Ricardo Semler and his company Semco gained international recognition for the groundbreaking alternative approach to management and organization they embodied. Today SSI is active in 22 countries. Their mission is to help organizations achieve more impact and better performance, with employers who are happier and more engaged. We are thrilled to bring an SSI powerhouse team into our Living Room Conversations! Titled, “Global Insights on Semco Style with our Country Partners”, our 7 guests will chat with co-hosts Rhea Ong Yiu and Maja Knobel, Catalysts at LIVEforward, and LIVEsciences.
Living Room Conversations: Semco Style in our Living Room
RHEA = Rhea Ong Yiu (Host)
MAJA = Maja Knobel (Host)
ARKO = Arko Van Brakel (Guest)
LUUK = Luuk Willems (Guest)
WANDELER = Christian Wandeler (Guest)
GROVÉ = Christian Grové (Guest)
HARINI = Harini Sreenivasan (Guest)
DOMENICO = Domenico Pinto (Guest)
RHEA: Hello, Good Afternoon everyone welcome to the eighth episode of our Living room conversations from LIVEForward Institute. This afternoon I will be hosting the session together with my colleague Maya. So here we are and we are very excited for this episode because we actually have a party in the house from all over the world today. And so, for our Youtube and Facebook guests, please join us and interact with us, come bring your enthusiasm, come bring your questions, challenge us, nudge us in the right direction. Because we are all waiting and listening to all of you and so before I’m really excited because we have a lot of people in the house today and we’d love to introduce them to all of you. What is our episode all about Maya? Can you tell us a little bit?
MAJA: Well sure so today, I mean it is the first time that we have so many people joining, right? and we are inviting our colleagues from the Semco Style Institute and it’s really a journey all around the world. So, we’ll have several of them joining and I think we could go ahead and start inviting them.
RHEA: Exactly. Super honored to have this diverse group of friends and leaders very close to our network. We are also a partner of some coastal international from German-speaking countries, so Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. We were able to gather some of our other country partners to our living room today to just talk all things, new work self-management and some co-style and all those buzzwords around the new ways of working. But before we let them introduce themselves to you because we do want to welcome them one by one. Maya what about calling out some of our friends as they come and join us here?
MAJA: So, shall we introduce them one by one. Let me invite then first Arko. Arko Van Brakel so he’s
one of the Semco Style Institute co-founders and so Erica welcome to our living room.
ARKO: Amazing what you have achieved with this living room concept. I love being here so thank you for having us.
MAJA: Wonderful! So, tell us a little bit about you and your journey with Semco Style.
ARKO: Well actually, my journey with Semco Style started before I even had heard of the word of Semco Style. Because as an internet entrepreneur many years ago, I found out that the only way to really grow an exponential way is to build your organization based on trust. And I saw that conventional companies had difficulties dealing with the digital world because they couldn’t organize themselves in an agile way around one-to-one sort of concepts and they couldn’t bring in permission marketing in their organization, because they couldn’t trust their own people so they couldn’t have trusted relations with the customers. So, I’ve written my first book about it it’s called “New Heroes” and then someone gave me the book of Ricardo and he said “Well, Arko, you wrote a nice book about it but this guy has been doing it for many years already”, that was my first confrontation with Ricardo. And then years later when I had several companies, some successes, some failures I was CEO of the Bach, a big leadership institute here in the Netherlands. And I saw a documentary on television about Ricardo and I thought “Hey! that’s the guy from the book” and I said, “Well, let’s invite them over to the Netherlands”, and we organized a few events with Ricardo. Amazingly successful life-changing events for me at least, and I’ve seen my colleagues, and we had such an amazing day. That Ricardo after a few months sends an email and he asked well arco would you mind bringing our Semco Style thinking to the world, to be honest, it’s like mick jagger. Asking me to do a song together you know. So, I was amazed that this opportunity showed up and after we’ve been dancing, and shouting, and cheering. We said well of course Ricardo we could be very interested. So, we went back to business but this was an honor you know, and the energy that gave us. Ricardo gave to us by asking this question was amazing in 2016 we started with the Semco Style Institute first in the Netherlands. And then amazingly enough the first country after the Netherlands was Japan. And we are very proud of Jesuit and all the friends there. They are an amazing organization and now, we’re going all over the world and that’s absolutely fantastic the journey still goes on you know we just started.
MAJA: Indeed! so that’s great to hear Arko. And so well there are several founders I think so I would like to also invite now Luke into the living room, Semco Style Institute co-founder as well as leads and welcome Luuk. Tell us a little bit about your journey with Semco Style Institute and how you started off?
LUUK: Well, my journey actually started 20 years ago, and this is not to scare you off and tell you everything that happened in the 20 years. Let me just take you to the very beginning of it. I studied business science at the time and I was already intrigued by the question, “How does the way we organize help people to give their best at work and go for it?” and “when does the way we organize stand people in its way?” and “what can we do to make work better for people instead of making people work better for organizations?” I even studied it in the direction of self-directing teams. I would never have expected to 16 years later, co-found a firm with one of the pioneers in my field of work. That’s where my journey started and where it coincided with the track of regard of seminar, and friends, and from there we took it all over the world.
MAJA: Wonderful! and we’ll come to some more details just in a bit when we have everybody else around, so let me invite well from one part of the world, from the U.S., Christian Wandeler of Semco Style Institute the USA. Please join us, Christian, welcome to our Living Room. So, we’ve been just warming up here, well tell us a little bit about your start with Semco Style Institute.
