’s a balance to be struck. Root out micromanagers who are both hands-on and controlling, as well as “helicopter autocrats” who are hands-off and controlling, occasionally swooping in, barking orders, and disappearing again. But the laissez-faire executive—generally too hands-off, delegating but leaving those with the responsibility too much to their own devices (sometimes with disastrous results)—is also a danger. The ideal in our experience are hands-on and delegating leaders who coach, challenge, and inspire their reports, are there to help those who need help, and stay well clear of actually making the decision.

After the decision: Seek commitment, not unanimous agreement

In his April 2017 letter to Amazon shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the concept of “disagree and commit” with respect to decision making. It’s good advice that often goes overlooked. Too frequently, executives charged with making decisions at the three levels discussed earlier leave the meeting assuming that once there’s been a show of hands—or nods of agreement—the job is done. Far from it.

Indeed, any agreement voiced in the absence of a strong sense of collective responsibility can prove ephemeral. This was true at a US-based global financial-services company, where a business-unit leader initially agreed during a committee meeting not to change the fee structure for a key product but later reversed course. The temptation was too great: the fee changes helped the leader’s own business unit—albeit ultimately at the expense of other units whose revenues were cannibalized.

One of the most important characteristics of a good decision is that it’s made in such a way that it will be fully and effectively implemented. That requires commitment, something that is not always straightforward in companies where consensus is a strong part of the culture (and key players acquiesce reluctantly) or after big-bet situations where the vigorous debate we recommended earlier has taken place. At a mining company, real commitment proved difficult because the culture valued “firefighting” behavior. In staff meetings, company executives would quickly agree to take on new tasks because it made them look good in front of the CEO, but they weren’t truly committed to following through. It was only when the leadership team changed this dynamic by focusing on follow-up, execution risks, and bandwidth constraints that execution improved.

While it’s important to devote enough resources to help propel follow-through, and it’s also important to assign accountability for getting things done to an individual or at most a small group of individuals, the biggest challenge is to foster an “all-in” culture that encourages everyone to pull together. That often means involving as many people as possible in the outcome—something that, paradoxically, in the end will enable the decision to be implemented more speedily.

Follow the value

There are many keys to better decision making, but in our experience focusing on the three practices discussed here—and on the commitment to implement decisions once taken—can reap early and substantial dividends. This presupposes, of course, that the decisions leaders make at all levels of the organization reflect the company’s strategy and its value-creation agenda. That may seem obvious, but it bears repeating because all too often it simply doesn’t happen. Take the manufacturing company whose operations managers, faced with calls from the sales team to raise production in response to anticipated customer demand, had to consider whether they should spend unbudgeted money on overtime and hiring extra staff. With their bonuses linked exclusively to cost targets, they faced a dilemma. If they took the decision to increase costs and new orders failed to materialize, their remuneration would suffer; if the sales team managed to win new business, the sales representatives would get the kudos, but the operations team would receive no additional credit and no additional reward. Not surprisingly, the operations managers, in their weekly planning meeting, opted not to take the risk, rejected a proposal to set up a new production line, and thereby hindered (albeit inadvertently) the group’s higher growth ambitions. This poor-quality—and in our view avoidable—outcome was the direct result of siloed thinking and a set of narrow incentives in conflict with the group’s broader strategy and value-creation agenda. The underlying management challenge is part of a dynamic we see repeated again and again: when senior executives fail to explore—and then explain—the context and underlying strategic intentions associated with various targets and directives they set, they make unintended consequences inevitable. Worse, the lack of clarity makes it very difficult for colleagues further down in the organization to use their judgment to see past the silos and remedy the situation.

Designing an organization to deliver its strategic objectives—setting a clear mission, aligning incentives—is a big topic and outside the scope of this article. But if different functions and teams do not feel a connection to the bigger picture, the likelihood of executives making good decisions, whether or not they adopt the ideas discussed earlier, is significantly diminished.

Source:, May 2021

Teamwork at the top

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Fact Based Management, Leadership / Ledarskap on July 29th, 2021 by admin

Creating an effective top team starts with behavioral improvement and teamwork in leadership.

The popular business press on both sides of the Atlantic is infatuated with chief executive officers who have drunk from the Holy Grail of heroic leadership. To be sure, a single person can make a difference at times, but even such heroic CEOs as General Electric’s Jack Welch emphasize the power of team leadership in action. As Welch himself said, “We’ve developed an incredibly talented team of people running our major businesses, and, perhaps more important, there’s a healthy sense of collegiality, mutual trust, and respect for performance that pervades this organization.”

Increasingly, the top team is essential to the success of the enterprise. Indeed, Welch is celebrated not only for increasing GE’s revenues nearly sevenfold in his 20-year tenure but also for building one of the world’s strongest executive talent portfolios, which has provided new leadership for many Fortune 500 companies besides GE.

So despite the obsessions of the business press, senior executives, shareholders, and boards of directors question the myth of heroic leadership. Merely bringing in a new CEO to reshape an organization will tend to show mixed results. In reality, long-term success depends on the whole leadership team, for it has a broader and deeper reach into the organization than the CEO does, and its performance has a multiplier effect: a poorly performing team breeds competing agendas and turf politics; a high-performing one, organizational coherence and focus.

Often, however, the leadership team is at best a collection of strong individuals who sometimes work at cross-purposes. What does it take for senior managers to gel as a team? Our work with more than a score of top teams, involving upward of 500 executives in diverse private- and public-sector organizations, suggests a straightforward process for enhancing their performance.

The most effective teams, focusing initially on working together, get early results in their efforts to deal with important business issues and then reflect together on the manner in which they did so, thus discovering how to function as a team. Formal team-building retreats are rare; behavioral interventions and facilitated workshops, though sometimes helpful, are not central to the effort of team building. Top teams address business performance issues directly but behavioral issues only indirectly and after the event.

A second myth of leadership, as pervasive as the myth of the heroic CEO, is the idea that seasoned managers slotted into an organizational chart can easily function as a team. In reality, top teams face many problems: finding the right people, matching the available skills to the job, and learning to work together without taking the time to craft roles. Teams don’t magically coalesce overnight. Their members have to be close in the professional rather than personal sense; they can thrive in an atmosphere of conflict if it is managed to increase creative output and to catalyze change. Becoming a top-performing top team must be one of the team’s goals.

To meet that goal, teams have to master three dimensions of performance. First, they require a common direction: a shared understanding of goals and values. Second, skills of interaction are crucial if the team is to go beyond individual expertise to solve complex problems and, equally, if it is to withstand the scrutiny of the rest of the organization, for people usually take their cues from the top. Finally, top teams must always be able to renew themselves—to expand their capabilities in response to change.

One reason for the difficulty of improving a team’s performance is that interaction, direction, and renewal are interdependent—teams need to go forward simultaneously on all three fronts to make real progress. It isn’t surprising, for instance, that top teams interact poorly when they don’t have a common direction. By contrast, enhanced performance in one dimension not only reinforces the improvement in others but also provides for the genuine personal development that builds success.

Suppose, for example, the team believes that it must build trust among its members. It rarely helps to have self-conscious discussions or “sharing” exercises about keeping or breaching trust, an approach that may actually be quite destructive. But by working together to sharpen the sense of strategic direction—and in this way experiencing successful interactions—the team can indirectly, but often dramatically, improve its effectiveness and thus the feeling of trust among its members. In effect, the team exploits its strong reasoning abilities to build trust.

