Self-Organization Reimagining the Way We Work Together

October 4, 2021

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Our Living Room is a space for us to connect, to explore thoughts and learnings, in a relaxed and very human way. Through this channel, we look forward to an engaging dialogue and resonance with our guests, and bring a breath of fresh air to the space we occupy in this virtual world.On this episode, we welcome Lisa Gill, who is included in the Thinkers50 Radar 2020 list.She is the host of the Leadermorphosis podcast, for which she has interviewed thought leaders and practitioners from all over the world about the future of work. As a writer she regularly contributes to websites like Corporate Rebels, as well as her blog on Medium, and was nominated for the EODF Best Written Contribution Award. Lisa is the co-author of the book ‘Moose Heads on the Table: Stories About Self-Managing Organisations from Sweden’ (2020).

Transcript

Living Room Conversations: Self-Organization – Reimagining the Way We Work Together

Anna = Anna Nestorova (Host)

Lisa = Lisa Gill (Guest) 

ANNA: Okay, we are live. Hello everyone, good morning, good day and good evening. My name is Anna I am part of life sciences and today I am your host in the ninth episode of Living Room Conversations. We are here with a great guest. I will present her in a minute but just as an

introduction maybe you know, maybe you’re joining us for the first time this format we host here; the Living Room Conversations is part of our LIVEforward institute brands, this is a LIVEScience brand and the format aims to have a invite for a really casual and cozy conversation with all of you. We stream this episode at LinkedIn,Youtube and also Facebook, so you’re all very much invited to interact with us; to post your questions and engage in this discussion. Yes, it will be a discussion between me and my guest but it’s actually meant for all of us to bring value to everyone. And you’re invited to challenges, to bring your questions and not just into- how into like different flows for this conversation. 

I’m here, not alone, I will be together with my guests but also in the back in the behind the scenes we have, we have today Ken and Monica to whom I’m very, very thankful to supporting- that they support us and with the technical aspects and organizational aspects so we can have a really, really nice conversation today.

I am here together with a lady I can present, after I met her and interacted with her as an inspirator. She inspires people and organizations to take a deeper look not only at how they work together but also how they think and how they feel together and she invites these people and organization to shape their ways of working, and develop their ways, evolve their ways

of working. I can describe her as an inspirator and she presented herself as a reporter.

Welcome, please welcome Lisa Gill with me today. She’s a friend of LIVESciences and the teal community and I’m really excited to have you here today lisa and discuss how can we work better together and tapped a bit into different aspects of self-organization. You presented yourself as a reporter; my question is what kind of reporter are you Lisa? Are you a live reporter, are you an observer and reflector? And tell us a bit more about your story, into uh in your self-organization story, how you came to this topic and you became a reporter for it.

LISA: Yeah thank you thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to our conversation

and I hope there’s lots of juicy questions that we can call into the conversation as well in

the comments. Um, yeah someone, I forget who now but someone sort of described what I was doing a bit as like that I’m like a reporter on the future of work or on new ways of working um and I quite liked that because I am also a practitioner and a coach and a trainer but I do have a passion for writing about new ways of working and I also have a podcast called Leader Morphosis where I interview different practitioners and thought leaders and authors and people from around the world who are kind of putting into practice

new ways of working. self-managing teams and things like that. So yeah I’d like to think that i’m this sort of journalist reporter trying to curate and gather stories and examples

that help people to be a bit bolder and to try out new ways of working in their own contexts.

ANNA: Thank you very much. I guess you collect like, great experience and inspiration to bring back to organization and also how this shapes you and your approach. Maybe just taking it from here Lisa, what evolution have you observed in you and how you interact with teams and organizations but also with your colleagues and you know, like your environment? Because you reflect so much around the topic of self-organization. What is the, how this changed you, how your story came back to you and evolved you?

LISA: Yeah. That’s a good question. I think it took me a long time to find my thing and my purpose, and I did a lot of different jobs before I ended up kind of by accident in a learning and development organization and when I started to become interested in uh in more radical ideas, that was when I left the corporate world and set up my own company. And I was inspired as I know some listeners here will be as well, by books like Reinventing Organizations by Frederick

Laloux and I think I, I’ve had, like shifts in my thinking along the way.