WANDELER: Funny enough, I’m originally from Switzerland. So, it’s great to hang out with you guys and you know what the US since we started one year ago pretty much exactly on Labor Day a year ago. And I’m originally an organizational psychologist, so similarly as Luke you know is always interested in what helps people flourish at work? what helps people be intrinsically motivated? Right, we spend a lot of time at work, and the message and the environment that Semco creates were always inspiring to me. Because it reflected a lot of the research that we have in positive psychology in organizational psychology. And you know these guys in Brazil were doing it right coming from a really practical side.
RHEA: Well, really excitingly, I mean we’ve only heard from three and there’s more, and I want to take us all to the other side of the world. And I would love to welcome a Christian Grové from South Africa also from SSI International.
GROVÉ: Thank you, Rhea! Awesome to be here that the couch looks very comfortable this afternoon.
RHEA: So Christian, tell us about you and what you’ve been up to?
GROVÉ: Yeah! Well, it’s quite an interesting journey. My background is actually in industrial engineering and I spent many years in lean continuous improvement and starting you know operationally improving companies. And for me, Semco Style is very much a natural next step to also look at the employee-friendly culture. And the kind of culture that we create in a company on a bigger scale. So, we started Circus Institute, South Africa, I think we were the second country partner to join the network. One of the co-founders of Coastal Institute South Africa and over the past year or so moved much closer to the global team. And I’ll share with you a bit later, what I’m focusing on at the moment and some of the exciting things coming up.
RHEA: Thanks, Christian! Would love to hear that for sure. Let’s invite Harini. Harini is also a Semco Style Partner from India
HARINI: Hey there! Hello Everyone! It’s great to be with friends around the world in the Living Room and my journey with Semco Style has been really interesting. Now we keep talking about saying, it’s our fifth anniversary but really, are we just five years old? is my question. Because I have been practicing Semco Style for pretty much 24 or 25 years of my career. And in the year 2003, somebody gifted me the maverick and said you are a maverick you ought to read this. I read the book I found it very interesting that was my first stint with Ricardo. And the book still has a very prominent place in my library. It was not a reference manual for me but I found it so commonsensical. And I kept practicing almost everything that was said in the book throughout my career in human resources because I’m a behavioral scientist and I’m a neuroscience enthusiast. And I love the way the human brain works so to get the best out of teams and organizations in my CHRO roles. I did a lot of it and as if it was the second call of destiny on valentine’s day 2019. I met Ricardo, I met Arko, you know and I almost met Ricardo because there was an email exchange and I got an email from Ricardo as my birthday gift in March 2019. And I felt this is the second call of destiny and it can’t be wrong. And that’s when I think since May 2019 I am part of the Semco Style Institute team India. And extremely happy doing things I love doing.
RHEA: Oh, very inspiring! I love the energy that you’re giving when you’re telling the story, Harini. And there’s definitely more to that so, for our viewers on Youtube and Facebook do fill in some questions because this is the only opportunity you get to hear behind the scenes what’s really fueling the power behind Semco Style. Oh, but we still have one more guest, all the way from down under. Let’s not forget Dom. Dom why don’t you join us over here.
DOMENICO: Hi Everyone! Thank you for having me. This is a brilliant initiative, and I’m smiling like a little kid just hearing all the stories from around the world so thanks for inviting me too.
RHEA: So, Dom tells us what are you up to, because you’ve been going all over the world. Although you’re from Australia, and your country partner is from Australia. I know you’re somewhere in the middle of islands and beaches at the moment.
DOMENICO: yes! my story with Semco started just a little over a year ago as an official. Starting point but I’ve been equally following the lifestyle and it’s been eight years since I’ve come across Semco for the first time in Ricardo. And I’ve been shifting my life towards it. And in January this year, I wanted to be a bit closer to my family and with the border restrictions in Australia. That led me to be a digital nomad for a few months and I’ve been living since January in Greece and Spain, Germany and now I’ve been for the last two and a half months I’ve been in Madera which is in the Atlantic. But it’s still part of Portugal and I’m in this wonderful spot so that’s when I’m being nomading and working remotely basically and trying what everyone is talking about at the moment.
MAJA: Wow! So, it’s quite a party we’re having here today. Thank you so much for all of you joining. There are a few country partners that are not able to join today or even one of the co-founders but we’re so happy to have you all here. Now, having heard a little bit about the start of your journeys, we’d like to get some juicy details here of course as well. So, I don’t know let me pick on you are to join first in our Living Room. So, what would be the most memorable story that you would like to tell from your journey with Semco Style?
ARKO: Am I still there? because
ARKO: Sure! There was something on my screen well actually. We have lots of nice stories but I to see to tell you what the culture is I want to take you back to 2015. We were still working on the business plan with Ricardo and with the guys that we call the guardians “the old team of Ricardo”. And we were writing the business plan you know, and trying to think well where would our customers be and we spent really, really lots of time in making a big business plan for Semco Style Institute. And we were finished and we were sitting there with Ricardo and you read it and we discussed it. And the first thing we got he said after we read it “so now at least we know what’s not going to happen”. And that’s how we started because as you all know you can make a plan or a business plan it never, never happens exactly as you made the plan but you need the plan to think about your business. But this is exactly how agile our own organizations are and also how many other companies should work because you can make big plans within the people but also the circumstances that the context of your environment will decide whether your plan works yes or no. And the beauty is that we have in our own culture a rather agile way of working because the world is something that we can’t create you know we can’t control the world. But we can organize ourselves and the talents around us in a way that we can be very responsive to the changing world. And that’s I think why the Semco Style is so actual. So, of this age that we are living in there we had that that COVID19 crisis that we are still in by the way. And we saw how easy it is for people to adapt and organizations that were more agile had fewer problems adapting to the crisis than companies that are completely like in the hierarchy you know that are built like pyramids. And we know that because we know if you build pyramids history showed us that you get mummies. But to be agile you don’t want mummies you want people in your organization that are alive and this story about the business plan exactly tells us how to become agile, you know. Make a plan, it’s important always to make a plan before you start. But be aware of the fact that things can be different than you expected when you started. And that’s basically the foundation of our company and I’m really proud of that.