Identifying real problems

Tolstoy wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The same can be said of underperforming teams. Nonetheless, there are typical warning signs in each of the three dimensions of team performance.

Confused direction

Many CEOs assume that they and their top teams share a common understanding of corporate goals and values. Formal descriptions of roles, expected conduct, and corporate strategies and plans all reinforce this assumption, but several realities undermine it.

Lack of alignment. Executives may nod their heads when the CEO propounds a vision, but the team often lacks a shared view of how to implement it. At one well-known energy company, the five executives of a top team were asked to list the company’s 10 highest priorities. Alarmingly, they listed a total of 23 priorities; only 2 appeared on every executive’s list and only 7 on the lists of more than three members; indeed 13 of the 23 priorities appeared on only one list. In other cases, the team doesn’t agree about how performance should be assessed, who the company’s top performers are, or how to motivate the organization to achieve its stated objectives.

Lack of deep understanding. In some cases, the top team agrees on plans, but subsequent actions are inconsistent with its decisions. This problem reflects the tendency of top teams to focus on making decisions without examining the assumptions, the criteria, and the rationales behind them.

Lack of strategic focus. Top teams without a common direction spend more time on business as usual and on “fire fighting” than on seeking out and doing the work only they can do—work that is important to the organization and gives the team as a whole an opportunity to add value. A focused team concentrates on developing talent within the organization and on driving major growth initiatives; an unfocused team second-guesses line-management decisions, reruns analyses, and immerses itself in detail. Half of the executives we interviewed believed that they failed to add value in much of their work.

Ineffective interaction

Many management teams pay lip service to the importance of interaction but foster a working style that inhibits candid communication and collaboration.

Poor dialogue. Although the members of a team may spend much time talking to one another, they can often fail to communicate, by withholding vital information, suppressing critical opinions, or accepting questionable strategies out of fear of retaliation. These games lead not only to frustration but also to hidden agendas—problems that may stem from mistrust if individual team members don’t know one another or organizational units have a history of conflict. According to 65 percent of the respondents in our top-team database, trust was a real issue for their teams.

Dysfunctional behavior. Often the most serious result of poor dialogue is an inability to capitalize on diverse viewpoints and backgrounds, thus reducing the team’s ability to work creatively and adapt to changes in the market. And like any group of people, top teams can fall into destructive practices—for instance, the public humiliation of team members. Such behavior understandably creates fear and defensiveness and can intensify problems by isolating and scapegoating individual team members. Because the top team’s conduct is mimicked lower down in the organization, this kind of behavior can come to pervade it.

An inability to renew

Although many top teams recognize the importance of organizational renewal, few of them institute processes that revitalize effort and commitment. Three problems can make it hard for members of a team to step back and honestly assess their own performance. These problems often have their origin in the team members’ experience as middle managers. Most executives have climbed functional silos and are accustomed to defending their organizational turf. It is often difficult for such people to make the leap to broad strategic issues that have a bottom-line impact. Frequently, executives also can’t adapt their leadership style to life at the top, where interactions tend to be shorter, more frequent, less prepared, and aimed at a wider and more diverse audience.

Personal dissatisfaction. Many team members, despite their apparently successful careers and enviable positions, have become frustrated or insufficiently challenged by their work. A quarter of our respondents said that their jobs didn’t stretch them. Collectively and individually, team members ignore new sources of insight, information, and experience that could push them out of their comfort zone. The teams we have observed engaging in destructive politics usually discourage their members from assuming new roles or taking risks. As a result, these executives ultimately become bored, and their performance declines; hence, the typical CEO complaint that once-solid team members no longer energize others or adapt to changing needs.

Insularity. Top teams rarely pay enough attention to information from outside their companies or industries—information that, digested quickly, could influence key strategic and organizational decisions. In addition, top teams seldom make the time to reflect on the information they do receive and to assess its future impact. Lacking structured processes to receive and reflect upon information from external sources, most teams don’t find the time to generate a real strategic focus.

Deficient individual skills. Most companies give the members of their top teams little mentoring or coaching about how to effect change. Unlike middle managers, who frequently get broad training and coaching, senior managers usually work without a safety net and, frequently, without a second chance. Among the executives we surveyed, 80 percent believed that they had the necessary skills to fulfill their role, but only 30 percent believed that all of their colleagues did.

Becoming a top team

How can a company set about improving the performance of its top team? Our research points to some useful strategies for promoting effective action, reflection, and cohesion.

How it works

Many behavioral team-improvement efforts fail because they don’t speak to the needs of top managers: programmed exercises, for instance, seem artificial. Our work with top teams suggests four ways to build their performance by replicating the way senior executives actually work together.

1. Address a number of initiatives concurrently. The top team must focus on the most pressing issues—work that only it can do. Achieving tangible outcomes in a variety of management challenges is essential. The activities most likely to foster team action and reflection include framing strategy, managing performance, managing stakeholders, and reviewing top talent. The team really needs to do these things whether or not its members are attempting to improve their own performance as a team. The action element of the cycle improves the direction of the organization and its ability to renew itself, while reflection makes it possible for teams to discover ways of improving their interaction.

2. Channel the team’s discontent. Only 20 percent of the executives we surveyed thought their team was a high-performing one. Successful teams invite external challenges, focus on competitive threats, and judge themselves by best practice, since comparisons with industry leaders or key competitors raise the quality of debate by putting facts on the table.

3. Minimize outside intrusions. It is hard for a team to execute an improvement process by itself; some form of facilitation is usually required. Consultants or coaches should observe top teams at work rather than lead meetings or presentations. They should never try to direct the team’s work. Finally, they should ensure that real work dominates the improvement process. Teams must discover what is effective for them. Merely telling a team the solution to its problems reinforces the poor quality of its alignment and interaction.

4. Encourage inquiry and reflection. More than 80 percent of the executives we surveyed said that they didn’t set aside enough time for analyzing the root causes of problems. These executives believe that instead of developing rules of thumb slowly and subconsciously, they should use their business experience to draw lessons. Most senior business executives took a decade or more to develop their business judgment, but with the tenure of CEOs becoming shorter as investors’ expectations rise, most top teams just cannot wait years to improve their performance. Facilitating team cycles of action and reflection—accelerating the pace of change and making the process of discovery explicit—can have a significant effect in as quickly as three months.

What it looks like

On the face of it, a top team going through the performance improvement process resembles any other top team at work. As usual, CEOs and senior executives address a number of strands of business, but they focus on major strategic issues and work together as colleagues rather than delegate tasks to staffers, consultants, or individual team members. At a minimum, the entire top team should spend one day each month together, without staffers, doing real work as a team. Subgroups of two or three members should work together a couple of times a week on every issue the team is addressing and should probably spend some time with a facilitator as well.

Teams rarely manage to improve their performance wholly outside their active working environment, so short-term workshops, no matter how attractive the setting or how heart-felt and candid the members’ exchanges may be, aren’t likely to change their mode of working. Structured self-discovery and reflection must be combined with decision making and action in the real world; the constant interplay among these elements over time is what creates lasting change.

Why it works

Teamwork is a pragmatic enterprise that grows from tangible achievements. The action-reflection cycle—supported by improved direction, interaction, and renewal—complements the work style of most senior teams. First, this approach pushes them to address their own performance just as directly and forcefully as they would address other business performance issues. By doing real work on important problems and applying business judgment to reflect on that work, top teams jump-start their performance and satisfy their need for visible progress.

