Prof Vlatka Hlupic chose the infamous Guy Fawkes night of November 5th to appear at the UK’s House of Commons discussing her latest book on new management and leadership. Intellectual fireworks were the result as she shared the fruits of her 15 years of inter-disciplinary research and her passion for creating a new world of work. Her goal with this latest book The Management Shift is to prove that making workplaces into happier and more purposeful environments not only nourishes the people who work there but also the profits.
What is clear is that Business As Usual is no longer an option … the global workforce is unhappy with consistent research highlighting that 70% of workers are disengaged and only 25% are passionate about what they do. This calls for a more enlightened approach to how business is done. Management and Leadership needs to change, or as Prof Hlupic calls it, “A Shift” is needed.
Having distilled extensive writings from leading thinkers, what Prof Hlupic has set out to prove is that by applying her Shift Principles to the way a business is managed, a company can increase both employee engagement and innovation resulting in a 200% increase in profits in just a couple of years. Her book gives examples of companies around the world who have done just this.
The bottom line of her economic prosperity plan is about caring for people. If you do this she says, then the people will care more about your business and they will deliver the profits … to a greater degree, than if you simply focussed on the profits directly without caring for the people in between. To me this smacks very much of a feminine way of doing business. When you examine what that means practically … the elusive HOW … it means a values shift at the heart of an organisation that really draws on what women are naturally good at. People, relationships, connection and listening, to name just a few aspects that women generally find easier.
A questioner from the audience complimented Prof Hlupic’s presentation and also pointed out that she had said nothing new. He lamented that these ‘new’ ideas had been around 20 years and “we’ve made no progress in a generation!”. He was also disappointed that so many women entering senior business levels have felt the need to be like men. I absolutely agree. What seems to be happening is that as women have increasingly been entering the higher levels of organisations in quantity, they have not necessarily been able to shift the quality of their contribution to something different. They have had to play the same game.
Men often criticise women for, in some cases, being more of a man than they are but I don’t think women do this willingly. Much of this behaviour change is unconscious as a means of surviving in the dominant masculine culture or …… it is the game that women feel they are absolutely expected to play in order to succeed. There are so few examples of women at CEO levels playing their own game to be significant role models for other women, and to demonstrate other ways of doing things. It is changing and it seems here Prof Hlupic is providing a map for behaviour changes drawing on significant proven success where companies have tested out her ideas. She stressed that the new contribution to this conversation of creating business that is better for society is the “HOW” to do it.
At the heart of Prof Hlupic’s Management Shift is the concept of 5 Levels of Leadership… the first three are Traditional relying on various forms of Command and Control structures, and which represent where most organisations are stuck today with disengaged employees and poor innovation. Levels 4 and 5 thrive on what Hlupic terms Emergent Leadership and this is where transformation and magic start to happen.
The fundamental shift that takes an organisation from Level 3 to Level 4 is what engages people and produces the greater profits from businesses which really take off and achieve their purpose delivering on a triple bottom line. To get this 3 to 4 shift, Prof Hlupic takes an organisation through a 6-Box model which she described as an MRI scan of where they are now, versus where they could be if they shifted.
Prof Hlupic pointed out that Prof Richard Roberts’ extensive research into the global financial meltdown of 2008 came up with five key causes, of which the number one cause was autocratic executives, many of whom bullied their staff. According to a report by the Committee looking into The Future of Leadership & Management, the cost of lost working hours because of poor management in the UK is almost £20 billion a year. This urgently needs to be remedied by organisations shifting their focus to what the report termed: “People, Purpose and Potential” in order to safeguard economic prosperity. Quite clearly a revolution in management is needed. And with so few women in CEO and top executive positions, I feel this represents a huge opportunity for women to bring in a new way of managing and leading.
The woman known as the world’s CFO, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF has often been quoted as saying that if the bank had been called Lehman Sisters it most likely would not have failed. This might bring a chuckle but this anecdote points to her serious thinking about the role of gender in good leadership practice and sound finance. The dominant culture running business is not only male, it’s white, privileged and straight. Innovation and creativity, and the resulting improvement in prosperity and success, will only come by engaging with, and welcoming, contributions from widely different viewpoints.
This can only happen in a diverse culture. But as Prof Hlupic pointed out, neuroscience explains why the status quo lingers on because it is so hard for humans to change …. our wiring makes us resist deeply anything new! However, once we recognise that, we can actually make the changes needed and starting with gender parity in leadership and key decision-making is the first step in having truly diverse voices influencing the management and leadership which will future-proof our organisations.
- For the Management Shift she recommends, Prof Hlupic calls for:
less or no hierarchy
creating caring cultures
prioritising people & relationships
making happiness important, instead of simply having money as the end goal
All of this is what women excel at, at least most women find these much easier and a more natural way of being in business. Yet the current business world does not value these priorities so women are often not rewarded or acknowledged when they make them part of their contribution. Caring and compassionate activities can be invisible while brasher, action-oriented, louder ways of making one’s presence known and one’s achievements seen are not necessarily the natural, comfortable currency of women. Sadly, what I see is that so much of what women do is like glue … once it has been provided and used it cannot be seen, yet without it nothing works.
For us to enter an era with a new language about the value of caring, people, relationships and purpose, it is clear to me that there’s a massive opportunity for women and a validation of a more feminine way of being in business. I think it is also important to stress that this new way of being is absolutely available to men as well. In fact, the more women can role model this, the easier it is for men to show their softer, more compassionate sides which they feel society wants them to keep locked away … to their own detriment, and everyone’s loss.
Women may depart from the corporate pipeline in droves leaving a vacuum at the top as they seek work opportunities where they are appreciated, feel more autonomous and thrive in more compassionate environments, but some men are doing this too! The current management and leadership paradigm serves neither women nor men. As John Gerzema, co-author of the book The Athena Doctrine puts in the book’s sub-title “How women (and the men who think like them) will rule the future”. Both men and women need to get behind this Shift which calls for these more feminine, caring, compassionate approaches to business.
In terms of the future, it is also worth noting Prof Hlupic’s comments about Millennials, those born from 1980, who only know a digital way of living and working. They are in the workplace now and they don’t appreciate or respect hierarchy. They want flexible working and more connection and will demand Level 4 Emergent leadership or will simply leave for another employer. This generation will demand change and will certainly drive it as they emerge into leadership themselves in the next few years. Several of them, empowered by the democratic opportunities of the internet, have even become billionaires in their twenties and are already driving change. Another contributor from last night’s audience also highlighted the urgent need to review the Command-and-Control nature of education which ill prepares the next generation for a world of work that will nourish them in a sustainable way. A shift in new thinking is needed for schools too.
Finally …. knowing that it is hard for any individual or group to let go of power, especially those in the Dominant Culture, Prof Hlupic reminded us of the power paradox where leaders who do let go of power will then find they get more back. It’s worth thinking about!
And as I sign off I’m reminded of this year’s movie of the year … at least for all the girls around the world under 10 years old who are all word-perfect in the lyrics of the Oscar-winning song from Disney’s blockbuster movie “Frozen”. Check out thousands of videos on Youtube with 6-year olds reciting ‘Let it Go’…. there IS a lesson in there for us adults from Elsa the teenage Ice Queen. …..
“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
Let it go, let it go!! ”
The book is published later this month and promises to be a great read.