RHEA: It’s a really very brave article and I can say for certain that you guys have really set a foundation that is going to last a long time. And here we are jumping on board on our very first year together with you right and very excited with the potential that is in front of us right now. I’m curious since we don’t have everybody too often this does not really come around as something that happens a lot every week not really and we’re so happy that we can have all our country partners in one room together. Just curious like what are the specific challenges that you have encountered in your work? because I think we’re now going into a bit juicier detail. And I think that’s what our audience wants to hear as well as what are the things that we experience on the ground when you’re working with clients that we feel like “hey is there a commonality across the world around these challenges” or maybe it’s really different challenges in Australia, in India versus in the western world. And I’m very curious who would like to answer that question.
LUUK: Well, I can have a take at that and but then we enter more into the bar feeling late at night. Where I’m going to make a bold statement and then see if people agree with it or not right. Because especially since COVID these online interactions with partners out of the world have been occurring a lot. So, we had way more exchange of insights and patterns of behavior in our organizations than we had before. Even when we had the network of partners already, and if there’s one thing that struck me. Working with people from across the globe also for example in our expert training program is the following statement and it’s up to the audience to respond to that right. My statement is this, coaches are different, music is different, the weather is very different, the food is very different, people can be different, but behavior and organizations are exactly the same everywhere. Right? There’s always too much operational burden floating upwards. Employees are always saying “oh I wish I had more freedom”, managers are always saying “oh I wish my people would be more responsible”. Entrepreneurial accountable innovative forward-looking responsible and support. So, these dynamics if there’s one thing that struck me these dynamics occur everywhere that’s my statement so now let’s see.
HARINI: I can go next. I found some very interesting and amusing things that happen not just with our clients but in any organization or any room that you walk in Asia especially India. Power distance is in our blood. Okay. We are brought up that way, we are taught that it is important to respect people older than us. We are taught that it’s important to respect the person who sits above me in the organization chart and sometimes we don’t even have to be taught that. So, one very interesting experience which I often share is. I was sitting in a conference room and we were all sitting around the table it was actually a round table. An office boy walked in India, we still have the privilege of being served tea and coffee when meetings are on. An office boy entered and he walked straight to the senior-most person on the table and he went and asked him for his choice. And made his first service there and this made me smile in my mind because no one has actually asked him to do that. And when I probe deeper, I realized that this is something that comes in subconsciously. It’s there in the subconscious mind that starts from the top. So even if someone at a very junior level, entry-level has a brilliant idea definitely this start from the top is going to prevent his or her thinking and ability to come up with a solution. So that’s where I thought why not we break these subtle and minute power privileges. And you know I kept working on that space and I think that’s where we make headway with our clients. When do we get into conversations that can this happen? Can a shop floor worker actually take a decision, well? It’s there in the maverick but is it possible in India and then I give them the example of I actually pull up a case. And I say that this guy has taken decisions in his life. So, if he can do that because he has accountability, why can’t it be done here and that starts people think towards. Actually, you know teaching people about accountability, so that they start making decisions on their own. So, it started with a conference room and hierarchy which crept in naturally.
DOMENICO: I’ll check in there, if I can love when we do the expert program having the country partners or even coaches from other countries involved because it really gives them it gives the participant the perspective of what’s happening around Semco Style and the different challenges. And I think the challenge that Harini just talked about is something that’s very unique. Not very unique but is a very great example of the extent of it. And with Luuk I agree with you on the macro level. But I can also help to smile because everyone wants to put Australia together with the UK at least or Europe. And if you talk to Australians, they hate it right? we are not the UK we’re very different. And what I would say is a look is a spot on the micro level but on the small level of how to deal with it there are a lot of differences. And I think that’s actually the beauty of the Semco Style Institute that we can learn from those differences and from those extremes in every country that actually we can take it back to their respective countries and really work on it. One of the things I find for example in Australia the work environment is on the surface very friendly. You don’t have that necessarily in other countries you have that easy-going informal, very informal way of working but that doesn’t mean that there is no animosity. It’s there but you can’t see it evident as you might you may see it in other countries that are one example.
MAJA: So, I’m curious Domenico since you mentioned that one. So, how do you well take the Semco Style hat? how do you approach that when on the surface it’s all kind of friendly whatever and then there are subtleties in there? So, can you give us a bit of an experience?