Second, taking an oblique approach to sensitive performance issues allows top teams to address their behavior after the event, without personal confrontations. Team members discover that alternative points of view are valid, that the CEO doesn’t have all the ideas the company needs for success, and that the team can be both challenging and supportive at the same time. This paradoxical combination—the indirect assessment of team behavior through direct work on critical issues—allows top teams to manage their own performance. Before investing time and resources in programs to build the top team, leaders should ensure that such efforts deal with its real work.

Teams must assess their own performance regularly and honestly. Every senior team should also dedicate several working sessions a year to issues—such as technology, changing demographics, political and environmental pressures, and emerging themes from management literature—that have little bearing on the next quarter but could reshape the enterprise and the team itself during the next five years. Teams should also explore unexpected successes and interesting failures inside and outside their organizations. They ought to travel, both physically and intellectually, outside their own regions and industries to companies that have tackled challenges similar to their own.

In doing all this, teams should pay attention to the consistency of their leadership, the quality of their interaction, and their opportunities for renewal. They must also build into their work processes ample time to reflect on the deeper causes of problems, on the areas where they can add the most value as a team, and on the quality of their past decisions. It is the process of discovering the best way for the members of the team to work together that ensures the absorption of basic behavioral lessons.

The prize for building effective top teams is clear: they develop better strategies, perform more consistently, and increase the confidence of stakeholders. They get positive results—and make the work itself a more positive experience both for the team’s members and for the people they lead.



Så minskar du den farliga stressen i din vardag

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Executive Coaching on February 18th, 2021 by admin

”Åh vad bra, tips om avspänning och återhämning!” tänker du, men du inte hinner med det nu. Det får bli sedan – i kväll, i helgen eller på semestern.

– Det är lätt att skjuta upp återhämtning, men den måste ske helst ske flera gånger varje dag om du vill minska risken för stressrelaterad ohälsa, säger Niclas Almén, leg psykolog, som har skrivit en guide om hur vi kan hantera vardagens stress.

Stressen finns överallt i våra liv. Den är egentligen inte farlig, tvärtom är stress ett naturligt inslag som ofta behövs för att vi ibland ska kunna prestera bättre eller ta i lite extra.

Problemet är när kroppens stresspåslag kommer för tätt, håller i sig länge eller knappt går över alls. Det här kan leda till en försämrad livskvalitet och i värsta fall till ohälsa eller olika sjukdomar, som utmattningssyndrom eller hjärtinfarkt.

I sin kommande bok ”Återhämtningsguiden. Må bra trots stress och press” lyfter Niclas Almén fram vårt behov av återhämtning. Hans fokus ligger inte på att minska stressfaktorerna utan på hur vi återhämtar oss på mikronivå, det vill säga flera gånger dagligen i mindre doser.

– Självklart finns det situationer där faktorerna till stress behöver reduceras, men betydelsen av återhämtning lyfts nu fram allt mer i forskningen, säger Niclas Almén, som arbetar som KBT-psykolog samt forskar vid Mittuniversitetet i Östersund om stress och återhämtning.

I det program som Niclas Almén står bakom lär sig deltagare steg för steg att varva ned och lära kropp och knopp att återhämta sig.

– Tyvärr är det ofta när man är som mest uppvarvad och mest behöver återhämtning som det är svårast att få till den. Detta kallas för återhämningsparadoxen.

Begreppet återhämtning leder lätt tankarna till passiv vila och mindfulness-övningar. Det kan mycket väl vara passande lösningar, men Niclas Almén betonar att återhämtning kan vara väldigt många olika saker och att vi behöver variera den beroende på situationen.

Den som arbetar i en pratig miljö ska kanske inte gå till fikarummet under pausen. Då kan det i stället vara bättre att gå runt kvarteret eller att lösa ett korsord under rasten. För den som arbetar ensam kan det vara återhämtande att ringa en vän och prata i några minuter. Den som har ett stillasittande arbete kan behöva vara fysiskt aktiv medan den som har ett tungt fysiskt arbete kan föredra att sitta ned under återhämtningsstunden

Det är lätt att hantera återhämtningen slentrianmässigt och utan att notera om den verkligen gör nytta, att den får kroppen att varva ned ordentligt. Niclas Almén ger ett exempel från när han mätte hjärtverksamheten hos tre personer under några dagar. För två av personerna visade det sig att kroppen inte gav indikation på vila under deras fikapauser på arbetet.

– De trodde att de återhämtade sig då, så det här blev en väckarklocka för dem. De valde att ändra sina beteenden, den ena började lyssna på musik under pauserna och den andra läste en bok under vissa raster i stället för att fika med kollegorna. Båda kände att de mådde bättre av detta.

Om du inte känner att stressen rinner av dig, att du har blivit piggare eller revitaliserad efter vad du tror är en återhämtande stund kan det vara lämpligt att pröva andra beteenden, råder Niclas Almén.

Under pauserna i en rehabgrupp som Niclas Almén ledde satt de flesta kvar i rummet, på samma stolar, och pratade vidare med varandra.

– När jag i stället sade att vi under pausen medvetet skulle välja beteenden som skulle leda till en specifik återhämtning, till exempel att återfå koncentrationsförmågan, ändrade de sina beteenden. De interagerade mindre med varandra, öppnade ett fönster och några klädde på sig och gick utomhus en stund.

Niclas Almén tror att det bland annat var den sociala normen om att vara trevlig mot andra som begränsade återhämtningen under de första vanliga rasterna. Det kan finnas en rädsla för att verka avståndstagande gentemot kollegor och vänner om man inte längre gör som man brukar eller umgås med dem. Känns det så kan det hjälpa att berätta varför man har ändrat sitt beteende.

– Det kan vara bra att involvera andra i sin återhämtning. Prata med partnern, vänner och kollegor. Du kan fråga hur de gör för att varva ned och det är kanske någon annan som också vill förändra sitt beteende. Ni blir kanske några som börjar promenera tillsammans på lunchen, eller spelar pingis på rasterna i stället för att fika. Kan du få hjälp med återhämtningen ökar chansen att du får till en förändring som varar.

Om du ser återhämtningen som ett behov som skapar välmående och inte som ett krav förbättras oddsen för att du ska lyckas. Steg ett är dock att komma i gång och det är inte alltid enkelt. En orsak till att det går trögt är ofta ”Jag ska bara göra klart…” Återhämtningen fastnar lätt i ett sedan som aldrig kommer.

– Det där är nästan alltid en önsketanke, att får jag bara undan det här så kan jag slappna av efter det. Eftersom det hela tiden dyker upp nya saker är det ofta som det här inte fungerar.

Att annat möjligt skäl till att återhämtningen inte blir av är rädsla för att tröttheten helt ska ta över, eller att personen har blivit så van vid stressen är hen inte är medveten om att det behövs en paus. Andra skjuter upp sin återhämtning av oro för att kollegor ska tycka att man är lat eller smiter från jobbet – hur kan hen ta rast nu när vi har så mycket att göra?

För att freda återhämtningen kan du behöva sätta gränser och då helst på ett bekräftande sätt, framhåller Niclas Almén. Säg inte bara nej till att göra en viss sak, som att förhöra ditt barn på läxan, utföra någon extrauppgift på jobbet eller hjälpa din vän med något som inte är akut. Förklara för dottern att hon kan läsa på lite mer så förhör du henne om en stund. Säg till chefen att det inte är möjligt med fler uppgifter för dig, men att ni kan diskutera om ni kan lösa detta på ett annat sätt. Föreslå vännen att du hjälper till om ett par dagar i stället, i dag har du tyvärr inte tid eftersom du behöver din löprunda.