Because I remember in the beginning I was really excited and enthusiastic about like ‘oh

wow like everyone has to work in self-managing teams and hierarchy is evil and bad and and we should just get rid of hierarchies and then everything will be great and people will be happy

and the world’s problems will be solved’ but i’ve been challenged by colleagues along the way and by you know having conversations and reading different books, and meeting people in

organizations that were really putting this stuff into practice um where I realized that it’s not that

simple and that hierarchy itself isn’t you know, bad necessarily it’s it’s how we apply it and how consciously we do that. But I think I’ve evolved a lot in terms of, in terms of how I interact with people, I’m quite conflict avoidant as well and you know we can talk some more about

this later but part of the work that I do with my colleagues is really challenging us to talk much more about what’s under the surface and what’s getting in the way for us to be effective and that’s sometimes scary. 

So yeah there’s so many things I could go off and talk about but um I’m sure we’ll come to them in the conversation.

ANNA: Thank you very much for sharing Lisa. Just to reflect what you said but maybe along the lines of what is agility do we need to apply self-organization in every context or agile methods in every context, some contexts just do not do not require agile methodologies or agile approach.

They were just, you know, depends on the environment, depends on on the people a lot, and yeah self-organization, I mean agility as we, the different aspects of agility is maybe not applicable, you cannot just transfer in every context. Just yeah. Very, very much around the the needs of this specific environment. And this brings me to the question; how, how do you see exactly this self-organization is it for like from your experience and for, from what you observe through different companies um is there the, the mindset for agility? Is there the mindset for self-organization? Would you, would you say something we can learn? That everyone can learn? Can learn, or there are some contexts where there is no way you can, you don’t need it and you’ll never, never get it?

LISA: Yeah I get asked this question a lot. And I can share like from my experience I mean a big part of the work I do is with an organization called Tough Leadership Training and when I first met the co-founder; Karen Tinelius, she talked about what for me was the missing piece in conversations about you know, agile ways of working or self-managing teams or you

know a lot of these ideas. Which is not so much about structures and processes but about

mindset and culture, and our way of being; like how we are with each other and she had experience in going back into the 90s of working with organizations and transforming them into

organizations without managers and the way she did that was uh, really through coaching people and supporting people to have totally different kinds of dialogues. 

And so I think this has been a key thing I’ve learned over the last few years, is that I think it does make a difference, you know, how, how we relate to or how we see um, our relational dynamics in work. And you could say that we’re sort of in a paradigm that we’re blind to which is like a way of working a kind of hierarchical dynamic that even those of us who think we’re really empowering or coaching or adult to adult don’t realize how ingrained this is in us from school and workplaces and stuff. And so I think, I think it can be learned to answer your question. I think it’s, I think there are certain ways that you can train in this mindset and way of being which is really to become aware of how automatically we tend to do the opposite of what we want, um

that we can tend to be sort of parent-child you could say in, in our way of being that we give advice a lot, that we step in that we try and solve things and so we can train to be much more. Coaching much more. You know, allowing the responsibility to flourish in others. 

And I would also say that it’s not for everyone. That there are people I think who don’t like to work in this way for lots of different reasons. And there are contexts where perhaps this doesn’t make sense or it’s you know not the right thing. So that’s certainly been something that I’ve learned through experience and through talking to other people; is not to force this on anyone or that it really has to be chosen because I believe it takes a big transformation and to sort of

embark on that journey. People have to want to do it.

ANNA: Yeah I think this is one of the key aspects also from what we observe, and what, how we, what we see with when working with customers is you really want to be curious enough to

go there and try it and see what works, what doesn’t work for you, adapt it for your context. And then it’s um this question where people ask always, what, what it, like can we, ‘can we have a

bottom-up transformation of the organization? Or it should be like without leadership; you know, no way’ what are your observations? What is your experience when working on these topics? Is there this bottom-up thing? Is it possible especially for bigger organizations? What is your observation there? I’m curious.

LISA: Yeah I think, I mean I kind of want to say two things that maybe sound contradictory. So one is that, in my experience if you really want a full shift to a self-managing or agile way of working, you know whatever term you want to use and, and I’m saying that because like for

me, the themes are more autonomy in teams. And you know, distributed decision making things like that. And there are lots of different you know, jargon words out there to describe that but um,

in my experience, you really don’t get the whole shift and the full effects of it if leaders at the top are not bought into it. And that doesn’t just mean that they um, you know, endorse it but it also means that nothing will change if the leaders at the top aren’t willing to change.

So we’ve seen many examples of leaders um, you know, saying ‘we’re going to become self-managing and everyone else needs to change!’ you know? And it and it will not work if

every single person, especially those at the top isn’t also willing to confront you know, their own pitfalls and develop and learn a hell of a lot. It can be quite a painful process because you’re really unlearning a lot of this conditioning that we all have in the kind of hierarchical dynamic.