DOMENICO: So, the only other country you can think of is Canada. Canada is probably like the master and being very friendly on the surface and Australia are very similar to that. But what we do is we just have to learn to read between the lines. So, I had a session last night for me this morning for the Australian and we had a very relaxed environment but you could see there were a lot of things that were not being said. So, we had to dig deeper we had to create a psychological safety we have to rule to use scenarios as examples and take them away from the reality and just put a case study there. And then an example of something else and then we will comment on it and as they comment on it. We actually are able to go back to their personal issues that are just one example from the practice but there are so many that actually come. One thing I want I would like to say is it’s great to see the comments. I see some great comments from some people that have joined us in some programs and I’m looking at the comments. So, if anyone has questions feel free to teach, I’m being with questions as well it’s a great way of interacting
MAJA: thank you
GROVÉ: Good, while you’re waiting. So, maybe let me jump in there and it’s becoming a natural thing for me to latch on to what Dom is saying after all the webinar is done. But maybe just a nice bridge between what Luke and Dom said I think it’s for me it’s a challenge but it’s also it’s becoming very much a mandatory guideline, that we are we’re finding a challenge in bringing this beautiful case study of Semco Style and what Ricardo did in the company, two different companies. The reason why I say it becomes mandatory. The mandatory part brings it to the company and to make it fit each company people tend to look at these things as answers and as guidelines and step-by-step implementation. And one of the first walls that we have to break down is for them to understand that they must learn from it and really make it their own. And I think for me, it’s partly challenged but it really, it’s a mandatory thing to really make it fit each company and let each company learn really the best lessons that they can learn from it. And then after a year two-three years you go back to them and you realize what they made with that and it’s really quite inspiring to see how people learn from those things that were done in the 80s and the 90s and the 2000s and they’re still learning from it. So, for me that that is quite awesome to see.
MAJA: Thank you for jumping in Christian. So, just curious here as well can you give any insights on you know how do companies make their own? I mean, can you give us any insight there?
GROVÉ: Well, for those of you guys that have worked with some Africans. We tend to make things our own and we tend to make a plan. So, there are a few sayings like that we use in the country. But when there are difficult times we tend to bridge that and we tend to overcome. And I think that’s one of the beautiful things about what we see in our country. As well we sit with a lot of complexity and a lot of issues sometimes but we find a way to go forward. And especially with things like this as well in business we tend to find a way through it so somebody would throw you with a challenge or they would throw you with an example a practice. And the way you make it your own is really by. I think learning interpreting and trying to understand what the fundamental is behind it and then trying to find a way that it works for you. So really internalizing it and making it your own so is there a process behind it I wouldn’t say it’s a formal process it’s more an approach to learn to understand to internalize and to really get from it what the essence is and then make it your own through that.
ARKO: Can I add to that because I really like what Christian said because in the beginning when we were trying to convince. I think we perhaps were trying to convince too hard people to adopt this way of working. And the problem was everyone tried to copy the Semco Style. They wanted to be like Ricardo some people literally said that I want to become the Ricardo of so-and-so. But we found out that’s not the way to go because the best way to adapt the principles of the Semco Style is by developing your own style. And every context, every company, every organization, every business is different. So, copying Ricardo would be stupid. You know Ricardo himself made a joke about it; you know he said well it would be like me going to the hairdresser with a picture of Brad Pitt and I said “well I want to be exactly like Brad Pitt”. You know well whatever the head rusher will do Ricardo, will be Brad Pitt and maybe that’s better for the world by the way but my point is don’t try to be a copycat. Develop your own style and the beauty I think of this leadership style is that if you use all the talents of all the people in your organization in the proper way. You always develop your own best way to adapt to your environment. And whatever your challenges whether you want to have higher revenue or higher quality or more satisfied customer or a cleaner world. I don’t care. If the collective intelligence of your people is directed to such a goal and you create psychological safety for all people to bring the best of themselves to the table. You will achieve your goal and you will develop your own style and I’m doing it also. I also have a few other roles in life than just being the founder of Semco Style Institute. I am a shareholder in a software company. They are perhaps, I think as far as Ricardo may be furthering some elements in self-organization. It’s amazing how people take ownership of their organization and develop an entrepreneurial style in the organization to bring the company further. The company has never been as healthy as it is now and they started six years ago. And I do myself. I’m the director of an economic board for the area where I live in so we try to build a sustainable economy in our environment and it’s amazing how the Semco Style principles help to organize the collective intelligence for all the entrepreneurs and board members and all these sorts of people how to develop new economic concepts. And it’s working instantly and so but the most important is don’t try to copy stay close to your own DNA and then it will work and that’s my most important lesson of the Semco Style. Don’t become Semco Style, develop your own style.
DOMENICO: Maja, can I jump in do you mind? and I actually think you touched on something which is probably one of the main differentiators that we don’t give people a prescribed way of working we share all the knowledge we’ve cured of that Ricardo and all of you and all of us together have occurred over the 40-plus years in some ways. We also actively engage the kind in co-creating their own journey and really bring it forward. And I see this passion for every single one of us here to reinvent central style for their own organizations like for me in San Costa and Australia. But also, to share this passion with clients and tell them and show them the way while being very conscious that it needs to be a co-created effort it needs to be something that’s theirs it needs to be their own interpretation of it even following the main principles. I think that’s a beauty that you just brought out which for me is always one of the key differentiators between how we work and how many others work.
MAJA: Thank you for that and I actually have to love Rhea because I mean, for that partnership, right? I mean, we decided to go into the partnership with Semco Style institute because the framework is not dogmatic, right? I mean there was the one thing that was so important for us and Arco, thank you for that metaphor with Ricardo not being able to be Brad Pitt. I think that I take now away in my picture from today thank you so much. And I see, we have a question actually here in the chat from Tim. And Tim would actually like to hear some more stories about business development with Semco Style and how maybe hear from some of you how you have started? how you have been able to develop this new client relationship? So, thank you, Tim, for raising that, and um whoever would like to jump in feel free.
