You are a celebrated author, listed as one of the world’s top 11 Most Influential HR Thinkers, globally renowned as a thought leader on Leadership 4.0, and describe yourself as an activist for humanising management. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and how you have gone on to become known as the doctor for organisations?
I studied Economic Cybernetics at University and went on to do a PhD in Computer Science at LSE, but I also had a lot of interest in different subjects, so I studied areas such as organisational behaviour, psychology and neuroscience too – anything I could get my hands on!
I then started my career as a computer scientist and about 15 years ago I went through one of my own Big Shifts because I felt that this was not my life purpose. I did a lot of training courses in areas such as coaching, NLP and psychology and as I was on maternity leave at the time, I had time to reflect and realised that I was not going back to Computer Science.
I then decided to become a business school professor so I could help leaders and organisations to change and get to a higher level of thinking and working. That is how I started getting ideas for The Management Shift approach and I pulled together lots of different disciplines and created The Management Shift models, theories, and practical tools. One result of this work is The Management Shift Accreditation Programme for Coaches.
I became known as the ‘doctor for organisations’ partly from the 5 Level Emergent Leadership Model I developed which is the key theory for the Management Shift approach as well as the backbone of The Management Shift Accreditation Programme for Coaches Programme. I thought that just helping leaders and leadership teams to shift to a higher level was not good enough or fast enough for me. I love big ideas and making them happen, I also had to create something practical to use to make a difference and that is my purpose.
I went back to my research and created the 6 Box Leadership Model and diagnostic tool which is like an MRI for companies. We can see where the inner weaknesses and strengths are in the six areas of: culture, relationships, individuals, strategy, systems and resources. Once we do this scan, I can see what is working, or not working and then I work with a client to develop a specific year-long Action Plan (to leverage strengths and address weaknesses) to be implemented which is like helping an organisation to heal what is out of balance. Then we can retest.
The Management Shift is (so far) the result of your life’s work and expansive, complex research. What is the concept and its significance to those people who are leading companies?
The key concept of The Management Shift is the 5 Level Emergent Leadership Model which I developed on the basis of qualitative research into various models, learning and development theories, adult ego development, consciousness development and leadership development theories. I pulled together lots of theories and figured out there are five levels that our individual mindset goes through and there is a corresponding organisational culture at each level.
Every level is characterised by a specific thinking pattern, language used, emotions, leadership behaviour and organisational outcomes. We cannot skip the levels and can only go up one at a time, but we can have pockets of different levels within the same organisation.
With that I created the language, I made the complex simple and codified a very complex situation in a very simple way and this is the backbone of this new programme for coaches.
Level 1 is a lifeless mindset, apathetic culture, not much gets done, we have paralysis with everything collapsing - not a good place to be.
At Level 2 we have a reluctant mindset, stagnated culture and this is where people do the minimum they can get away with just to get their pay cheque. They bring their body to work, but heart and mind stay at home.
Level 3 has a command and control mindset, orderly culture. This is where we are micromanaged, we follow the rules, we obey, we tick the boxes, we achieve KPIs, and we have low levels of engagement and passion for work, performance, innovation and profit.
Levels 1 to 3 are where most organisations are today and this is one of the main reasons why we see a lot of problems in terms of low productivity, engagement, and innovation.
The Management Shift is also what I call the Big Shift and represents a process when we move from Level 3 to Level 4. Here, everything changes.
Level 4 is an enthusiastic mindset and collaborative culture. The keywords are trust, transparency, purpose, collaboration, having fun working, giving back to society and teamwork. Here, we get a step change increase in performance, engagement, innovation and profit.
Occasionally we can reach Level 5 with a limitless mindset, unbounded culture. This is where highly innovative teams work on amazing innovations for humanity, where they are driven by purpose and working on big problems such as the pandemic, the recession, pollution, illness and hunger.
For individuals, leaders and organisations, the objective is to be at Level 4 and to occasionally reach Level 5. If we go through difficult times, we might temporarily slip down, but we can bounce back. This is the key concept that we use on this programme so that coaches can anchor at Level 4 and we teach them how to help their clients to go through the Big Shift too.
What is your assessment of the key trends and challenges facing business leaders and organisations right now and what should they be doing to address them?
They need intelligent organisational design because everything has changed with the pandemic. We saw a polarisation towards lower levels initially where it was all fear, panic and worrying about many things including health. Then there is another polarisation towards Levels 4 and 5 where people see this as an opportunity to reset, recalibrate, to let go of things that did not work and focus on creating things that will work better and for many organisations, that may mean a hybrid working model.
I don’t see people rushing back to offices because we’ve seen that people can be trusted to work from home and in many cases, be even more productive. In a sense this whole situation has accelerated the Big Shift to Level 4 because leaders can’t micromanage their employees when they work from home. They have to give them responsibility and trust that they know how to do their work well and do it when, where and how they want to do it and just focus on the outcomes and not the process.
I think this is a new trend that will accelerate. Many cultures will recalibrate as will leadership styles, and leaders will need help from coaches. If leaders don’t have awareness of Level 4 leadership, working and humane cultures, they should at least be open to creating this awareness and then they can go on this journey to lead in a different way from the head and heart. It is not enough to lead from the head anymore.