So that’s that’s the first thing i’ll say. And then the slightly contradictory thing i’ll say is that um, I talk to a lot of people who are in large organizations or in you know, very hierarchical bureaucratic organizations, legacy organizations like public sector organizations who you know, are brilliant people and desperately want to influence their teams and their level and their part of

the organization and they’re really engaged in these ideas and teal and self-management and liberating structures. 

And I think that you can still move the dial in a meaningful way for the people closest to you without getting permission. Or without like a full like you know, top-down huge change initiative so I say that because I don’t want people to be disheartened because I do think you can make a difference and if you think of it, as a spectrum maybe you don’t go all the

way. You know? 

ANNA: Yeah, you don’t need to, maybe. Exactly.

LISA: Yeah! But you can make a big difference you know. I’ve spoken to organizations where people have just started doing meetings differently you know, where they use liberating structures for example to um, to have much more involving distributed meetings that are much more purposeful and human and… So, yeah I think if you want the full effects it needs to be everyone in the organization especially those at the top but there are definitely things you can do wherever you are without getting permission that will make a big difference.

ANNA: Thank you for this. We can summarize it, just start if you’re curious. It doesn’t

matter where you are in the organization, see what is possible get advice and maybe

take one action. 

LISA: Yes. 

ANNA: So culture is basically whatever we call culture it’s like really it’s not the top, yes, maybe behaviors like at the top shape culture in a different way than behaviors at the bottom there is no bottom and top. But yeah different parts of the organization but still it’s, it could be pockets of culture how how we want to leave it. And you mentioned something; I will take the word unlearn and it’s a lot of unlearning, personal level but also how we do stuff as a team um, how and it’s a big topic also people say we need to really unlearn these are old habits and these are patterns we follow.

And I hear this from many stuff, many, many points including internally we as a team and every one of us, how this your um, how do you say, how would you be; how is your approach when you go to an organization and to a team and observe and support them to unlearn? Let’s say you have this very prominent adult-adult relationship which we wish for, how do you get there and we have to unlearn something? What is the approach? Is that where you start interacting with people making them curious to explore?

LISA: Yeah it’s a good question. I think a good place to start is to confront how stuck we are and how automatically we act from this traditional paradigm if I call it that. So, if I give an example um, you know so many of these skills and abilities that we need to develop to work in these more autonomous decentralized ways of working; it’s nothing new like if I talk to you about them now like everyone will be familiar with them.

But you really need to develop these skills on a whole other level if you want to work in this way. So, for example: listening skills. The first way to start unlearning our habits when it comes to listening and becoming you know an even better listener because listening is like a golden skill like not just listening for you know what’s being said but listening under the surface, listening for what’s needed, listening for you know what is in the way um and the place to start there is to confront how much you don’t listen.

So to start by assuming and realizing how little we listen most of the time that we actually wait for our turn to speak or you know, we’re thinking of the things and that applies to all of these different abilities. You know, asking coaching questions, giving you know, adult to adult feedback. Um, that it’s a good place to start to confront how little you do that or how often we do that in a kind of parent-child way you know, that we’re so used to giving advice for example; giving people solutions if someone comes to us and says ’yeah I’m struggling with this

what do you think?’ I think ‘oh I have a solution for that!’ and I give you my solution. But that’s not developing your capacity. That’s you know, my way of doing something might not be what you need.

So um, yeah I think creating that self-awareness first of all and then just creating intentional regular spaces where people can train in these abilities practice real conversations, get feedback from each other, coach each other you know, so this is what my colleagues and I at Tough do. We create these intensive training programs where people can practice these kinds of conversations, key conversations that shift the culture in this direction and get tons of feedback. You know, painful tough feedback on our pitfalls and trying out new ways of being because that’s what we’re doing. This kind of partnership way of being which is not currently what we are taught in schools or what we experience in workplaces so yeah. 

ANNA: If you allow me um to summarize on one hand this first create an awareness like, be conscious of what is happening, and how the around as is and our like desires stayed in a way. Like, just get awareness around this. And second create a structure and do this first step a bit like with yeah, create this culture thing around you, start the movement.

Yeah, we have here a question from Rhea. What would be your advice for leaders who are trying to start this journey I guess, around self management in the context of traditionally said hierarchical organization I guess we can refrain, like we take it from our last part of the conversation, what do we need to unlearn but what will be the leadership advice around this beginning of the journey? 

