A modern leader’s job
Kirjoittanut: Tuuli-Emily Liivat - tiimistä SYNTRE.
3 Different Situations: A modern leader’s job.
An essay written by Sunita Kumar and Tuuli-Emily Liivat
Entrepreneurship and team leadership
During the spring of 2023, Sunita and Emily attended a Modern Leadership Skills course. Curated by Toni Lehtimäki, the course entailed topics such as motivation and leading others in various situations, change management models, leadership styles, and modern guidance as a leader and much more.
This essay aims to outline the various leadership theories that were used in solving their final examination case studies. These case studies gave the actual understanding of the situations companies can come across in these modern times. As it is said, modern problems need modern solutions.
What the Case Study Method Really Teaches?
It’s been 100 years since Harvard Business School began using the case study method. Beyond teaching specific subject matter, the case study method excels in instilling meta-skills in students. These skills are preparation, discernment, bias recognition, judgement, collaboration, curiosity, and self-confidence. (Nohria 2021.)
Let’s look at how Sunita and Emily solved their challenging cases and what are their personal understanding on this course?
What techniques they used, what strategies they followed and what leadership skills they swear by as new age modern leaders in making.
In these case studies we assume that Emily and Sunita are running an organizational psychology management firm called XYZ Solutions which also helps in training younger generation in developing their soft skill sets to beat the competency and perform efficiently on the global platform and remain motivated during odd times of global uncertainties and instabilities.
2. Case 1: Case of an organisation seeking more productivity from the employees.
An IT company contacted our ‘organisational psychology management firm’ called the XYZ SOLUTIONS seeking a plan to elevate their employee motivation. They asked our institute to guide them for the steps and measures to be taken and strategies to be implemented while working on not a very big team. The team is selected on their eligibility and is skilful for their job. The result they are looking for is that there should be rise in each employee’s productivity and the atmosphere within the team should be of unity, trust and security.
2.1 Solution of case 1
Anytime, while solving cases a list of pointers helps in keeping the track of what is happening through each step. The best solution Emily and Sunita found for this case is as follows.
INTRODUCTION TO DISCIPLINE OF TEAMS THEORY BY KATZENBACH AND SMITH on the organisational level and combining it with APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY plus applying NATURAL REWARD THEORY of self-leadership for each employee.
Through their Discipline of Teams theory, Katzenbach and Smith proposes that the essence of a team is shared commitment, which is why the theory suggests the following steps when it comes to building team performance:
- Set a direction and meaning for the team (see the vision statement that is covered in the coming paragraphs).
- Think of existing skills and potential skills inside the team to find suitable descriptions.
- Introduce the rules of conduct to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Set the end goals and smaller steps to take inside that goal. This makes sure everyone knows what the team is working towards.
- Educate and share knowledge.
- Face-to-face contact and other activities where a team gets to spend time together in order to get familiar with the team-mates.
- Feedback, recognition and rewards to create a positive atmosphere.
Given the fact that in our case, the employees were competent, a constructive approach should be implemented. According to Katzenbach and taking the case into account, the best way to act is to avoid criticism and the traditional critical approach, because we can’t afford to lose anyone in the team scenario. The team scenario stated that the team is not very big, meaning that the team would also be influenced by each other’s behaviour and unwritten rules within the team. (Katzenbach and Smith 1993.)
A team such as the one described in the example needs recognition and motivation to outrun competition. This method needs to be combined with appreciative inquiry method.
Proposed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in 1987, the method of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) refers to an asset-based approach to organizational and social engagement. The theory helps participants uncover existing strengths, advantages, or opportunities in their communities, organizations, or teams through the utilization of questions and dialogue. AI is based on discovering what is working, what gives life, what is creating energy and excitement, and then determining how to create value beyond these aspects. In AI, the model of a cycle is used, which includes 5 steps.
The 5 steps in the appreciative inquiry cycle are the 5 Ds of Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny and Definition.
Given the example team scenario of a constructive approach to motivation and taking into account the 5D model and the theory of appreciative inquiry, a viable approach would be to focus on inspiring a shared vision. The employees should be able to feel that their purpose exceeds their work, what they are doing is bigger than them, that they are working together on something important and that they are contributing to the improvement of society by creating additional value in their workplace.
For the employees to feel this connection and sense of belonging to the company, a well communicated vision statement should be created or reassessed and shared with the stakeholders. If the employees feel a connection with the company’s vision statement and their personal statement, it is more likely that a better employee retention results in the process and they feel the purpose for the work they are doing. A proper vision statement should be made with long term vision, as wage statements will not resonate within the employees. This statement should be then communicated to all the stakeholders in an effective manner and modified if changes in the company are made.