Enligt Niclas Almén kan vi se på återhämtning som att äta. Du blir hungrig flera gånger varje dag, men du tänker knappast att ätandet får skjutas upp till senare, som i kväll eller på lördag när du är ledig. Målet med hans program är cirka fem dagliga återhämtningstillfällen, spridda över förmiddag, eftermiddag och kväll. Om du skriver in möten och plikter i din kalender kan du även börja föra in tider för återhämtning.

– Prova gärna dig fram brett för att hitta flera olika saker som ger dig återhämtning och välj dem som du tror kan fungera på lång sikt. Är du inte alls är intresserad av att lägga pussel, titta på samma tv-serie som sambon eller att gå till utegymmet ska du nog satsa på något annat. Det kommer att kännas svårt ibland, men glöm inte att uppmärksamma dina framsteg och de positiva effekterna av återhämtningen. Då blir du mer motiverad att fortsätta, säger Niclas Almén.

Förslag på återhämtning

Det finns otaliga exempel på stunder av återhämtning som du kan få in i din vardag. Vad som har effekt varierar, här är några exempel på vad du kan pröva:

Öppna fönstret och stå där i några minuter.

Be om en kort axelmassage av en familjemedlem, vän eller kollega och massera sedan den personen på samma sätt.

Lyssna på musik som du tycker om.

Gör sudoko, lös ett korsord eller dylikt.

Ta en promenad runt kvarteret.

Motionera, i en form och på ett sätt som gör att du känner dig revitaliserad efteråt. Det ska inte vara kravfyllt eller inriktat på prestation.

Meditera, träna mindfulness.

Gå i skogen.

Sjung eller spela något instrument.

Titta på film.

Lek med dina barn.

Läs en bok.

Laga mat eller baka.

Spela familjespel.

Ta en fika med kollegor.

Ring eller träffa en vän via ett videomöte eller under en promenad.

Lyssna på en podd eller låt det vara tyst runt om dig en stund.


Källa:, 17 februari 2021

How to communicate effectively in times of uncertainty

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on February 2nd, 2021 by admin

These five fundamental tools can help leaders effectively communicate with their teams and carry their organizations through uncertain times with a renewed sense of purpose and trust.

During a crisis, an employee’s most trusted source of information is often their employer. For this reason, a leader’s words and actions can have a major impact on the well-being of those they manage; they can help keep people safe, help them adjust and cope emotionally and help them put their experience into context and draw meaning from it.

But crises also present leaders with infinitely complicated challenges and no easy answers. Tough trade-offs abound, and with them, tough decisions about communicating complex issues to diverse audiences.

The good news is that the fundamental tools of effective communication still work. Define and point to long-term goals, listen to and understand your stakeholders, and create openings for dialogue. Be proactive. But don’t stop there. Superior crisis communicators also do these five things well.

1. Give people what they need, when they need it. 
People’s information needs evolve in a crisis. So should a good communicator’s messaging.

In a crisis’s early stages, communicators must provide instructing information to encourage calm; how to stay safe is fundamental. As people begin to follow safety instructions, communication can shift to a focus on adjusting to change and uncertainty. Finally, as the crisis’s end comes into view, ramp up internalizing information to help people make sense of the crisis and its impact.

2. Communicate clearly, simply, frequently. 
A crisis limits people’s capacity to absorb information in the early days. Focus on keeping employees safe and healthy. To convey crucial information to employees, keep messages simple, to the point and actionable.

People tend to pay more attention to positively framed information; negative information can erode trust. Frame instructions as “dos” (best practices and benefits) rather than “don’ts” (what people shouldn’t do, or debunking myths).

Also, communicators regularly underestimate how frequently messages must be repeated and reinforced. The study, “Inverted U-shaped model: How frequent repetition affects perceived risk” published in 2015, showed that an audience needs to hear a health-risk-related message nine to 21 times to maximize its perception of that risk. Establish a steady cadence; repeat the same messages frequently; and try mantras, rhyming and alliteration to improve message “stickiness.”

3. Choose candor over charisma.
Trust is never more important than in a crisis. Those who fail to build trust quickly in crises lose their employees’ confidence.

Be honest about where things stand, differentiating clearly between what is known and unknown, and don’t minimize or speculate. Give people a behind-the-scenes view of the different options you are considering and involve stakeholders when making operational decisions.

Judiciously share your own feelings and acknowledge the personal effects of emotional turmoil. Remember that what you do matters as much as what you say in building trust, and scrutiny of leaders’ actions is magnified during a crisis.

4. Revitalize resilience.
As the health crisis metastasizes into an economic crisis, accentuate the positive by sharing stories and creating uplifting moments to reignite resilient spirits.

Additionally, strengthen communal bonds to restore confidence. Helping others is a great way to improve well-being and reduce stress. It’s also important to rebuild a common social identity and a sense of belonging based on shared values, norms and habits.

5. Distill meaning from chaos.
The crisis will end. Help people make sense of all that has happened.

Early on, be clear about what your organization will achieve during this crisis. Establish a clear vision, or mantra, for how the organization and its people will emerge. Explore ways to connect the disruption employees face to something bigger.

While it’s important to shape a story of meaning for your organization, it’s equally important to create a space where others can do the same for themselves. Ask people what conclusions they are drawing from this crisis and listen deeply.

Relying on these practices will help team members stay safe and infuse understanding and meaning in communities, helping to carry an organization through a crisis with a renewed sense of purpose and trust. For further guidance, please read “A leader’s guide: Communicating with teams, stakeholders, and communities during COVID-19.”

Source:, February 2021

Har du rätt värderingar för att kunna få jobb?

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on November 2nd, 2020 by admin

Värderingstester ska mäta om jobbsökande passar in.

Logiktester, personlighetstester och caselösningar. Många jobbsökare kan vittna om allt mer tidskrävande rekryteringsprocesser. Den senaste trenden ska mäta de sökandes värderingar – men metoden möter kritik.

Under 2000-talet har kulturen på arbetsplatsen hamnat allt mer i fokus. Men den senaste trenden riktar snarare ljuset mot de anställda.

Genom att göra värderingstester vill rekryterare kartlägga vad en arbetssökande tycker är viktigt och mindre viktigt, men också vad som motiverar dem och hur de skulle agera i olika situationer. När kartläggningen är klar matchas personens värderingar med arbetsplatsens kultur. Det kan till exempel handla om att leta efter anställda som lever upp till visionen om att vara ”aktiv, professionell och trygg”.

Resultatet kan presenteras på olika sätt beroende på vem som testar. Ibland anger en procentsats hur mycket den arbetssökandes värderingar överensstämmer med företagets. Ibland är underlaget mer utförligt och beskriver på vilka punkter kandidaten och organisationen är lika och på vilka de skiljer sig åt.

Enligt ett av testföretagens hemsidor har en person som matchar större chans att stanna på företaget. Om två kandidater i övrigt är lika, kan alltså värderingarna vara det som avgör vem som ska få jobbet.

Fenomenet är fortfarande nytt, och det är långt ifrån alla rekryterare som har börjat använda testet. Åsikterna går isär – även inom kåren. Anna Rydbacken, som ansvarar för fördomsfri rekrytering på rekryterings- och bemanningsföretaget TNG, är tudelad.

– Det är förstås jobbigt att arbeta i en organisation där man inte stödjer huvudsyftet med verksamheten. Men att sträva efter att alla kollegor ska ha samma fritidsintresse eller samma inställning till hur mycket energi man vill lägga på jobbet… där måste vi få vara lite olika, säger hon.

