Leadership and cultural dynamics – Jitske Kramer
Leadership Event #3 – October 9th 2019
Leadership Event #3 – October 9th 2019
It is the 9th of October around 4 PM, when just over 100 colleagues enter the atrium in The Hague, for an afternoon and evening full of inspiration. It’s the third Change Leadership event of 2019.
Opening by Søren
Søren kicks off by emphasizing how exited he is by the number of attendees. “Because this event takes place at the HQ, other employees are able to hear and see this story too. And that is exactly what we want to achieve: transparency!” This event is about culture. The ‘I feel I belong to something, to a group of people!’ experience. An open and understanding culture, how do we make that happen? Knowing we’re all busy and have both good and bad days. Søren makes clear that managers have an extremely important role in this one. “You’re the one to make other employees feel that way. You signed up for it when you decided you want to be a manager. It is a privilege!”
When Jitske is being introduced, a strong personality enters the stage. Her message is clear: culture isn’t difficult. It’s there, you create it yourself and you can’t do without it.
We people build tribes. Tribes as in groups, teams, organizations, etc. Within a tribe, we are the ones who make the rules. Nothing has meaning of itself, we people create the language. Strong tribes are as strong as relationships are strong: we have to make it work together!
HOW CULTURE WORKS
So how do we make it work? We’re used to think in charts and positions, but that’s not reality. In real life we act on relations.
As said, together we shape culture. Culture is created by listening to each other and having conversations. Culture clashes if one person wants to tell the other how it’s done. As a manager, we sometimes fall into that trap. True change isn’t made in vertical power, but in peer to peer power. How do we do that? We talk!
Jitske asks the audience: “do you have ‘bullet point meetings’ or ‘campfire meetings’”? A lot of managers confirm we do organize a lot of the first ones. But she underlines the importance of the second ones: a campfire meeting is where culture is shaped! It’s where you build the soul of the tribe. Of course she is talking about a metaphor, but in essence it is all about really try to connect with each other. (And if you’re into it, feel free to organize an actual campfire session..)
SAFE FOR DIVERSITY
Jitske points out the importance of diversity. “We are all different, yet at the same time we are the same, because we’re people!” In our case as an organization there are different subtribes, but together we are one company. Organizations that don’t give attention to diversity do either explode or implode. We have to ask ourselves: is it safe to have a different opinion? Is it safe to actually feel things, is it safe to cry? Does it feel safe to stand up and suggest ideas? It has to! Because we are all different and yet have to be part of the tribe.
Do you see Harry in the picture above? He’s hanging upside down. It’s that one colleague who always has another opinion. Who always has something to say and disturbs the consensus. If we see Harry, we’re used to saying: sit up straight! Because this is our reflex. We usually don’t say: hey, what’s down there!? That’s interesting!
We have to deal with different voices. And silence is not a ‘yes’, the group is responsible to hear all views. As a manager, ask the question: is there anyone with a different view? And is there anyone else who recognizes this? We have to listen to minority voices. If we don’t, there will be no innovation. Check out the sabotage line below, you might recognize some reactions of the people. If you have this in your tribe, you will lose.
LEADERSHIP – THE POTATO KING
Now Jitske tells us a story. The story is about a King who tries a new strategy in growing only potatoes on his land. He takes a few months of preparation, tells his people about his plans and orders them to start the growing process. But to be honest, the majority of the people don’t really share his ideas about growing only potatoes. What to do?
The managers are challenged to finish this story. “What would you do, would you follow the King because he’s the King? Would you confront him with your doubts?” The audience responses differ. And it’s clear that just saying: King, I’m not sure about your plans.., isn’t that easy. While thát is lightning a campfire!
This story is an example of what happens when the King -the manager- is not part of the tribe. He has to recognize that the wisdom is in the tribe. And has to trust his people on doing the right thing.
LOVE AND MARRIAGE
Then, Jitske asks the managers: what is T-Mobile? Where is our tribe beginning or ending? What’s happening now T-Mobile and Tele2 are merging? What’s happening now we are three brands within one company? Working together is like a marriage. And a marriage can be arranged out of love, or because it’s a strategic choice. Is it a love-marriage, you got to make sure that the contract is right. Is it a marriage because of a contract (strategic choice), then it’s the other way around: you need to grow love! Tele2 and T-Mobile need to fall in love together J And although it doesn’t always feel like it in the beginning; these kind of marriages most of the time are extremely powerful and effective!
In a marriage and also in a tribe, you need both POWER and LOVE. The managers are forced to decide whether they see themselves as power or love (and make funny movements ;-)) It becomes clearly visible that this group of people has both, but the majority represents power.
READY FOR CHANGE
After the break we play a game, in random groups of 5. The managers get a few minutes to practice and after that, when the game starts, they are not allowed to talk anymore. During 3 rounds, changes are being made to the table layout, and confusion appears everywhere. It’s both hilarious and eye-opening: there is a strong link with reality. By meeting and working with other people, you learn about your own situation. This is the beauty of diversity within a company, we also call it creativity! If you want to use diversity, find new ways to communicate around the differences. Deal with differences as a jam session: play your sound, also listen, and create something new together.