In a lecture by fellow speaker Helmut Fink-Neuböck, I recently heard the phrase that by working with agile teams, the “illusion of control is gone”. Meaning that executives used to think they had control, even though they never had it in reality. So has this illusion now vanished?
“Nice phrasing!” I thought at first. But then I thought, “How exciting!” because of course: You lead a team of 3, 7, or more people? You can’t control these people 8 hours a day. Trust has always been necessary when you want to focus on your own work. And I love trust as it’s the fuel for excellent results – along with some more ingredients.
So, if you are now working according to agile principles, does that mean your teams do what they want?
As a fan of letting go and trusting – see video – I firmly believe in employee performance and creativity, once they have been left to themselves by the boss. The boss or the company management sets the framework conditions, but the actual execution comes about through the creativity of the employees. Employees are ideally suited to developing problem solutions, improving processes, and identifying the vulnerabilities in the company.
Note: I’m not talking about performance deniers in the team. If this is an issue you are facing, please listen to my podcast or read the blog Inspiration 16.
Regardless of the illusion of control, executives have and will always have the control functions, according to how the company operates, but it won’t be close control. The HOW is now decided by the employees, especially in agile teams. (Have I mentioned that I’m enthusiastic about this?) But the positioning of the goal continues to come from the highest levels of leadership, as these have an overview of market development, define corporate strategy, and set priorities.
So, the bottom line in terms of control is:
All executives still retain the control function.
And all managers still have – as always should have been the case – a duty to give their employees freedom.
Do you sometimes wonder why I keep illustrating similar aspects of leadership from different perspectives? I am telling you because I discuss all of this in my Leadership Seminars with the participating managers. Everyone in the audience always nods and agrees, but once in a role play situation, they do the exact opposite! Most of the leaders speak for 80% of the time, the solution usually comes from the chief, and to round it all off, the boss also summarizes the discussion himself. I will never give up showing leaders that it is not enough to understand the theory, they also need to act accordingly. The job of executives is to grant their employees their entitled degree of freedom of design within the agreed framework.
The old “warhorses” rule from above, and, with their clear declarations, ensure that all is done as they say. The “modern” leaders listen to their employees, allow them freedom, and are able to learn from their employees.
Who will prevail in the long run?
Communications scientist Christiane Brandes-Visbeck states that those who bring in more profit in the end will win. The others will give way. Must give way. I think that’s great. Because more and more companies are beginning to understand that executives with an authoritarian leadership style don’t get the best out of their employees – namely, enthusiastic creativity and commitment. Coincidentally, enthusiastic creativity and commitment is also what people most like to bring to the company. No sarcasm is intended here: If you have any questions, please read my blog Inspiration 16 (tobi bitte verlinken).
Now, however, it is the case that these old warhorses will only have to give way if there are consistent leaders above them. For example, my acquaintance Michael, a mid-tier managing director, once said to his area manager – who had just lost his second assistant in 10 months – “If your next assistant quits as fast, then you’re out too.”
Some managers are just toxic. They poison the atmosphere, slow down productivity, motivation and commitment, and cost the company a lot of innovative energy and money. It takes a strong leader one level higher who either turns this manager around with a clearly announced ultimatum or removes them from the company.
Do you want to know how well you are actually doing your job as a manager?
Here are three questions to ask your employees:
You will be surprised by your employees’ answers, and you will surely learn something new. Every person ticks differently, so does every employee. Find out what your employees need.
Success to you!