HARINI: I will share what we believe here because the best part about Semco Style philosophy is it’s not something that we need to sell. So, we don’t really stress selling all that we do is show our prospects about the value it adds to their people and to their business. So, when we talk to them about how the entire journey is co-created and there’s nothing that we are bringing in as a Semco Style organization just like Arko said. It only demonstrates to them that we strongly believe in maintaining the organization’s unique fingerprint the more we talk about value creation the more we are able to demonstrate to them how they’re going to add value to their own business. By unlocking people’s potential it starts changing their mindsets and you know especially in a country like ours where power distance is very high where people don’t believe that it is possible, we’ve been able to change mindsets. So, I think we don’t need to sell we just need to talk about the value that we can add.
RHEA: Thank you Harini. We have another question on the chat and then it’s really fun to see questions coming in so please send more of it our way. From Johannes, how rigorous do you stick to the Semco roadmap, and can you walk us through it? using a concrete use case. Well, maybe the second part is a little too long for this conversation. However, I’d love to invite one of you guys to share with us how do you bring the central road map towards a client?
LUUK: I’ll be happy to tackle that one being behind a lot of our methodology but the interesting thing is when we first started to define Semco Style. We worked with the principles and practices only. Principles to inspire your practices to be practical right and this should all enable you to find your own style. Yet people kept asking but what’s the step-by-step approach because in the end you need some order and things right and that’s why we developed the roadmap. And to summarize it without showing it says first prepare the journey to try out some things then make your way to self-organization which means give people more autonomy on how to reach certain goals. But still in a very tight alignment with management on the goals themselves. Then move to self-direction and just this idea of the planned approach is already a very helpful thing. So, don’t skip steps. Don’t directly say to people, you’re now a self-organizing team good luck, right? Prepare that journey and the first step in preparing the journey comes sitting with the leadership team because that’s where the traditional journey still starts. And then the key question is why do you want to do this? what’s the business need? what will it mean for you? how do you look upon your own role? Because if you aren’t careful before you know it the transition to more Semco Style self-organization of self-direction or more your own style is something that somebody else in the organization has to do right. They have to become more self-organized in self-directing but it always starts with yourself. So, the first question asked always starts with the leader saying, why would you want to go this pathway, right? and that’s where the roadmap always should start in every case.
ARKO: If I may add to that. I totally agree of course because this really is our experience without the leadership that really wants it and sets the goals it won’t work and very important that self-organization or Semco Style is never a goal in itself. It’s always a means to achieve something else and that’s very important. Also, something I’d like to address it’s my experience lately becomes stronger and stronger many people think they should reorganize their company and have to change the structure. When they become a Semco Style company may actually happen that you will change your structure or the self-organizing team will change the structure but don’t start with it you not start working. Because I’ve seen extremely hierarchical companies you know the pyramids that are totally self-organized. And I’ve seen very flat organizations that have a very strong hierarchy you know informal hierarchy. So, don’t start with the structure we start with the way of working. And I found out the last few years also by doing it myself and helping entrepreneurs with it. That there are a few tricks that you can instantly do and that don’t cost any money that will instantly help. One of them is a very famous and Semco Style practice leaving one or two chairs in every board of directors meeting or commercial meeting or shareholders meeting leave two chairs for people from the organization to join. The instant effect on transparency psychological safety and mutual respect are amazing. It will speed up your organization because its people connect with people make better decisions. The second one that works that we do is actually in a company called info cast that we know in the Netherlands very well. And I’m a shareholder, it’s completely Semco Style organized they do an up Friday. They organize every Friday a standard in which people have a drink beer or whatever. They talk about their high of the week but also about their up of the week and what they learned from it. Then you start building a learning organization and that’s some real nice practice which does not in that with that words come from Semco Style. But it works instantly if you organize it start sharing your ups tell them what you learned from it the psychological safety will grow and you will build a learning organization. These two things instantly change the way you’re working in your organization and will have an instant culture effect which will lead to new results within months and they are totally free, okay. You have to buy a few beers on Friday afternoon but that’s not the expense you know you can afford that and it works. It’s so nice you know if you see how people start working together as soon as they are prepared to learn and as soon as they feel safe to make mistakes then you start experimenting, they start trying out new things. You boost your agility and your innovation ability instantly and it is amazing what results will be achieved if you do this.
MAJA: So, thank you Arko for this inspiration on how easily you can actually start something with. Well, simple practices, I’d actually like to look at one of the questions in the chat which is asking the exact opposite so Mariana’s asking you know what from the companies that we have worked with what is the most difficult obstacle to towards a truly agile workplace? so who’d like to
ARKO: For me, it’s myself actually. I’m the biggest objection because as you hear and see I’m quite energetic. And I’m always quite loud and it’s the best way to kill self-organization. So, I have to shut up and stay away so because I can block because in my shadows some other flowers sometimes can’t grow. So, if you are talking loud and very extroverted you know to stay away from the office let other people do the job, and keep your mouth shut that’s my biggest objection.
MAJA: So, self-awareness is the first step to success in that case right
ARKO: Yeah, that was the first one and then very quickly after that this realization, exactly.
RHEA: okay it’s very cool, thanks Arko for that. Is there any other?