Att TNG inte använder värderingstester beror delvis på att många stora testföretag ännu inte erbjuder sådana. Men Anna Rydbacken säger att hon har noterat att det ”börjat bubbla” i branschen. Hon utesluter inte att de kommer använda värderingstest i framtiden, men just nu ser hon en risk att de kan leda till mindre fördomsfri rekrytering.

– Ja, i och med att du kan välja att ännu tydligare plocka in personer som är exakt som de andra i organisationen.

Och vad är risken med det?

– Då får vi en väldigt homogen grupp. Idag vet vi att organisationer behöver ha större olikhet i alltifrån ålder och etnicitet till var har vi studerat. På senare tid har det bara sprutat ut rapporter om hur mycket bättre organisationer presterar och mår om vi har större mångfald, säger hon.

Det kommunala bostadsbolaget Stångåstaden i Linköping säger sig ha varit först i Sverige med att använda värderingstester. Malin Wettre, HR-chef på Stångåstaden, ser tvärt om att testerna bidrar till mångfald.

– Tidigare tittade vi mer på om man har en viss kompetens och har jobbat med samma saker förut. Nu kan vi våga gå ut och titta bredare, välja människor från exempelvis andra branscher, men med rätt inställning och värderingar, säger hon.

Förhoppningen är att testerna ska minska antalet felrekryteringar. Reaktionerna från de sökande har hittills varit positiva, enligt Malin Wettre. En del menar till och med att organisationens fokus på värdegrund bidrog till att de sökte ett jobb på Stångåstaden. Att organisationen ska bli mer likriktad bedömer Wettre som osannolikt.

– Nej, för det har inte alls med personlighet att göra utan om de gemensamma värderingar vi har inom Stångåstaden, säger hon och pekar på att det snarare handlar om hur de bemöter kunder eller hur de agerar gentemot varandra.

Hon får medhåll av Sara Höglund, senior rekryterare på Adecco, ett rekryteringsföretag som sedan några månader tillbaka börjat använda värderingstester. Anledningen är att förmågor som att klara av förändringar och att leda sig själv ses som allt viktigare för att kunna möta framtiden.

– Test kan ge en indikation på om personen lämpar sig mer för bolaget i stort, vilket bidrar till att man kan hitta en person som har en motivation och engagemang som matchar just den organisationen, säger Sara Höglund.

Hon tror att det är minst lika viktigt för dem som söker jobb att ställa samma typ av motfrågor till potentiella arbetsgivare.

– Fråga vad de har för värdegrund och vad det betyder i verkligheten. Fundera över vad som är viktigt för dig, tipsar hon. Att värderingsstyrd rekrytering för tyska byråkrater hade kunnat förhindra Förintelsen är till exempel tveksamt

Hannes Landén, doktorand i sociologi vid Uppsala universitet, pekar på att värderingar inte är så ”neutrala” som många vill tro. De är inte heller jämnt utspridda i samhället utan hänger ofta ihop med faktorer som bakgrund och klass. Därför tror han inte att värderingstester bidrar till större mångfald.

– Om jag forskade på det här skulle jag ha som grundhypotes att man kommer få ganska styrda mönster av till exempel klass. Men det beror förstås på hur testet används, säger han.

I sin forskning har han noterat att det finns en tendens att ”egenskapifiera” det som egentligen beskriver en relation mellan arbetsgivare och arbetstagare.

– Att vara motiverad, engagerad eller driven ses som karaktärsdrag, men man skulle lika gärna kunna beskriva det som ett uttryck för en fungerande relation. Det finns ju ingen som är engagerad hela tiden om man inte får någonting tillbaka eller som är motiverad vad som än händer. Så i den meningen är det inga karaktärsdrag, men det görs om till något man tänker sig att arbetskraften, den som söker jobbet, ska leva upp till.

Att organisationer intresserar sig för mer än de anställdas personlighet, kultur och mjuka värden är ingenting nytt. Hannes Landén tycker däremot att det finns en paradox mellan att å ena sidan värdera en kultur som gärna ska vara familjär, rolig och gemenskapande, men å andra sidan utföra tester.

– I sammanhang som verkligen bygger på gemenskap, till exempel i ett kompisgäng eller familj, då använder man inte den här typen av test för personlighet. Att man vill testa någon bygger på en vilja att utöva en form av kontroll, man vill leda och styra en organisation, säger han.

Som sociolog tror han att människors agerande främst påverkas av situationen, av vilka spelregler som finns och vilken roll man tilldelas. Att värderingsstyrd rekrytering för tyska byråkrater hade kunnat förhindra Förintelsen är till exempel tveksamt, menar Hannes Landén.

– Så det finns anledning att vara lite försiktig med vilken betydelse man tillmäter värderingar.

Improve your leadership team’s effectiveness through key behaviors

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Leadership / Ledarskap on September 29th, 2020 by admin
Having effective leadership teams can yield significant results across the entire organization. All leadership teams should strive for such results by addressing key opportunity areas and the behaviors most important to their success.

Delivers growth, innovation, and organizational agility and is an expert on culture change, leadership development, team effectiveness, capability building, and transformation

As investors cast a wider net to gain a more accurate view of a company’s prospects, most realize they should also look closely at the management team. Leaders can make or break a company transformation. In fact, 33 percent of failed transformations occur because the leadership team’s behaviors did not support the desired changes.

Consider one large insurance company. Discord among senior leaders led to low trust among team members, misaligned priorities, ineffective meetings, and struggles to make or adhere to decisions. The result was significant churn and rework. Employee engagement and accountability dropped, and the transformation slowed.

With so much riding on the leadership team’s performance, what can be done to improve its effectiveness?

Our experience, combined with scientific literature on organizational psychology, revealed 22 behaviors that contribute to effectiveness. These behaviors can be broadly condensed into four characteristics of effective teams:

  • They configure the team around a clear mandate and precise roles, understanding which roles drive the most value and securing the right talent for those positions.
  • They align on a value agenda, set of priorities, and way of working together, which helps forge a distinct identity.
  • They execute under a governance system that allows them to make decisions quickly and effectively, collaborate, and challenge one another.
  • They take time to renew—evolving, innovating, learning from the broader context, and investing in individual and team-wide development.

Bringing leadership together around critical behaviors

We studied 37 organizations to understand how frequently each behavior occurs in their leadership teams and which ones they believe are most important to their success. The results suggest that significant opportunity exists to improve behaviors associated with team effectiveness.

For instance, while leadership teams generally agree that aligning on their purpose is critical, only 60 percent of organizations’ team members reported that they were actually aligned. Similarly, while consistent communication is ranked as a priority, less than 40 percent of teams report practicing it. This failure to enact important behaviors is a missed opportunity: when leadership teams have a shared, meaningful, and engaging vision, the company is nearly two times more likely to achieve above-median financial performance.*

To design a leadership team journey, teams should align on their value agenda and vision; be thoughtful about which profiles are represented in the leadership team; structure the right cadence of interactions, focus on the most important decisions and areas where the team needs to collaborate; and identify and develop three to five behaviors that are most critical to delivering the organization’s value agenda. The initiatives taken to address these behaviors should be simple and results oriented.

It is easy for senior leadership teams to fall into a pattern of addressing all escalated decisions. Therefore, some leadership teams have improved their effectiveness by focusing their time and attention on the work only they can do and delegate the rest. Relatedly, some teams schedule fewer meetings with the core team and instead use committees to meet on topics for which the full team is not required.