LISA: Yeah I think you know, it’s like building up on what I said a bit. I sometimes like to joke a bit. Assume that you’re a dictator and go from there because I think we tend to overestimate our current ability level with these things and we tend to feel like you know, ‘I think I’m pretty good at listening, I think i’m pretty good at you know, unleashing responsibility’. But why I say that is if if I assume that I’m not, if I assume that there are things that I’m doing, pitfalls that I have that I’m blind to, then that unlocks a kind of curiosity mindset which means that I can go and get feedback from my colleagues from my peers and ask things like you know, ‘when do you experience me as as not listening?’ or you know, ‘do you have any feedback for me about times where you feel like I don’t relate to you as being a fully capable adult?’ or ‘I don’t you know, give you the full responsibility that you’d like?’ or ‘what are things that I do that are unnecessary and someone else could do them better?’. 

You know, if you’re a leader, I think if you can ask humble curious questions like that, that is going to give you all kinds of fuel for learning and development I think. And just think of it like a dodo that it’s going to take time, many years to shift, to unlearn this way of being it’s not your fault, you’re not bad or wrong you know, we are all in this paradigm. 

And it takes time and it’s confusing and difficult to sort of transition out of it and so one of my colleagues often has this quote that you know ‘mastery is the ability to be in the gap between how it is and how you would like it to be’. 

So I think getting lots of feedback, being really humble, being really curious and recognizing that it’s going to take a lot of training and commitment and feedback and ouch moments to become the kind of leader that’s needed for this kind of way of working to really flourish.

ANNA: Can I ask you one question based on this? Do you see, because humbleness is for me

indeed the first step to look critically at your – not critical, honestly at yourself and see where you might need support and complementary force that we create something better together. This humbleness is the first step, is this humbleness part becoming getting this first step around how, becoming humble is part of the unlearning journey for people?

LISA: Yeah, definitely. And you know, you can do that as I said by um, you can do sort of self-assessment about you know how I listen or how confident or how good I am at certain key

abilities which I would say are things like being able to be a good coach, being able to really listen under the surface, giving feedback in an empowering way, you know, creating openness and trust around you. Um, so being humble I think is really honestly self-evaluating yourself but also getting feedback from other people.

And really, you know if you are a leader and the higher up you are, the more work you’ll have to do to get honest feedback from people because they’ll be scared to give it to you. So then that humility really comes into play where you say like you know, ‘Anna, I really want your feedback because I really want to develop as a leader and I know that might be difficult and I know you’re a nice person and maybe you don’t want to hurt my feelings but it would really help me if you could give me like unvarnished, really brutally honest feedback because that’s what I’m going to need’. So I can say more things to really you know make it a bit safer for you to give me feedback.

ANNA: Thank you very much. And around yeah, this journey of how to get started, how to get started as a leader. What are some challenges people at personal level but also teams experience at the beginning of this journey often – where do where they say ‘okay we’re like now we are stuck now we need someone to reflect to hold a mirror to support just to give us a hand and even not only coach but real mentors like go to this now we do this and that yeah’.

Where do you experience; what are the areas if you think about um, personal and team level I don’t know what what what resonates around this? Why it’s difficult? ‘Ah we don’t get there’ yeah.

LISA: Well I think um I can share a couple of things. So, one thing is when when you make a decision as a team or an organization to, to make this transition to start to develop these ways of working. Um, there are usually like a couple of things happen. So, ideally you want to have involved people in this decision in the first place you know, said something about what this will involve and gotten some kind of consent or at least input on the decision so it’s not um a top-down decision that’s come out of nowhere.

But even once everyone has agreed ‘okay, we’re going to work in this way!’ and they and they have permission and it’s sort of declared ‘now we’re going to be self-managing!’ or whatever it is. People, there are always some people who start to freak out because they feel like, they’ll complain about things like ‘it’s not clear like we don’t have a road map!’ you know, ‘what is the recipe? Just give us the alternative structures or processes!’ um you know, ‘it’s not it’s not clear we need more help!’ and when that happens it’s so tempting and easy for leaders to rush in to try and rescue and want to do something to fix that. 

And the problem is A: you won’t be able to because it’s, it’s emergent and it’s subjective and it’s challenging and there is no blueprint or recipe or you know there are some you know, inspiration points and alternative structures and processes, sure, but you you cannot follow like a recipe. But also because, actually those uh, concerns are coming from a deeper place. Which is not you know, there’s no surface level solution that’s going to alleviate those pains right, so what’s needed actually is, is to create spaces where those people can feel heard to really listen to them

and be patient and compassionate that you know, this is really scary for people if you’re a manager you know, you’re going to feel like uh, threatened. ‘Do I add value anymore? Am I going to be fired?’ you know ‘do I have no place anymore?’. If you aren’t a manager or haven’t been a manager and suddenly you’re given all this new responsibility and decision making power that’s also scary. Suddenly, you’re much more visible suddenly it’s higher risks so what people can sometimes do is when people start saying these things and freaking out it’s thinking ‘oh no we need to shut it down this doesn’t work’ or you know ‘I need to rescue them’ and instead it’s like if you can be with that, that is part of the process and that will happen and support people and listen to them and coach them through that, then that will kind of build much more resilience.

