Wollen wir die totale Followkratie?

Seit Ende der vergangenen Woche gibt es auf Instagram einen Account mit dem Handle 12062020olympia[1]. Innerhalb weniger Stunden zog der Account so viele Follower an, dass Instagram ihn für einen Bot hielt und vorübergehend deaktivierte[2]. Der Account gehört zu einer Crowdfunding-Kampagne auf Startnext, die Geld für “Die größte BürgerInnenversammlung Deutschlands im Olympiastadion Berlin mit bis zu 90.000 Menschen” einsammelt.

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Four truths about climate action

Last Friday, in many countries around the world, millions were out on the streets to protest for action against climate change. In Germany, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in more than 500 towns[1]. Over the weekend, newspapers and social media buzzed with photos showing large crowds in public places; many of my friends and acquaintances posted their own snapshots from the protest marches.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. xii: ceasing

“Hellhound”, you whisper under your breath, “hellhound, ghoul, vampire, or skeleton. What kind of algorithm would that be?!”. You just got the results for the ‘personality under rigoruous examination’ (p.u.r.e.) test you took with the reputable Visionary Institute for Xpertise (VIX). You had hoped to get some indications for possible alternative careers once your current contract runs out, but somehow it seems these suggestions are not very practical.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. xi: reborn

“You are nominated!”, says a letter from the Union of Inspiring Wigbigwannabees (UIW). Surprisingly, you have been nominated for this year’s supercalifragilistic award for global expialidociousness (s.a.g.e.), a prestigious worldwide prize in recognition of outstanding leadership achievements. In the spirit of sustainability, the winner receives nothing but a ripe apple, so there are many stories about what past winners did with their award apples: some made apple sauce, some dried their apples, and one recent winner let it rot over months, posting daily pictures of its ongoing decay on social media.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. x: respecting

“They’ve been stealing cattle from our giant competitor’s meadows”, reports Tiv, head of your company’s task force for what is stressing everyone (w.i.s.e.). “Who?”, you ask. “The guys and girls from the legal department”, Tiv says. “Apparently, they met offsite early in the morning before work to prepare some missing documentation for the supervisory board meeting. And then they were suddenly caught leading our competitor’s cattle backwards off the grounds”.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. ix: holding

“Rage!”, exclaims Siu, “Black and murderous rage!”. Siu reports back from the first day of your company’s annual session for honoring all reasonable projects (s.h.a.r.p.). The session was established a few years ago to have all members of the top 200 present which of their past projects worked and which failed. The group is then supposed to jointly agree on the set of projects for the next six months. “They got into fights about everything. From apples to belts, from ships to horses – everything”. “I heard about it already”, you say, “but speak and tell the tale once more”.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. viii: caring

“Horse whispering!”, cries Rit. “They want all female staff members to take obligatory horse whispering courses! On some remote Greek island! With evenings spent reciting Sapphic poetry! It’s going to cost us a fortune!”. Rit leads your company’s unit for effective regulations on spending (e.r.o.s.). “Horse whispering?”, you ask. “Yes”, replies Rit. “All female staff members?”, you ask. “Yes”, replies Rit. “Why?”, you ask.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. vii: relaxed

“I come from a family of bull fighters”, say Qis, your newly established manager of extremely stressful intense situations (n.e.m.e.s.i.s.). “I look every challenge straight in the eye, no matter how many red herrings are raised. And then I shake my spear, I take aim, I point, and I stab. I never hesitate, I never lose, and I never run away”. You clear your throat. “Herrings?”, you ask. “Tis a gentleman here”, says Qis, “a plague o’ these pickle herring!”. You clear your throat again.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. vi: sensing

“My hobbies are bird watching”, says Pir, “and PokémonGo”. You are interviewing Pir, the co-founder of a highly successful startup for multi-purpose rattles, for the position of head of your newly established laboratory of useless creative knowledge (l.u.c.k.). “My last catch was a Skarmory”, Pir continues. You reply: “Isn’t Skarmory a rather useless Pokémon?”. “Aren’t you looking for useless knowledge?”, counters Pir. You smile.

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s.u.m.m.e.r. v: trusting

“When you trust someone, you trust the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be”, says Oiq. You hired Oiq, a shaman healer from the Easter Islands, for a board workshop on trust after your latest employee survey rated this dimension lowest of all company values for the third time in a row. From production to sales, from accounting to marketing, and from top management to temporary workers, everybody complains that nobody trusts anybody anymore.

“Trust”, Oiq continues, “cannot grow where mistrust resides. So the prerequisite for trust is that you get rid of all traces of mistrust. I call this process ‘kill all relics of mutual animosities’ – k.a.r.m.a., in short”. Your head feels dizzy and your vision is blurred. Somewhere in the distance, a train rumbles by and a horse neighs.

You doze off. In a hazy dream, you find yourself in the middle of a wheat field amongst cradlers mowing with giant egg spoons.

In a limbo state between awake and asleep, you imagine hearing Oiq’s voice: “All happy companies are alike…”.

All leaders are regularly confronted with grievances about lack of trust in their organizations. Investigating such grievances mostly results in employees reporting that they feel insufficiently trusted by their managers. It is less frequent for managers to complain that they feel insufficiently trusted by their employees. And never is anybody reporting that they themselves worry about not being able to extend trust to others. It seems that, in general, people don’t ever doubt their own ability to trust others, but quite often mistrust others’ ability to trust, especially when it comes to those higher up in the hierarchy.

In some ways, people are right: A leader’s task is – among other things – to not take at face value whatever is presented to them: The sales figures for next year might be overestimated, the business case for the new production site might be miscalculated, and Oiq might not have any genuine insights into trust-building at all. Leaders need to ask the right questions to probe what can be trusted – and what needs to be revised. In this sense, not trusting is part of any leader’s job description. At the same time, overdoing such investigations will be experienced as micro-management, intrusion, and ultimately lack of trust.

The only way out of this dilemma is to help people get better at understanding when and where they can trust themselves – and when and where they need to ask for help, for support, or for more information. Leaders need to trust others’ forces to assess their own knowledge and capabilities realistically. With this, they’ll be able to raise the overall level of trust in their organizations.

You wake up with a jolt. “You misquoted Tolstoi”, you say. “I think we’d rather continue the discussion without you. Because if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of trust as there are hearts”.

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* This is the fifth of a series of blog posts exploring some uniquely motivating mindfully elaborated ramblings (s.u.m.m.e.r.) of mine, written during my summer vacation in 2019, investigating topics and trends relevant for leaders in today’s multilayered world. All persons, situations, and dialogues quoted are purely fictional, albeit informed by what I see happening in companies I work with. If you want to know what I do when I work, read more here and here [retrieved July 9, 2019].

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