Flip Solutions Autumn 2021 BL Reflection
Writers: Ella Muja & Veikko Airas
Introduction – Veikko
Me and Ella were the Business Leaders of our Team company Flip Solutions Osk. On our teams 2. nd year studies first half semester. What was special about our role was that we split the role of the Business leader. Me and Ella have different personalities and we haven´t had that much experience on working together before. So, this was a challenge to take. But we figured that this will be so valuable lesson for the whole team that we were up for the challenge.
What it requires to be a leader for a team? -Veikko
Leaders one of the most important tasks is that you can make up a clear plan, vision and goals about what are you doing and want to reach in the future with the team. Which you can then provide clearly for the people that you are leading. In our shared leading position, we had to communicate with each other as well. Me and Ella have different ways to approach leading as an individual’s so implementing two completely different leading styles so closely might not always be that easy. It requires both leaders to communicate with each other, handle their responsibilities and do their tasks in time. The ability of giving constructive feedback is playing an important role when sharing leader role with somebody. This way you can successfully improve together and avoid problems.
Firing process: -Veikko´s reflection
We had a problematic process right at the start of our Leadership season. One of our teammates came buy us with a serious message. One of our teammates had multiple times broken the rules of our company and had been causing conflicts inside the team on the past 2 semesters. The problem with this was that this hasn´t been handled right when the situations happened but they have been boiling under the surface for multiple months.
What made this situation hard that when this situation was brought to us. All the small things that had taken action before had become big things when not handled or taken action in time.
But I and Ella did not paralyze. We did plenty of research how to give feedback and how to handle a this situation in the best possible way. Our way to best possible outcome with Ella was transparency about the situation. I will list the process down how we proceeded in this situation:
- Listening the teammates concerns and listing down the actual things that had happened really clearly.
- Making a clear message about this and bringing the concerns for the person that the concerns are being aimed at.
- Bringing the situation up for the whole team and start processing this situation. Keep in mind you are controlling this as a leader so things don´t get heated up.
- Open a discussion in the team also without the person this is considering. This is not a must but if you think some people are not able to open up about their feelings with the teammate this is considered at you should do this.
- Do it again with the whole team and discuss how can we move forward with the situation the way it is beneficial for the team.
- Proceed with the solutions and make actions towards them. In this we had a vote whether we keep the teammate in the team or not. We decided to fire them. Another solution we had in mind we could offer the teammate time in the team with terms he needs to follow to keep their position in the team.
This was the way we did it but we missed one really important thing as a team that would have made my and Ella´s work lot easier. A sing of warning for the teammate before the situation was this bad it was in this case. It would have made the situation easier to handle.
- Motivating the team after firing process and sales days (Ella)
- Accounting struggle and working with the board
Selection Process – Ella
In the autumn of 2021, Veikko and I were the shared business leaders for Flip Solutions. However, the process of our term began much earlier. During the previous spring, our team made the choice to decide the autumn’s leaders to provide as much transition time in the summer from the old leaders to the new ones. Both Veikko and I were encouraged by different members in the team to run for the position of business leader, because it was a great learning opportunity. The team voted and the results ended up being tied, which called for another vote, where the results were once again tied.
At this point we both took time to reflect and consider the options which were: one of us drops out of the running or we decide to combine forces and work together as business leads in the autumn. It was a challenging decision due to the team’s thoughts also being split between the two of us. To provide the best option for the team, the choice was clear, to work together both as business leads.
Since the decision was made in May 2021, we immediately went on summer break to relax after spring. We started to have meetings in July and August before the autumn semester started again to make some initial plans and reflect on the previous spring. At this point we had met with Hekumu as well to hear updates on their work for sales days and planned initial pajas for the beginning of autumn.
Work Division – Ella
As mentioned in both Conscious Leadership and Leadershift, it takes skill and practice to become a leader who knows how to lead people and a team. Within Proakatemia, each team is allowed to decide what kind of leadership structure fits their team best. Some teams have a business leader, some have an HR, and some have both. In the spring of 2021, Flip had a business leader and a team leader with clear tasks and outlined roles.
The challenge with Veikko and I being chosen both for the position of business leader was that there was no room for a team leader. Flip decided together that having three in the leading position at the time was unnecessary. The role of the business leader in the spring was to handle our company’s establishment process, check finances, and motivate the team to start working on projects. Whereas the team leader handled our team learning, training sessions, essays, and well-being.