And this is why it’s so valuable to train in those skills that I started talking about because it’s, it you need to be able to listen on a completely different level. You need to be able to ask coaching questions things like you know so, ‘so what’s needed?’ or ‘what would you need in order to feel more supported?’ or ‘what’s the biggest obstacle? what’s in the way?’ you know? And giving feedback, also kind of playing back you know what what you’re hearing and patterns that you’re noticing. So that’s one thing and then another thing I would say which is like another dimension, is that it’s really tough for people to step into nothing. Again, a lot of people start to explore this way of working and they say oh ‘we’re moving away from traditional hierarchical structures and processes and we’re going into self-management um and there’s no alternatives. So you’re sort of stepping away from this very familiar you know, scaffolding into nothing. So if

you can create some scaffolding and and that can look like many different things. But you know, it can be in the form of some key agreements. Or you know, one or two key practices, or you know, a time frame of like ‘we’re going to experiment with this for a number of months and we’re going to review what worked and what didn’t work’ and so, giving people something to step into

is really helpful.

ANNA: Thank you Lisa. We have an interesting question I really want to pick up, although I have prepared another one but Claus, Claus Møller has the following question here: ‘are you saying no to clients because they are not ready or not if you they’ oh, I’m sorry ‘if you feel they are not ready?’ so what happens if they are not ready or you feel they are not ready? What is your interaction with them?

LISA: Yeah, it’s a juicy question. Yeah, I do say no to clients and I and I think it’s kind of a nice thing that when I first started specializing in this kind of work, there weren’t many, there wasn’t as much appetite for it as there is now. And so I was sort of saying yes a lot in the beginning. And now I’m much you know, I’ve learned a lot of lessons and I have a lot of scars and I do say no, and like for me, one of the indicators is when I ask clients about the reasons for exploring this, you know, what’s the purpose? And if someone says something to me like ‘oh well you know, we want to be uh, leading edge in our sector and I can see that other organizations are starting to um, develop and progress in this area’ that to me is a red flag because it seems like you know we’re doing this because it’s the trendy thing to do or because we want to be seen to be progressive.

So, I’m really looking for, especially if I’m talking to like the founder or the CEO if they’re the one who’s contacting me. Like what is what is this sort of more deep or human reason why you’re doing this? Frederic Laloux talks about this in a nice way where he says you know, ‘what are you no longer okay with? and what are you really yearning for?’ so I often use those questions now and if then someone can say something that is convincing compelling you know ‘I’m no longer okay with um, people in the organization not being involved in decisions that affect them’ or you know ‘how our organization is contributing to destroying the planet’ or whatever it might be. That, to me then gets us talking about like the real stuff so that’s like the reason part. And then also I try and scare them away sometimes. 

So I’ll talk to the leaders in the organization and really make them aware that this is painful. Like, are you up for this journey? Because it’s going to be confronting it’s really going to shake your sense of identity and self-worth because in my experience and in many of my colleagues experience even if someone says in theory, like ‘yeah I’m up for that!’ and ‘yeah you know I’m looking forward to having more free time because I’ve you know empowered more people and I don’t have to be so involved in decisions!’ but the reality is that so many leaders miss when they start this process. They miss being the hero you know, and swooping in and saving the day. Or they miss being needed and it’s very confronting and challenging to realize that you can no longer add value in that way. That you have to find new ways of adding value. And not everyone wants to do that and is ready for that because it involves a lot of you know, reflection and soul-searching and and painful feedback so I think if you know, to answer the second part of Claus’ question you know, ‘what do I do if they’re not ready?’ I give them some really frank feedback on what I think they would need to develop or explore or reflect on if they really want to do this or not. And then I would recommend you know as we’ve been talking about you know, doing some some training or some some personal development work that would support them in this journey because without that it’s going to be tough.

ANNA: Thank you Lisa. Thank you Lisa for this answer. I hope Claus, uh, you got your, your answer. I got it you, you really want to see that people are searching for the purpose. Maybe I mean, we all, I mean it’s easy to say ‘yeah we all have to have a purpose’ or ‘organization have to have purpose’ but at least I don’t think we should be all there at least from my experience. I don’t have an expectation to anyone that they know and it’s written in stone what but at least the curiosity and see okay, we really want to something better for the people, for myself and for us as a, as a team or organization. 