Source: McKinsey. com, 2020

Leadership: How to demonstrate calm and optimism in a crisis

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on May 26th, 2020 by admin
Six practices can help leaders build their self-awareness and guide their organizations through the challenges ahead.

When the path ahead is uncertain, people turn to leaders to help them gain clarity and a grounded hope for a better future. They want someone with a positive vision, who is confident about tackling the problems we all face yet courageous enough to confront uncomfortable truths and admit what they do not know.

What’s more, people seek community and safety. Business leaders can underestimate how much their employees look to them for information. To address these needs, leaders should act with deliberate calm and bounded optimism. Those who can visibly demonstrate these qualities help their organizations feel a sense of purpose, giving them hope that they can face the challenges ahead.

But that is hard to do in a crisis, since humans are biologically wired to have a stress response (fight, flight, or freeze) when confronted with volatile environments, unpredictable events, and constant stress

We’ve written about how leaders can shift their organizations to a crisis footing, from launching nerve centers to creating networks of teams. Here we focus on leaders themselves, and how they can prepare themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to respond to the pandemic through the months ahead.

To stay calm and optimistic while under such pressure, leaders should practice what we call integrative awareness: being aware of the changing reality in the outside world and how they are responding emotionally and physically. This intentional practice allows leaders to shift from viewing challenges as roadblocks to seeing them as problems to be solved, and even learned from.

Leading and learning outside your comfort zone

In a crisis, leaders must continuously process large amounts of complex information, contradictory views, and strong emotions. This requires awareness of what happens in the outside world (facts on the ground) and in the inside world (body and mind). Concepts in neuroscience that are closely related to this are “exteroception” (sensitivity to stimuli originating outside of the body) and “interoception” (sensitivity to stimuli originating inside the body). Effectively connecting situational awareness with self-awareness, our outer world with our inner, is what we call integrative awareness.

In a crisis of uncertainty, this process helps leaders avoid overreacting to challenges or jumping to conclusions just to stop feeling uncomfortable. Developing integrative awareness helps leaders recognize these stress responses as opportunities to pause and reflect before acting, giving them the tools to lead with deliberate calm and bounded optimism. When they do that, instinctive biological reactions will start working for them and not against them. Not only will this practice lead to increased effectiveness but it is also essential to managing personal health and energy over a longer period of time. (Jump to the six practices here.)

Deliberate calm: how to steer into the storm

In crisis situations, leaders must make a deliberate choice to practice a calm state of mind. Then they can step back from a fraught or high-stakes situation and choose how to respond, rather than reacting instinctively. These folks become comfortable with discomfort and can look at adversity through a new lens. A leader who is deliberately calm realizes that fear, channeled from uncomfortable facts or emotions, offers potentially valuable information and so doesn’t get unhinged by it. Reframing a threat as an opportunity for learning and innovation turns an uncertain situation into one of hope and possibility. Stress can be good if you harness and frame it constructively ; it keeps energy levels high and positive even in a crisis environment.

We have seen many examples of entrepreneurial and innovative responses to the coronavirus. These run the gamut from local sports clubs that started delivering meals and universities that digitalized their courses to medical innovations related to ventilators and artificial-intelligence-enabled social services for the unemployed.

Compassion and acceptance for self and others is an essential ingredient for leaders who want to be deliberately calm. It is only human to react impulsively to stressful events. And we may regret this and feel ashamed about it. In these moments it is important for leaders to emphasize self-care and self-compassion. We need to remind ourselves that we cannot change the past, but we can change how we perceive it and how we look to the future. Self-care goes beyond making sure to have a good regimen of sleep, eating, and exercise. It is also about letting up on the self-criticism or perfectionism, to be able to connect with core intentions and purpose. Practicing this yourself also enhances your capacity to be empathetic with others.

Being deliberately calm can have a multiplier effect on communities. How humans are “wired” to share emotional cues has been researched extensively. Leaders’ emotions have a big impact on an organization: when a leader is impatient, fearful, or frustrated, people begin to feel the same way, and their feelings of safety diminish. On the other hand, when a leader is hopeful and calm, the group can face challenges more creatively.

After attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019 killed more than 50 people, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earned praise for leading her country’s response to the worst mass murder in its modern history with deliberate calm and compassion. She has exhibited the same leadership attributes in the current crisis: “I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong,” she has said.

Bounded optimism: How to mix confidence and hope with realism

In a crisis, people want leaders to fix things fast. However, in a complex situation like the coronavirus pandemic, familiar answers might not work and could even be counterproductive. Early on, leaders can lose credibility by displaying excessive confidence or by providing simple answers to difficult problems in spite of obviously difficult conditions. It is essential to project confidence that the organization will find its way through the crisis but also show that you recognize its severity. This is authentic confidence —“cheerfulness in the face of adversity,” as the British Royal Marines put it. No one wants to follow a pessimist, but they don’t want to follow a blind optimist either.

Optimism that springs from authentic values and trust in people’s capabilities can be the source of energy for everyone in the organization to move forward. By contrast, optimism without meaning or grounding may lead to disappointment and defeat.

Leaders with bounded optimism practice what we call “meaning making.” Meaning helps everyone remember that difficult times and long hours of work serve a purpose. Think of all those healthcare workers focusing on their patients even at great risk to themselves. Meaning builds confidence, efficacy, and endurance but can also serve as a balm if the outcome is not what was hoped for, because the striving in and of itself was honorable.

The crisis response by Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, has won praise for being optimistic yet bounded by realism. In an address in mid-March, he told the Dutch that “My message to you this evening is not an easy one to hear. The reality is that coronavirus is with us and will remain among us for the time being. There is no easy or quick way out of this very difficult situation.” He outlined steps the country would have to take, before closing with this appeal: “With all the uncertainties out there, one thing is absolutely clear: the challenge we face is enormous, and all 17 million of us will have to work together to overcome it. Together we will get through this difficult period. Take care of each other. I’m counting on you.”

In times of crisis, a leader’s role in creating meaning only grows. Leaders should remember that they are always visible, even if they are not seen in person, and that their authentic role modeling of the organization’s purpose is essential.

Leaders with bounded optimism leverage meaning and personal stories to build connections. In this crisis, when many of us are isolated at home, distress is increasing. As human beings we need to connect and engage with others in a positive way to stay mentally and physically healthy. Employees want to hear a leader’s vision for how to respond to the crisis, and they also want to connect at a personal level. Video-enabled “town halls” offer a perfect opportunity for leaders to convey what’s on their mind to the broader organization and find out what is keeping everyone awake at night.

Putting integrative awareness into practice

As human beings, we can practice integrative awareness before, in, and after the moment. Beforehand, we can visualize the expected external event and our potential internal response. After the event, we can reflect and process the experience, let go of stress, and gain insight. In the moment, we can observe ourselves while having the experience and regulate our behavior at the same time.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger brought the process of integrative awareness alive when he landed his commercial plane in the Hudson River in 2009. After a bird strike cut both engines of his commercial flight soon after takeoff, Captain Sullenberger demonstrated the ability to stay calm while facing fear. Instead of returning to the airport as air traffic controllers were advising, he paused and assessed that he couldn’t make it, landing instead in the river and saving the lives of all on board. The balancing of emotions with a rational and deliberate thought process is something scientists call metacognition.