Together with the above 2 models company needs to apply natural reward strategies on the level of personal upliftment for each employee. Natural reward strategies are intended to create situations in which a person is motivated or rewarded by inherently enjoyable aspects of the task or activity. There are two primary natural reward strategies. The first involves building more pleasant and enjoyable features into a given activity so that the task itself becomes naturally rewarding. The second strategy consists of shaping perceptions by focusing attention away from the unpleasant aspects of a task and refocusing it on the task’s inherently rewarding aspects. Both strategies are likely to create feelings of competence and self-determination, two primary mechanisms of intrinsic motivation. To summarize, natural reward strategies are designed to help create feelings of competence and self-determination, which in turn energize performance-enhancing task-related behaviours. (Pavlovik 2019.)
The above proposed solutions are few of the many permutation combinations of modern leadership management skills sets. There can be many different solutions to any given situations as per your own leadership style and understanding.
3 Case 2, A case of two cultures, two languages and two countries.
A paper manufacturing Finnish company requires more technically advanced machinery for which they have sent an offer to paper making machine manufacturing company from Vietnam. The Vietnam company agrees on sending a staff of 20 people with machines for installation of machines and training of the 50 employees of Finnish company for a year. The situation is that the staff from Vietnam does not speak Finnish or English and the staff from Finnish company does not speak Vietnamese language or English. The two cultures are very different, and the Finnish company has very little time to make the changes and arrangements for the Vietnamese team. As a leader what would be your suggestion to the Finnish company for handling this situation. What according to your firm XYZ solutions should be the strategies, models and plans or style of Finnish company’s team leaders.
3.1 Solution for case 2
Here is what Emily and Sunita’s solution for this case is.
Thank you for reaching out to us and entrusting us with strengthening your team during the change process. We believe in your vision and do our best to accommodate you and the team in bringing the two cultures under correlation and co-operation.
In change processes, it is of utmost importance to highlight that the change in vision is also linked to the change in culture. According to Hai, organizational culture influences the external relations of the corporation, as well as the internal relations of the employees (Hai, 1986).
Due to this, we warmly recommend looking into the Nudge Theory (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008). The theory suggests that by providing practical stimuli in the short-term, the benefits will be of higher quality in the long term.
The theory consists of the following principles shown in the photo:
Illustration. The 7 Principles of the Nudge Theory. Source: Whatfix, 2022.
Through the inclusion of employees in the implementation of the process, the employees will be able to be more involved in the decision-making process and thus also more open to working alongside with the change, making resistance less likely.
Like a parent would with a child, it guides employees towards the options management wants them to choose. The beauty of this change management framework is that it aims to get the full support of your employees, while still making them feel a part of the process of choosing and managing the change.
Nudge theory is best used in conjunction with another model. For this, we recommend combining Nudge Theory with The Lewin’s Change Management Model because The Nudge theory works on the individual level of employees and the Lewin’s change model works on the picture at large of the process and implementation level of the organization.
Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change (Lewin, 1951) consists of three phases outlined in the illustration below.
Illustration. Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change. Source: Whatfix, 2022.
The first phase consists of “unfreezing” the current process and analyzing how it can be improved so that everyone affected understands the need for change. After this, it is possible to make your changes and guide employees throughout the transition. Once changes have been deployed and tweaked according to employee feedback, one needs to solidify or “refreeze” the new status quo.
It is important to note that the model does not guarantee a fast transition. The Lewin’s Model often involves spreading out the “change” phase over a long period of time to overcome resistance and provide adequate training. Use this model when you have strong support from senior management and need to make organization- or team-wide changes.
To bring lasting change there needs to be an acceptance of the current reality. The reality is that the two cultures are going to work together a whole year, the ratio of employees is 50:20 and most importantly they will require a little time adjusting to Finnish weather because Vietnamese weather is really hot and humid. To convey of the employees to the vision, it may be best to communicate the vision to them and think together how to best accommodate the employees. Steps such as additional training of Vietnamese language, culture and cultural traditions may create understanding of the employees into the co-existing behavior and burn the bridge of differences. Additionally, the Vietnamese staff could have an introduction into the Finnish culture and behavior while they are onsite in Finland.
As with everything, the process of change and adjustment takes time and may, regardless of preparation, go through resistance.
This is best explained with the Kübler-Ross Change Curve model.
Illustration of Kübler-Ross Change Curve, 1969. Source: MindTools.
There is going to be a process of change and adjustment, and this is expected. Seeing as you will deconstruct the current process to a point and build new systems, there may even be a need to hire new employees or rearrange roles. However, as long as you communicate clearly, support the employees through listening to their worries and celebrate successes, your company will successfully go through the change. For any further assistance please consider contacting us again.
All the best,
Emily and Sunita.
4 Case 3: A case of Personal feedback.
This firm is looking for help in how to give feedback to an employee of his bad breath. The team finds it very difficult to work with him. Company has been requested by the team members to work on this problem on urgent basis. What will be our solution for a situation like this as a team leader.