LISA: Yeah and also some challenges-.

ANNA: -Around the purpose topic as they heard.

LISA: Yeah! and I would say that doing self-management for self-management’s sake, or Teal for Teal’s sake, or agile agile sake is a real trap. That you know, you need to be able to connect it to the purpose of the organization or the team or the people in it because it’s not going to be strong or sustainable enough to just be like: ‘oh because we’re interested in XYZ’ you know, it has to be connected to the purpose of the organization otherwise you’re really focusing on the wrong thing I would say.

ANNA: Thank you. Which reminds me, I recently talked to uh, to someone who said: ‘oh I’m really interested in these new ways of working because I know these, the new people who come like the younger people who come to the organization, they really need this I don’t get it like why

is it so right? but we have to explore this because this will attract better you know new workforce but more diverse’ which is also interesting which I think it’s a valid start to of a journey valid point where you get interested enough to to explore which can develop into something more of course but yeah. Yeah, different reasons, different people. 

Um, I want to come one step back, if you allow me; around the challenges. Because there, there was a topic I really wanted to ask you around, around your uh, your book: Moose Heads on The Table. It’s around a very key aspect of um, in general um, in how in organizations and teams how people work together it’s conflict and conflict management but also even more in self-organized context because you’re just not getting going like put a complaint somewhere, like ‘I don’t talk to this guy anymore’ um, and maybe you shortly summarize for, for, for us here what is this book about? And what was, the- the why is it needed? What- what made you write it? 

LISA: Yeah. Yeah, so the book Moose Heads on The Table. Um, my co-author Karen and I, we really wanted to first of all tell the stories of around ten different organizations that she supported to transition to self-managing ways of working. Um, and- and we wanted them to be really honest stories so they’re not you know, just um, utopian you know, rainbows and unicorn stories. 

There are some real painful learning moments in there too and some failures and we really wanted to share that because we think there’s learning in that. Um, and as part of the book we also wanted to weave in some of the principles that, that she and and my colleagues and I at Tough have developed and practiced over the last twenty years that we know help create the kind of conditions um. (internet interruption) And we oh am I are you still there? My screen went sort of black but you’re back now.

ANNA: Yeah. I, I’m not sure I- I hope- I hope the connection will be good I’m switching now to hotspot I’m sorry for this if I disappeared for a second.

LISA: That’s okay. Um, yeah so the three, the three uh, pillars as we call them that we have that we share in the book that we think are helpful for this way of working are you know the first one, I’ve talked about a little bit already which is like a coaching adult to adult leadership mindset and way of being. 

The second is um, giving away the authority as my co-author- co-author puts it or you know, creating a culture of involvement where you really for real give people uh, the authority, the power to make decisions. 

Um, and the third one is a focus on what we call ‘Climate’. Well, it’s not like we invented it, it’s a term that’s also written about by academics now as well which is like more local than culture. ‘Climate’ is like what does it feel like in the team, what’s the atmosphere? Um, and it can include things like dynamics that are going on between people or collective mindsets, collective ways of being, and part of that is um, really like a mindset shift about conflict as you said. That in all over the world you know whatever our culture is, it seems like especially in a work context; uh, when it comes to the things as I said like under the surface – we tend to be really conflict avoidant and it takes lots of energy for us to tiptoe around all these conflicts and not talk about them.

So, the Moose Heads on The Table thing comes from Sweden moose are very common and rather than like an elephant in the room it’s like a imagine like there’s a moose head on the table between us when we have a meeting and it represents you know the fact that we don’t trust the manager really or you know those two people have a dynamic where they’ve they fell out years ago and they’ve never really made up, about it or we’re still angry at the organization for a reorganization that happened several years ago or whatever. All of these things are like moose heads – metaphorical taboos that we don’t talk about and as we tiptoe around them and avoid them, it costs energy to do that um, and if we can instead talk about them really honestly and openly, and- and listen for and talk about what’s needed to sort of carry out the moose heads which could be you know an apology or clarity or agreements if we can do that then we free up all of this untapped energy and potential and responsibility and motivation.

So, a key part of the book is really shifting our relationship to conflict and seeing it as a real source of profit, a real source of gold, really. That on the other side of it is deeper relationships new perspectives deeper understanding more trust that we should sort of develop our muscle to talk about conflicts and transform them.