GROVÉ: I’ll throw in a quick one from my side and not confuse the principal trust. But I think it’s actually trust, that trust in or the belief that this will work. People read the material they listen to the stories they read the books. They really understand the fundamentals behind everything and the theory behind it. And then they still question will work. So, I think it’s because of these, and one of the things, I’ve recently learned it’s about unlearning our old behaviors. And it’s because of those behaviors that came along through so many years that we look at these new things and we go is this even possible. And we really struggle to trust that it will work once it happens. And it’s beautiful, so I think for me that’s one of the biggest bridges to overcome.
RHEA: I can totally resonate with that Christian because we see that in our workday in day out as well anyone else who has any thoughts
DOMENICO: I’m happy to go we’re talking about Mariana’s question, right? Okay. Sorry, I dropped out for a second. I’m off on Fridays normally and I’m in a hotel room. The connection here is not as strong as I normally have it. I love that question actually and what I found is very that self-reflection sometimes is also in the way. So, as you grow as an organization you also need to grow as an individual so that all elements of letting go of control is something that I often see as a big struggle for people. And very often because it’s not visible at first and that as you let go of control and empower people to take decisions you also need to get used to being okay with the decisions being differently. Different from what you would have done so that is something I think it’s one of the key points and if leaders can overturn that or can pass that then it’s just a beautiful, beautiful journey ahead. So that’s one of the key points I see is in that space akin to the other thoughts as well.
RHEA: Thank you so much, Dom. Before we go into you know talking about how to become a sample consultant or partner. I just want to stay a little bit longer on the conversation around how some coastal is really impacting organizations and there’s one question here that is quite relevant for a lot of companies who are asking themselves is this going to work for us. And Ed is asking is it possible to implement some coastal in an existing organization that is organized like a pyramid. Arko mentioned earlier that pyramids are meant for mummies that means and then the second question follows up to that is it possible to start from the bottom of that pyramid.
ARKO: May I jump in because I’m sure that the others can add to that. But I found out so I keep it a bit close to myself but I have not seen any organization where it’s not possible whether it’s a factory or a bank or a lawyer’s office or a government organization. But one critical factor is that it’s the leadership do the leaders allow it or not and it answers also the second question you can start a big bottom-up movement? And of course, that sounds like revolution but in a company, you need to have support and sponsorship of the owners or the directors, or the board. And if the board doesn’t go along with it it’s a waste of energy you won’t succeed and that’s for me the most critical factor that can happen in any organization. But as long as the board and the directors are part of it that’s for me the most important factor that I found out the last seven years that I’ve been working with it but maybe others can add to that
LUUK: I think that also going back to a bit of the previous part of the discussion. Because when we talk about letting go and about behavior and about people committing to it very much. Starts to sound like a new year resolution right or your personal intention like I really want to change my behavior for the best and do you want to show that and you have to jump into the black hole so to say it will be a big step but are you willing to do that. I would actually look at something else can you shape the conditions that people are working. For example, if you are really clear on boundaries for action the goals that you want to achieve together, and how to achieve them then both the leader and the teams can be very comfortable in their role. Quite the one supporting people to work within the set boundaries and people taking more freedom within it that’s one key and core element of our approach as well. The other thing and that a bigger factor than often being one at the table is that cross-chain collaboration that’s one of the most difficult things in organizations. You will see people all over the world are always reporting “oh I have such a great job”, “I have great colleagues”, but as a wall, we are too slow the leadership is invisible and to get things on you need to escalate, right? And that’s those corporate dynamics happen all over the place. So even if your intention is a good one then these corporate dynamics will tilt you back to the default position before you knew it knows it. So, helping people to bridge the gap between good intentions and organization patterns and behavior that’s where the real impact starts to be made. So, the one thing is to be very clear on the boundaries for action that teams operate within and the other one can be how can you stimulate people to have a better overview of how the organization is doing about their role in it on how to connect with different teams or work on this question collaboration. And the more you can find patterns and rituals that reinforce that behavior, the easier it will be to keep yourself to your new year’s resolution because before you know it, it will be like me with sporting you know, like ah I can also go running tomorrow you know and then before you know it it’s next week.
HARINI: I want to add a small point here my experience with a large organization that had pretty much blue-collared workers. It clearly showed, demonstrated that if we start a change from bottoms up it might look like a coup. The CEO might get an intimidating feeling that am I going to lose my position are these people going to grab the governance of the organization and therefore it’s it could be a little dangerous. And I completely echo what Arko said and I was wondering whether he read my mind or right it is but definitely starting big bang from bottoms up could look like a revolution like a rebellion. And that would be dangerous because what’s more important is before people actually start making the changes it’s important that the leadership team understands and believes in it and provides them with the psychological safety to be able to make that change. So, I think that’s where one has to be very careful so that it doesn’t look like a revolution or a rebellion.
RHEA: maybe to add a positive twist to this right because we don’t want to stop people from experimenting from playing with the principles and the practices that they see around Semco Style. It’s okay to experiment and to start but I think the clear message that these guys have been putting out is to get sponsorship to get someone to back you up in that experiment and learn from it and get your organizations to start moving in that direction.
GROVÉ: This is very important. It’s because you can experiment with something and you can prove that it actually works and you go to the executive team with the case of something that has actually been proven.