That is going to be the future and we are going to need to prepare to embrace this in a more agile, resilient, and humanised way. This cannot be over emphasised because people are not resources, they are sources of all value creation. Leaders need to understand this and show they care. They need people to have this work-life balance and trust and responsibility play an important role.
You are a champion of organisations and leaders being more connected to purpose and meaning and humanising the workplace. What values or leadership qualities are most important to you?
Number one would be compassion and leading from the heart. Authenticity, so you walk the talk and don’t say the right thing because it sounds good from a PR and CSR perspective, but because you really mean it from your heart.
I think integrity is also very important and awareness of the big picture and why things are happening. Organisations should be the force for good in society - for humanity. I think every leader should ask themselves each morning ‘what can I do today to make the world a better place?’ Always think big and think about the ripples that you can create to make the world a better place.
Who in the world of business do you admire more and how have they influenced you?
Some of the leaders who I interviewed for the Humane Capital book stand out for me.
Anita Krohn Traaseth, a former CEO of Innovasjon Norway used the Management Shift book before it was even published as she had just started in the role. It took her just over 12 months to shift this government organisation from a lower level to Level 4 with amazing results such as reducing the time it takes to process entrepreneurial start up grants from 60 to four days. Absenteeism and stress reduced and the revenue from those entrepreneurs who used their service increased by almost 10 per cent.
I also liked the story from Salesforce and Mark Benioff with the 1/1/1 programme where one per cent of employees’ time, one per cent of product and one per cent of their profit goes to charity. It is a great example of their share value and revenues going up and that organisations can do good and do well at the same time and that it is not mutually exclusive.
The other example for SMEs is Propellernet. They have lots of fun, are doing well, are increasing their revenue and make employee dreams come true. Every month an employee writes down a dream and they pick one out randomly when they reach their targets and whatever it says, the company will pay for that dream to come true.
You discuss in your books how those leaders or coaches go through ‘the Big Shift’ as part of completing The Management Shift. Can you tell us more about what that entails and describe your own personal experience of undergoing the Big Shift?
It starts with awareness. I tend to use an analogy of when people are stuck at Level 3 and that it is like having a brick wall in front of them. When they get an awareness of what is behind the wall, of what is at Level 4, it is like creating cracks in the wall.
In my work, I try to create as many cracks as possible so that the light comes through. People see the light and they go on a journey. We captured that journey in our eLearning programme for coaches as well.
You get the awareness, then you consciously have to let go of thinking, emotions, behaviours and language at Level 3. You consciously have to start thinking, speaking and behaving as Level 4. After a while, you create new neural connections in your brain and then it becomes a new subconscious competence so you will have shifted properly to Level 4.
Then everything changes for you and the people around you. It is like a psychological anchor where you anchor your thinking, energy, language and behaviour at Levels 4 and 5 and no matter what comes at you, you can see the big picture and step into your power.
Having designed The Management Shift Accreditation Programme for Coaches which we are proud to be launching with you in October, what benefits does your leadership coaching model offer established coaches and their clients or colleagues?
The benefits for coaches at the personal level where they anchor at Level 4 is life changing. We are different. We talk differently, our energy and emotions are different and then we interact with our environment in a different way and then the better it gets the better it gets and we see the effects of those ripples as well.
On the business level, this will help coaches to stand out because it is an advanced programme for qualified, experienced coaches. They will be able to add the Management Shift approach and assessment tools to their toolkit and help create extraordinary leaders that will help create those organisations that we need to have now to survive and thrive in this pandemic.
By doing that they will get to a higher level, they will stand out and should get higher fees as well. Most importantly it will take their businesses, themselves and clients to a higher level. There will be benefits for the clients because they will have the awareness as coaches will be creating those cracks in the wall too.
For me it is super exciting because it is my purpose to help as many leaders and organisations to go through this journey. With training fellow coaches to help others to do that, I can see lots of concurrent ripples happening at the same time in any part of the world.
You describe how The Management Shift model can have a ripple effect. What do you mean by that?
We are like a neural Wi-Fi. We pick up the mood and emotions of people around us and we emulate them. So, the better it gets, the better it gets at higher levels and the lower we go, the worse it gets.
When we are at lower levels, it is like the negative vortex of energy that is so de-energising, demotivating, disengaging – we all know places like that. When we are at higher levels, we spread positive ripples, we energise people around us and they energise people around them and we spread those ripples.
If you look at the quantum field, we influence people around us, so it spreads from the individual to teams, to organisations and to the whole society and humanity. If you have a critical mass of people within an organisation at Level 4, the whole culture will shift to Level 4. If you have a critical mass of organisations at Level 4, the whole society will shift to Level 4 and then the whole of humanity. It is like an evolutionary path where our own little contribution effects the whole.
What are your personal ambitions for The Management Shift Model?
I want to help make this world a better place and I know that it is my purpose. I want to push forward to create this awareness, to give this knowledge to as many people as possible and create these big ripples.
You dedicated your second book ‘Humane Capital’ to humanity. What would you like your legacy to be?
I would like to be remembered as a humanist who invented the big HOW of the Big Shift that has helped the evolution of humanity.
A huge thank you to Vlatka for sharing her story with us.
You can learn more about The Management Shift Accreditation Programme and our other coach training programmes here, or register and attend one of our special webinars to mark its launch on 8th October.