ANNA: Yeah, develop the muscle indeed. And for me, at least how I perceive this; we call them ‘tensions’ internally at LIVESciences and it’s, we had a tension- tension resolution process. But we decided to rename it recently to into ‘Tension Transformation’. Exactly along the same lines of thinking we, it supports us to transform as people and also as an organization. No easy thing, but what we discussed previously also in my experience, it starts really with this humility inside of everyone starting with yourself and getting humble ‘what can be better around myself?’, ‘what what can I do better?’ and self-accountability of course. And um, what is- what is the next step, Lisa? How likely you start with yourself and humility and how around- maybe I’m curious about this. Um, few words if you tell me, about the training process to towards Tension Transformation, Moose Heads Transformation, how do you support teams removing the moose heads where they belong? Not here in our team.

LISA: Yeah. I guess the first- the first step is to, you could call it like enrolling people in the value of talking about this stuff. Because most people are not used to talking about this you know.

If I, if we were in a team meeting now and I said: ‘you know Anna and my colleagues, like I think we should talk about um, you know these these conflicts. All these taboo things going on.’ most of you would be like: ‘why would we want to do that?’ you know, that will make things worse and that’s personal, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. Um, so it helps if you can say something about you know, what- what the purpose is, what the value is so that it makes it sort of safe and interesting for people to say yes to step in. So, I might say you know ‘I really see that there are things going on in our team in our in our climate and like how we’re working together um, and I- and I think it could be interesting to explore if we can have it in another way. You know, I think there’s potential for us to be even more effective if we talk about these things you know, would that be okay if we spend some time talking about that?

ANNA: And then for permission, in addition.

LISA: Yes, exactly it’s like getting the mandate is how we describe it in the book. Because if I don’t do that, if I try and force it on the group, and I try and facilitate this kind of conversation without first being transparent about the purpose or what it’s going to involve or then I’m going to have passengers like people will consume my meeting instead of what I want, which is for everyone to be co-responsible.

So it’s like a mindset shift from you know, we are all consumers of our team climate to we all producers and any one of us at any moment if we can build the capacity to do this, can speak up if we think that there’s something going on that’s in the way for us to be really effective to have trust and openness. So we build the muscle to be able to talk about that. You know, free of blame and judgment but really just stating it you know. I- I feel like there’s this hesitancy and this you know, passiveness sometimes in the air and and I wondered you know, ‘do you also recognize that? And would it be interesting to explore if we could have it in a different way?’ so, trying to kind of put words to it and talk together and listen together about painting a picture like what does it look like? And how would we like it to be? And most people want trust, openness, fun, commitment and then you can start to create together, agreements or you know, rules of the game or you know how are we going to make that happen and how do we bring it up when we feel like we’re not moving in that direction.

ANNA: Yeah. Create a new like- create like make an invitation. For a better together. And not only coexistence, but being- introducing something valuable together. 

LISA: Yeah.

ANNA: Um, also maybe just to complement what you said from my observations in discussion we have very often in our team yes, agreements but also clear expectations to each other. Because we are not the same. I mean, I’m not- I’m neither of my colleagues I’m totally different person with different flows and- and qualities right? So just making creating this transparency of around what we can expect from each other, really clearly supports a lot even the distinctions um, moose heads they just do not appear they don’t come up- come up so often when we have transparency and clear ex- sometimes explicit even expectations to each other.

Um, let me just maybe one last question, Lisa. Here, coming from Mariana; ‘How do we start teaching self-management to a child who is used to only doing what he’s told to do, so they grow up already having the skills? Um, yeah I guess it’s a good- also good questions to- to wrap up a bit the conversation because, it’s that we all grow together. And we are not never there like, we will be never there what is the- it’s just the way how we develop and grow together it’s- it’s the journey which matters, so bringing it back to children and childhood and growing up together I think it’s- it’s a good. Where do you start? How do you start with children and people who are not adults?

LISA: Yeah. I had a lovely story from someone who came on one of my Tough Leadership Training courses actually who said that she applied what she learned in the training to the relationship she had with her small daughter. Where um, her daughter was feeling really scared and sad about going to a new school and- and this woman, she told me she had this moment where she realized ‘I caught myself uh, with with my kind of normal impulse which was to try and convince her and tell her why it was gonna be okay and like don’t worry! And like you’ll be fine!’ and pep talk her and all this stuff and she remembered in the course you know to kind of catch that and pause and instead she just listened to her.