By practicing internal awareness on two levels (having the experience and observing it at the same time), you can catch early signals of distress, doubt, or fear without acting out a stress response. This is especially critical in times of crisis. While we can never be purely objective, we can try to reach that state as much as possible. Without objective awareness, signals of distress can trigger “survival” behavior, and we lose the ability to pause, reflect, and decide. For a leader during crisis, this survival state can present a huge risk, and in the case of Captain Sullenberger, it would have been fatal.

In a crisis, some leaders react to complex problems with polarizing opinions, quick fixes, false promises, or overly simplistic answers, often combined with a command-and-control leadership style. They lose their ability to be in dialogue, to continuously adapt, and to look for novel solutions. In a situation where their experience falls short, but without the ability to practice integrative awareness, they may be guided by their fear and resort to habitual responses, often unconsciously biased, to unfamiliar problems.

Another risk of not being aware of our internal world is found in “sacrifice syndrome”: leaders who face constant pressure do not find time to take care of themselves, leading to reduced effectiveness and exhaustion.

The Dutch minister for medical care, Bruno Bruins, showed this danger when he collapsed in Parliament in mid-March during a debate on the coronavirus. Bruins said he was suffering from exhaustion after weeks of nonstop crisis management, and later decided to quit his post.


Six steps for leaders

Here are six practices that leaders can follow to develop their integrative awareness. While they may seem straightforward and commonsensical, too often leaders don’t follow them, thinking they’ll worry about themselves after the crisis has passed. That won’t work in the current context.

1. Adapt your personal operating model

Your priorities, your roles, your time, and your energy are all elements of the way you operate on a daily basis. Create an operating model that can act as your compass, especially in a crisis that is expected to last for some time. As the coronavirus emerged as a threat, we saw that many leaders went into overdrive, working around the clock to respond effectively. It was only after some time had passed that most started to build more of a structure into their lives.

Ask yourself: How does your personal operating model align with the changes in your work life right now? What does this mean for how you operate with your direct leadership team? What does this mean for how you engage with your family? What are your “non-negotiables” in this model (for example, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, meditation practice, and healthy food)?

2. Set your intention

Take a few minutes at the start of the day to go through your agenda, identify high-stakes topics, and set an intention for what you want to accomplish and how you want the experience to unfold. Many people do this as a visualization exercise, like a Formula One driver imagining driving the circuit before a race. This enables you to predict “emotional hot spots” and provides a bulwark against reactive thinking. What challenges, curveballs or brutal facts might you have to face, and what possible opportunities can you expect? How do you intend to stay focused on what matters most? How do you intend to react emotionally? What are your non-negotiables and where can you give ground? Also reflect on the outcomes and experiences for others. How will your actions affect other people?

3. Regulate your reactions

While in a stressful situation during the day, observe your emotions so you can recognize the stress response, taking a pause to assess the situation and engage your “rational mind” before choosing how to respond.

Let’s say you are asked a question on a town-hall videoconference about a matter you had not prepared for. What do you do when fear takes over and your nervous system starts to react? The most natural (and counterproductive) reaction is to try to avoid the issue. But even if you pause very briefly to take in the atmosphere, you can respond effectively.

One leader recounted a situation in which she was passionately telling her top team where they needed to go but was met with confusion and resistance. Her immediate reaction was to explain again in a louder voice. Becoming aware of her irritation and shortness of breath, she took a long pause then told her team, “OK, I feel a bit desperate here—I think I know where to go but it’s clear I am not effective. I need your help.” Only then did the group begin to think through the problem with her.

Another executive told us about a helpful defusion technique he uses. If he is in a meeting and checks his phone to find negative voicemails or emails he can’t attend to right then, he tends to become distracted and anxious. So he visualizes a parking lot (or a cupboard, or balloons in the air). Each incoming message goes into one of the parking spaces or shelves or balloons. He imagines acknowledging the messages with a plan to address them later. That way he can focus on the meeting and avoid experiencing mental and physical stress in the moment. He then returns to each topic, addressing them one by one. At that point, some urgent matters have already solved themselves, and others can be calmly addressed.

4. Practice reflection

Reflection is a way to process what happened during the day and to create space to listen to your inner world (mind and body). For example, analogous to a practice in the military called “contemplation,” you can reflect daily about critical situations. What moments were difficult and why, how did you feel, and why did you respond the way you did? Reflection helps you with the big picture and your own reactive behavior and its drivers. It’s also helpful to ask trusted colleagues to give you feedback about critical moments where you had to respond under pressure. What are your blind spots and how can you address them the next time? People have many ways to reflect. Some use meditation, some reflect while running or walking the dog. The important thing is that you make it a regular planned practice.

5. Reframe your perspective

When we’re tired from stress, we tend to see negative messages and threats more readily than opportunities and positive messages. Keeping a balance and staying realistic is not easy. Knowing this, is step one. Handling these situations effectively, is step two. When facing a difficult situation, try to redirect away from the negative explanation and toward an exploration of other possibilities that could be true. Viewing the issue through different possibilities and scenarios—from the most positive to the most negative—can help in planning responses later.

When detailed scenario planning is not an option, choose to take a flexible perspective: this is integrative awareness in action. When faced with a difficult situation, ask yourself: Am I jumping to conclusions too fast? What else can be true at this moment? What is important to me and my team right now? With the information on the table now, make a conscious decision about the best way to move toward what matters most. Build time to revisit decisions regularly, with an open, curious, and learning mindset, building on fresh information coming in and at different stages in the crisis.

6. Manage your energy

One of the most difficult things to do in times of crisis is to balance work needs with your own physical well-being. In a crisis atmosphere, you will need recovery time, or at some point something will give—performance or, worse, health. Top athletes know this, and they make sure they build in sufficient time for recovery when they train for top performance. Apart from recovery time, which may be different for everyone, micro practices that are in support of healthy recovery can include meditation, breathing exercises, cardio sports activities, and even power naps.


About the mentor role at MSc Mentor Program, Stockholm School of Eonomics

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on April 29th, 2020 by admin

Johan Mathson, founder at ARC Executive Advisory

“A program like the MSc Mentor Program is stimulating for everyone in a leadership role, not least in terms of learning what motivates and drives other generations.”

What made you sign up as a mentor in the first place?

I have worked for many years with executive coaching (mentoring with business managers). After having experienced how much it is appreciated, I thought it would be interesting to see how my experience could contribute to a younger target group as well. Of course, it also feels extra fun to have contact with my old school as an SSE alum.

What does mentorship mean to you?

I’ll summarise in a few words:

Interest, ask, listen, understand, empathy, support, challenge, accessible and have fun and laugh.

What is the best part about mentoring a student?

It is to help a young and ambitious student, to the best of my ability, develop towards finding a place in the business world that feels fun and challenging every morning.

Have you developed or improved any personal skills during the program?

As a mentor, one can always develop in the two essential tools: Asking and Listening. Hopefully, I have developed further, especially in these two areas.

In what way do you think the MSc Mentor Program will influence your professional career?

A program like the MSc Mentorshiup Program is stimulating for everyone in a leadership role, not least in terms of learning what motivates and drives other generations.

What advice would you give to future mentors?

I would suggest them to answer two questions first:

– What can you offer and how will you go about making that happen?

– What do you expect for your part of the program? How can you influence it?

Source:, April 2020

Nu prövas ledarskapet på allvar

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on March 16th, 2020 by admin
Vi befinner oss i en exceptionell tid då på några veckor en allmänt god konjunktur och ett gott affärsklimat vänt till en global hälso- och finanskris.