DOMENICO: And to add to that. I’m also looking at the question of Tin. I think one of the beauties of the framework is a live framework and you got to pick clients up where they are and Semco totally allows you to do that because you can start with the practices you can start even on a single practice which is quite small. And you can work your way up that and you can demonstrate it works. So, I work a little bit with the Asian countries I love. I have attendees always from different countries from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia. I also mentor a bunch of entrepreneurs and accelerate in Singapore and actually don’t think it is different. It’s just different how you approach it but it can totally work and the beauty of it is really that you can really trip it down and start as simple as a single practice. You don’t have to go straight away to the roadmap and start with everything and commit for a year.
RHEA: This is a very interesting question actually Dom because Tin coming from Asia is looking at it from a lens of an Asian setting right where there are pretty much mostly Asian people now. Let’s take this question through the lens of the USA where you know there’s a lot of discrimination that’s happening. Christian, I’d love to hear from you on your perspective how is this you know how do you see this coming to life in
WANDELER: So, thank you for this question. What to me what’s been really inspiring over the last half-year is when working with a client in LA in Los Angeles who is a supplier for SpaceX and Virgin Galactic and Georgia and all these rocket companies. We have a lot of people from Central America and Latin America working in these companies and a lot of them are at lower-wage jobs, right? Where when you start giving them more voice, right? that’s for fun and that’s a new situation they find themselves in right so it’s been really inspiring to see when what Semco Style does by being more inclusive but being more open by being more democratic. How you know the whole voice of minorities is much better emphasized. It’s also something that people you know have to have to get used to and learn and step up. So, I found that very engaging, very inspiring and you know we have a lot of discussions and views around it. And I think Semco says a very practical way of approaching this and truly doing this work of you being more equitable and you know it accommodates diversity in a very natural way.
MAJA: Thank you Christian also for that perspective from the US. And before we actually wrap up because we are coming to the end of our session. Almost. I would like to pick up that question that we did kind of jump from Romina. She was asking about what are the three critical competencies for a successful Semco Style consultant or coach or partner so could any one of you give maybe a little insight on that well.
ARKO: I think this event but I really want to make you a compliment for it because it’s really cool. I don’t know you feel guys but I love it to be honest this concept. But this is actually what it is you need to be open-minded and be honest. Create a feedback culture these are I think key elements to be successful as a Semco Style Consultant. Of course, you need to know the principles but we can help you with that but if you are really willing to look at the qualities of people instead of seeing what their weaknesses are. And if you really are prepared to have a positive view of your organization that you really say well. You know in principle we trust people instead of the other way around that’s the most important because this is a real positive people-friendly sort of leadership style that does not mean that we are not critical because we need feedback culture to be successful and the real psychological safety shows itself in a feedback culture. If there’s never criticism in your organization you should be really worried there are two elements that can create a lack of criticism. The one is a lack of psychological safety people try to keep the atmosphere fine because they’re worried about what happens when they are critical that’s killing for your innovation and for your effectiveness. The second one is lack of diversity so, it also answers the question before if you really are prepared to look through culture age, gender whatever and really look at the quality that people bring to the table and use the diversity of all the quality of people and create a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels free to bring in the best to the table. Well, that’s the mindset you need to become successful as a leader or as a consultant at the Semco Style. But basically, I think that’s also a matter of being successful as a human being in your life but for me from my point of view, these are the key elements and always fall back to these key elements.
HARINI: There are three more things that came to my mind one thinks the belief that it will work because there is an open ground for all of us to experiment so the belief that it will work. The second thing is believing in the power of people and the ability to let go and not instruct. And the third and the most important thing I think for a simple consultant or a coach is to try out different things and experiment because as you see the Semco Style Toolkit is something that is continuously evolving it’s not just what was there in the book or what’s there in the toolkit. I think in the last two years that I have been around I’ve already seen the toolkit growing so and all of us are contributing to it by way of practices that you have experimented with. And they’re aligned with the philosophy so I think the ability to experiment is one of the key competencies for a simple consultant or a coach.
MAJA: So, thank you Harini for that. And Romina, I don’t know whether that last comment actually answered a part of your question in terms of the consultant, not just the client. So, I hope it did because right now we would need to come to actually close the session and it is so exciting. I think we will need two hours, not a one-hour conversation. So, maybe we will have another one but before we do closeout. I did want to ask each of you whether you’d like to share just shortly if there’s anything coming up in your um space in your country in your region that you want to share with our viewers here. Actually, I would like to start from the other side now from down under. Dom, anything you would like to announce.
DOMENICO: Actually, I was smiling earlier when Arko was talking about how long has been on the journey. And I couldn’t stop thinking of how long this journey is still ahead of us. Because the more I learn, the more I find out, the more I grow personally, the more I find out how many opportunities there are. So, for us in Australia given the border restrictions have been all completely remote, we’ve transitioned to being a fully remote team even beyond the boundaries of Australia. We’re working from anywhere we’re working a lot on ourselves and becoming our ourselves the best company to work for and we’re launching new programs. So, we’ve just launched a new program that we call the contemporary leadership program which is aimed at leaders and organizations. But maybe they don’t have the backing from the whole organization to go Semco Style but they want to learn the practices and tools. So, it’s an eight- or six-week journey depending on which program you join. Where you have live-coaching sessions and have personal coaching sessions as well as all the access to the self-paced learning and peer-to-peer learning involved. So, this is what is one of the new things we are we’re working on and we just launched and the first one was full and the second one is uh heading towards us in November. Then from there and we do a lot of ongoing support work and more of that and there is more to come it’s just one of the biggest compliments one of the staff members it gave us is how quickly we can put things in motion. So, we’re working every day and there are so many creative ideas every day so it’s quite a journey ahead of thank you so much.