Hmm.. This kind of a problem has a very complex psychology to deal with. Let’s see what the XYZ Solutions suggests us.
4.1 Solution of case 3
Feedback on personal subjects.
CASE 3 – Bad breath is a very personal subject.
Bad breath is a sensitive subject, because it has to do with the intimacy of the person involved. The person is competent, and we do not want to lose them or the value they bring to the workplace with their skills and successes. However, it does have an impact on the surroundings and is affecting productivity in the workplace. Everybody is aware of the bad breath, except the person. It is a delicate situation.
The first thing we could do is have a one-on-one talk with the person. If we know them, and we have an existing relationship with them, we could adapt our approach to not offend them. Secrecy would be a major part of the strategy because we do not want to ruin the reputation of the person, and we want to avoid all sorts of rumours. The biggest stress factor in the work environment is the relationship people have with one another. Speaking the truth can be offensive, but here it is necessary for the long-term productivity and success of the team. We gently point it out, in private, in a professional manner.
Not pointing it out might lead to a bad habit formation and people getting fed up, not wanting to work with the person and maybe even leaving the company. We do not want that.
We advise to use the Sandwich theory in this case, which can be divided in 3 steps:
1) Starting with positive feedback (highlighting something positive about the person concerned)
2) Continue then by pointing out what is negative (in this case the bad breath)
3) Finish by highlighting something positive (but different from what you said previously).
Illustration source : https://theblacklight.co/2019/08/01/feedback-sandwich-stale-af/
Most of us are familiar with the advice to couch or preface negative feedback with at least two positive messages, aka the feedback sandwich. In theory, this takes the sting out of whatever nugget of knowledge the person wants to drop on you. Some leaders think it’s easier for people to accept criticism if they also hear something positive. Others believe providing both positive and negative comments at the same time presents a balanced performance evaluation. (Schwarz 2019)
We begin by having an individual meeting where we address something positive about the employee concerned, then we expose the problem in a soft way (we must be very careful because this kind of subject would cause a lack of self-esteem and would directly affect his morale.
If the employee is embarrassed, it’s important to reassure him/her (tell him/her that it’s a common issue that can happen to anyone)
If the employee becomes defensive, then it’ll be important to try to stay calm and focused on the fact (the goal is to acknowledge their feelings and listen to their perspective, but continue to empathize that the bad breath has an impact on the team)
If the employee denies that there is an issue, be firm but respectful. Provide specific examples of times when the bad breath has been noticed by others and empathize with the importance of addressing the issue to create a positive environment.
Finally, we discuss together and provide him/her solutions to deal with that problem. What is also always important in any feedback situation, is to follow through with the given feedback for example has the situation improved and communicate that to the receiving person. Feedback is a constant cycle and simply just telling your opinions and leaving it there is not considered a sufficient way of feedback.
The above proposed solutions are few of many permutations and combination of modern leadership skills sets. There can be many different solutions to given situations as per your understanding and style. The art of leadership is highly nuanced, and this essay is a great start to tie your previous experiences with theories or use the writings as inspiration in exploring your own paths in leadership positions. While both writers highly enjoyed the course and are confident that the learnings received on the course will be put to great practical use in their personal and professional lives, Toni was keen that students learn and practice beyond just the classes. He is also looking forward that his students will spread this knowledge among their respective elaborated teams in Proakatemia and everyone gets benefitted from learning such soft skills as young modern leaders in making. Emily and Sunita further add, “It is important that students realise that they are being given a blank canvas at Proakatemia, you are the artist of your own destiny as Entrepreneurs in making and courses like these can benefit you in filling this blank canvas with the most beautiful picture you want of yours as a thriving entrepreneur and prepare you for constantly changing world full of uncertainties and challenges. Learning such skills as leaders can give you an edge to your personality and boost your confidence.”
https://hbr.org/2021/12/what-the-case-study-method-really-teaches https://www.collidu.com/presentation-katzenbach-and-smith-model https://hbr.org/1993/03/the-discipline-of-teams-2 https://herukahealthinnovations.com/2019/05/07/self-leadership-behave-like-a-leader-until-you-become-one/
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/bodyodoraffectingworkplace.aspx https://www.rightattitudes.com/2008/02/20/sandwich-feedback-technique/ https://theblacklight.co/2019/08/01/feedback-sandwich-stale-af/ Book. Cameron, Esther. Making sense of change management: a complete guide to the models, tools and techniques of organizational change / Esther Cameron and Mike Green. — 2nd ed
Article. Hai, D M (ed) (1986) Organizational Behavior: Experiences and cases, West Publishing, St Paul, MN
Book. Thaler, R. H. and Sunstein, C. R. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. 2009.
Article and illustrations. Whatfix. 10 Proven Change Management Models in 2023. 2022. https://whatfix.com/blog/10-change-management-models/