Börsen rasade förra veckan mer än den gjort i modern tid. Rese- och hotellbranschen varslar om stora uppsägningar och regeringen har vidtagit extraordinära åtgärder för att motverka spridningen av coronaviruset. Pandemiklassificering är utfärdad. Evenemang ställs in och resandet har stort sätt upphört. Sverige och världen har aldrig upplevt något liknande i modern tid.

I denna tid prövas företag och organisationers ledare till det yttersta. Att leda i medvind och högkonjunktur är något helt annat än det man möter nu som ledare.

En mängd centrala beslut måste tas:
  • Hur leda verksamheten i denna situation full av oro, stress, osäkerhet och turbulens?
  • Hur prioritera mellan ekonomiska  och hälsomässiga intressen?
  • Hur hantera kunder, aktieägare och andra intressenter?
  • Hur prioritera mellan samhällets hållbarhet  och det egna företagets hälsomässiga och ekonomiska situation?
  • Hur hantera personalens oro och stress för både hälsa och eventuella uppsägningar?

Jag hade i slutet av förra veckan ett frukostmöte med en vd för ett stort svenskt företag och samtalet handlade till  stor del om denna kris och hur man som högsta chef skall agera. Han betonade bland annat vikten av att agera, vara tydlig och kommunicera mycket. Att ha både kallt huvud, is i magen och ett varmt hjärta. Att vara både ledare och medmänniska.

Nu är det upp till bevis att visa att man är en  ledare och inte bara chef. Under extrem press lyssnar medarbetare på den person som de har förtroende för och som förtjänar sin ledarroll och mindre på den person som formellt har ansvaret. Nu behöver ledare agera och visa att man är förtjänt av sin roll och ofta höga lön.

Ledaren måste nu se till att kommunicera och vara närvarande. Både internt och externt.

Ledarens uppgift blir att inge förtroende och trygghet och samtidigt ha en plan och vara tydlig med den.  Att se till att få ihop organisationen till en stark sammansvetsad enhet som tillsammans skall reda ut detta svåra läge, Att vara transparent ärlig och öppen med information för att så långt det går skapa lugn och ro för medarbetarna att fortsätta med sitt arbete.

Att se till att alla förstår allvaret i situationen, men också visa på att det finns en plan och en väg framåt. Att se till att inte organisationen blir handlingsförlamad och passiv och reaktiv. Det kan vara så enkla saker som att ställa in externa möten, ta dem via telefon eller video istället. Alla medarbetare påverkas olika av stress och press och det gäller nu att se till att ha med ”alla på tåget”. Att se till att medarbetarna kan fokusera på sina uppgifter och därmed säkerställa att företaget tar sig igenom denna svåra tid.

I kristider uppstå ofta rykten, spekulationer och att fokus hos medarbetare hamnar på annat än att utföra sina arbetsuppgifter. Jag tror att beslutsförmåga och att välja väg är viktigt. Beslut måste tas med begränsad information som beslutsunderlag samtidigt som besluten måste fattas rimligt fort. Det är då viktigt att våga ompröva beslut och att organisation har förståelse för det.

Med ett bra ledarskap från toppen och neråt i organisationen finns alla förutsättningar att navigera sig ut ur krisen och komma ut i ljuset på andra sidan.



Källa:, 16 mars 2020
Av: Jesper Olsson, Senior Consultant , Novare Executive Search

Anställda saknar förtroende för ledningens förändringsarbete

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete, Executive Coaching, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on February 27th, 2020 by admin

Få anställda i stora nordiska finansbolag känner tillit och förtroende till sin ledning i förändringsfrågorna – det visar en ny undersökning från konsultjätten Accenture.

Konsultjätten Accenture har i undersökningen “Nordic Transformation Readiness Study” undersökt hur anställda och chefer på företag inom bank, finans och försäkring arbetar med förändring. Det är första gången undersökningen genomförs i Norden med företag inom bank, finans och försäkring.

Resultatet visar att de nordiska företagen inom bank, finans och försäkring har relativt få anställda som är frustrerade eller otrygga över sin roll i förändringsarbetet, i en internationell jämförelse. De anställda upplever även att organisationerna har tillräckligt med personal för att driva förändringsarbetet framåt.

– Först och främst vill jag säga att alla de nordiska företagen vi analyserat är “on track” med sin förändringsresa. Däremot har de inte kommit lika långt i processen som önskvärt och har ännu inte riktigt fått utväxling för sitt arbete. Vi konstaterar att de har en del kvar att göra för att uppnå de bästa resultaten, säger Linda Håkansson, ansvarig för finansiella tjänster på Accenture.

De nordiska svagheterna identifieras till att få anställda känner tillit och förtroende till sin ledning i förändringsfrågorna. De anställda finner även att cheferna på avdelningarna inte gör tillräckligt för att stödja förändringsarbetet.

– Vårt resultat visar att medarbetare i Norden är redo för att skapa förändring och har alla förutsättningar som behövs. Däremot är det ledningen som här behöver ta kommando över processen vilket inte upplevs av de anställda i nuläget.

På internationell nivå är resultaten de omvända. Där känner fler medarbetare oro och frustration över sin roll i företagets förändringsresa. De upplever också i större utsträckning att företagen är underbemannade för processen.

– Internationellt är resultaten de motsatta. Där är det istället ledningen som driver på för förändring och de anställda som känner sig dåligt utrustade för processen. När vi jämför de nordiska resultaten med de globala konstaterar vi att internationella bolag har kommit längre i förändringsresan än deras nordiska konkurrenter.

Linda Håkansson tror att skillnaden dels beror på kulturella skillnader inom ledarskap. Andra faktorer som spelar in är företagens storlek och benägenhet till förändring.

– I Norden har vi en ledningskultur som önskar konsensus vilket stärker medarbetarnas roll i arbetet men i viss mån försvagar ledarskapet. Internationellt är det vanliga med toppstyrda organisationer och där behöver de istället arbeta med att förankra medarbetare i processerna.

Ser ni några skillnader mellan olika roller på samma företag?
– Det vi ser är de som arbetar på utvecklingssidan bättre förstår företagets hela förändringsprocess och känner sig delaktiga. Rådgivare, eller de som arbetar med slutkunden, är de som ser lägst resultat kring förändringsresan.

Vilken är er rekommendation till ledningar som vill driva förändring?– Det handlar om att förstå sina anställda, sitt företag och tydligt kommunicera vägen framåt. När du som ledare tror att kommunicerat tillräckligt behöver du ofta upprepa budskapen och målsättningen så att det verkligen går in. Det handlar om att skapa en delaktig “vi-känsla” som får dina anställda att nå sin fulla potential.

– Det är väldigt farligt att tro att du som ledning är färdig med förändring. Oavsett vilka andra problem eller utmaningar du som ledning har måste din närvaro vara tydlig och framåtdrivande. En öppen organisation som tillåter personalen att jobba mot tydliga mål.


Undersökningen gjordes under våren 2019 och innefattar anonyma svar från sex nordiska storbolag inom bank, finans och försäkring. 

– Syftet är att du som företag ska ha rätt information när du fattar strategiska beslut. Genom att kartlägga företagens förmåga och beteende inom förändring så att företagen bättre kan förstå hur de ska leda sin utveckling framåt, säger Linda Håkansson, ansvarig för finansiella tjänster på Accenture. 

Undersökningen görs via det Accenture-utvecklade analysverktyget Transformation GPS och kompletteras med djupintervjuer med personer i ledande roller. Sammantaget har Accenture fått svar från över 1 miljon anställda som enligt Accenture tydligt visar var företagen befinner sig i sin förändringsresa. 


Källa:, 27 februari 2020