MAJA: What about you Harini there?
HARINI: Here in India. Of course, there’s a lot of focus and trust we are doing on the agile culture essentials because for agile transformation to be really successful. I think it’s a mindset change that really needs to be worked on so that’s where a lot of trusts is we’re also coming up with cohort learning for small entrepreneurs and that’s called business agility coaching where we do very short-term interventions. It’s about a 90-day intervention, where we focus on a small transformation. Where they start their journey and then look at how they would like to pursue it further another very interesting request that has come about is there are many family managed businesses in India where the business has been handed over from one generation to the other. And they’re able to relate to the transition that Ricardo faced when he inherited his father’s business. So, there’s this something that we are working on building co-curriculum with the family-managed business programs with the b-schools. As well as looking to develop something for family-managed businesses in particular so these are a few things that are absolutely ready to be launched and many more to come.
MAJA: Thank you, Harini. Chris, what about you in South Africa?
GROVÉ: what’s happening these days? I think for me the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to is the full launch of our ecosystem our online platform. I think that’s really something to look forward to. And apologies for breaking away but I must touch on what Romina, what are the things that the coach meets and I think as a coach, you’re entering an environment of turmoil. So, Romina please bring with your calmness and consistency so that would be the last bit from my side. Thanks, Maja.
MAJA: Thank you, Christian. Very good point, yes. And Luuk what would you add to this? what’s happening in well the Netherlands and around?
LUUK: Nah, I’m just going to hijack my 30 seconds of talking not to answer your question but just to stay on the point of this conversation being awesome actually so that might be the first conversation where the speakers are saying we want more. I just really, I love this kind of exchange. I’ve been even taking notes myself again I do that in every session because there’s always something to learn right if you just are eager and forward-oriented, there’s always something. So, in every session, I’m taking notes and I just did. So, thank you, everybody, for being part of that to not only say thank you but also go back to Romina’s question about the one thing you need assemble style consultant you will need to continuously balance your skills, on one hand, being the facilitator and the coach but sometimes people want to know your answer they want to say how would you approach this so sometimes you should not be shy to prescribe a next step or your recommendation. Because if you don’t at some point the other party will become uncomfortable with your approach. It’s always a tight balance between guiding and the following steering and letting go also in your work as a consultant.
MAJA: Thank you, Luuk. So, very good differentiation between the coaching and advising actually giving your opinion so good on that. Well, Arko would there be anything that you’d like to share that’s happening?
ARKO: I would, I could talk for hours about this so there are lots to share. But I want to thank you for hosting this and you did a real nice inspiring way so thank you for that. I want to say to all the team, I’m so proud of you guys and to be part of this for me. This is why we started you know this sort of thing and I want to add something one element to the audience I always do with my keynotes and workshops. Actually, many people are very worried about losing control because it feels like dropping an expensive iPhone you know, and falls and breaks, but the whole Semco Style is about building a support system and this is also about letting go you know you build a support system. You lose grip on people but you always keep on carrying each other and that’s exactly what we did today you know we help each other; we add to each other, we support each other, and if you can build that in your team or your organization. You can really beat the world and that’s what I’d like to add and that’s what Semco Style is about for me.
MAJA: Thank you Arko for all the metaphors. This session is beautiful, to hear that. Thank you and last but not least, then Christian what would you like to give us as your last comment for today?
WANDELER: Well, first of all, thank you guys for this session. I wanted to do a quick shout-out to the two experts from the US that joined Tim and Catherine was great to see you guys. I also want to do a shout out to Jaime from Bolivia, he is a central style expert that helped me with translating some of the materials for our Spanish-speaking you know Semco Style clients right and that was really great on his part so it’s awesome to see this international community come together. We’re actually starting the second extra program. We just started two weeks ago, so today we have the third session and Harini is actually going to be a guest today which looks very important and you know for people that want to be updated, you know. Follow us on Linkedin or subscribe to our newsletter and that will you hear more about what we get going on, you know throughout the future weeks and months.
RHEA: Thank you so much, Christian and everyone. Thank you for joining us in our living room today. It’s been a real pleasure having you and our friends on Youtube and Facebook. Thank you for your questions. Thank you for your engagement and for staying with us. Maja, is there anything we want to remind our guests?
MAJA: Well of course, before we check out even though we are over time. But before we check out, we also have a few things coming up. So, we would love you to well check out our upcoming events from the duff partners as well and if you put this up, Ken. Thank you so you can scan those with your phone right now or after we go offline in the recording as well. So, we have a few things coming up in the living or in the Live Forward Institute. Another living room conversation as well and also the Semco Style Accelerating after crisis course. So, if you’re interested join us and with that. I think we’re almost done we’re all right
RHEA: Yeah, Indeed and if you have enjoyed this conversation please make sure to like and subscribe to our channel. Follow the conversations that are happening every two weeks. Follow us on social media as well. Maya, what’s happening in two weeks in the living room conversation?
MAJA: Exactly, in two weeks we have another living room conversation on Thursday I think and then we will have our lovely Lisa Jill joining us. So, if you haven’t marked this already yet, so please mark your calendars and we hope to see you next time here.
RHEA: Yes, so thanks to everyone for joining us in this episode. We look forward to seeing you around. Thank you!
MAJA: Thank you!
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