And she said: ‘yeah I can hear you’re really scared and it feels you know, you’re nervous to go back to school and maybe you would rather stay home, and it’s really tough.’ and then her daughter just kind of went: ‘Yeah. But I’m okay. I’m gonna be okay, mum.’ and so that- that little moment of just listening and being able to be with where she was, instead of trying to fix it or solve it or add something made a difference. So, I think it- the stuff we’ve been talking about this paradigm shift, it applies to many different dimensions not just the workplace but also how we parent, how we teach so there’s a wonderful school uh, in Barcelona, where I am at the moment called Learn Life. In fact they would probably object to me even using the term ‘school’ to describe what it is. But they- they have students a few of whom I’ve met, and they’re incredibly mature brilliant human beings because the school is designed where they have a self-managed curriculum. And they don’t have teachers they have learning guides. And so each student is really supported to find you know, they teach them, they learn how to learn first of all; and then they start to choose the things they want to learn and the learning guides coach them along the way but they don’t teach them they’re not experts, they bring in you know people from outside to support them and they have um, weekly sessions where they practice empathy skills and listening skills together and I was amazed because I was like: ‘Wow, this is really what I’m teaching to adult professionals and you were already learning this at like ten years old.’.

So, I think there’s a parallel revolution going on in- in a niche way where there are these brilliant alternative schools and universities that are starting to apply some of these ideas of you know, self-managing teams recognizing that young people uh, you know, really thrive much more when they have more autonomy and that we can set up you know schools to do that. So, I think there’s lots of parallels and we can’t reinvent organizations without also reinventing education, so. 

ANNA: Absolutely, yeah. Great to hear this story actually exactly because this is the future of our corporations, of our teams. Yeah, a lot of common sense. A lot of common sense around this and this is I think what attracts so many people from so many different or not yeah- governments um, corporates, smaller teams and also yeah, families. How do we do stuff? 

Um, Lisa I thank you very, very much for this conversation. It was a pleasure being here today with you. Um I would very shortly also want to invite you. Um and I will do after, for our LIVEforward institute to advertise whatever upcoming interesting events you might have in the next weeks or months and you would like to invite this audience here, thank you very much all being with us uh, and uh, here we are Lisa. Please, um, uh you have the scene again.

LISA: Yeah. So I guess one thing is that um, at Tough Leadership Training we run these free online interactive webinars that we’ve kind of jokingly called: Stop Motivating Your Employees.

Um, and so these are like a little taster and an interactive session of- of what some of our courses are so there’s one coming up next week I, believe, early October. Um, so you can attend that. We also have lots of courses coming up online and in person I’m starting which I’m really excited about um, trainings uh, in aimed at people in social impact organizations so if you’re in in an NGO or a non non-profit or a social enterprise, um, I have a course starting on the 6th of October. There’s one also starting on the 8th of November which is like an online practical training in the skills and mindset needed to have more self-managing teams. So um, you can visit the toughleadershiptraining.com that’s our website. You can check that out if you want to learn more about those courses or get in contact with me. 

And also, have a listen of my podcast: Leadermorphosis. There’s lots of stories of progressive organizations around the world that are doing really interesting things that you can learn from and hopefully take inspiration from.

ANNA: Thank you very much Lisa. And um, one very short question if I may um, ask you again; what is the name of the school? Mariana asks because- because it’s apparently a very cool story many people-

LISA: Yeah! 

ANNA: -it might be interesting.

LISA: It’s called Learn Life.

ANNA: Learn Life.

LISA: Learn Life, yeah. And there’s uh, I write a lot of blogs andIi visit alternative schools and

universities around the world so there’s quite a few so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or similar if you want some more resources related to that, yeah. 

ANNA: Lisa is, as I said in the very beginning, great source of inspiration for everyone. And um, personal and people and organization. If you’re interested in the topic of self-organization just go to her website.

Um, I want to say thank you very much to all of you for being with us. Um, and I would- if you didn’t this- this is a live- uh, live stream now but it will be also um, it will be also later on our Youtube channel, Facebook channel or LinkedIn just you can watch it later if you’re interested. 

And I would also like to advertise two upcoming events for us. Um, so one is the- on October 6th, we have our next Living Room Conversations – House of Switzerland which will be also live. Um, and then Accelerating After Crisis with Semco Style fundamentals- fundamentals is our uh, upcoming course on November 2nd. You can just scan the QR codes and you will be guided to the event and you can- you can register. 

I thank you again Lisa. And yeah I wish you a very great- a good afternoon or evening or day depending on where you are thank you for being with us!

LISA: Thank you.

ANNA: Bye!

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Journey to Teal

Xavier has degrees in Mathematics and Finance, and after more than 20 years of change management practices within various financial institutions and professional coaching certification,