There was motivation from both of us to practice and develop our leadership skills in practice for Flip, and both of us had the support of the team. I had more experience when it came to leading people, delegating tasks, and understanding the prioritizing of team tasks. Veikko had more experience with the business in practice side, understanding the company’s finances, and growing the business. There was a clear balance at the start, where one of us had experience in the team leader’s responsibilities and the other in the business leader’s responsibilities. However, with the motivation to learn more about all aspects of being a company leader, we challenged ourselves to try our best to develop in the roles that we had less experience in.
However, due to challenging circumstances later explained, it was much easier for Ella to handle the position of team leader and assist Veikko with managing the business. In addition to working together with Taru, our coach, through our weekly meetings, we also learned to ask for help from the previous leaders and the company’s board. To gain more perspective and hear from other leader’s previous experience we tried to set up meetings with other coaches and teampreneurs as well.
I had more of the role of team leader now looking back at autumn. My ability to pay close attention to details regarding essays, deadlines, team’s messages, and running the weekly meetings came in handy. On a weekly basis I updated Flip’s Teams with posts from Proakatemia and informed them of any changes to schedules. With the weekly meetings being on Monday’s it was an easy start to the week, compared to organizing and facilitating most of the pajas in the autumn which was much more challenging. An important concept of managing is micromanaging and learning the balance of it. It is important to trust the members of the company, but also provide them with clearer guidelines to prevent confusion and a lack of transparency (Mackey 2020).
One topic that was a struggle for Flip in the spring was essays, and with the essay regulations changing in September it was difficult to keep the team up to date and aware of the modifications. Many members in Flip have shared their feelings regarding the essays and how they are a large burden and cause stress. This is why Veikko and I made it a goal to motivate the team as much as possible to prioritize the essays. As a team we set an essay deadline mid-way through the semester and implemented a fine to ensure accountability. It was both the leader’s and individual’s own responsibility to motivate everyone to write their essays with quality and on time.
The autumn semester at Proakatemia is hectic with multiple events including Sales Days and the Proakatemia Birthday, new students starting their studies, and having to return from the lengthy summer holiday. I found that keeping a to-do list on hand at all times helped me stay organized and using the tool Notion was a great way to keep all tasks in order. Constant messages and emails regarding Flip and the community flooded my inbox and I also found it important to keep one day a week to individual studies.
While I handled more of the detailed and tedious tasks required, Veikko looked at the bigger picture and tried his best to motivate the team to innovate projects and work on our financial troubles. He has more experience from the business side and has dealt with practical challenges such as deciding an accountant and looking into business taxation in Finland.
One challenge Flip faced in the spring 2021 semester was the lack of time spent together and possibility to work on projects together due to the Covid pandemic. A goal that Veikko and I had for our term as leaders was to innovate more team projects to increase Flip’s revenue but also prioritize the members of the team to spend more time with each other outside of paja hours. This issue has been widespread amongst companies and teams who started during the pandemic because the connection virtually feels artificial and without empathy (Lee 2020).
Veikko was able to find us a quick project that helped Herkkä Snacks Oy label their new packaging and earned us some easy money. The project itself didn’t necessarily provide learning or new skills for the team, but it achieved the goal of Flip spending more time together and getting to know one another even better.
At the same time, Flip was dealing with the transition of our old team accountant to our new outsourced accountant. This decision also meant that a new finance team was to be chosen for Flip. Veikko met with the finance team regularly and was kept up to date on how meetings with the accountant went to create transparency. The work with the accountant was time-consuming for the team and it was clear that not all members of Flip understood the finances of the company and which projects were contributing to the cash flow. One solution was to have a training session and additional meetings regarding the financial situation of Flip where questions could also be gathered and prepared for the accountant, so that understanding between the team was mutual.
Motivating the team was one of the largest challenges faced in the autumn. When a diverse team such as Flip is encouraged to work together and utilize all skills it can create pressure and tension, which can easily equate to negativity and laziness. Although Veikko put effort towards motivating the team, there were underlying stresses and challenges that limited the process. In Mackey’s book there were a few suggestions for motivating a company or team that can start with the leader:
- A leader must stay connected to their employees to create a sense of community where everyone matters.
- This creates a safer and more trustworthy environment for team members to work in. In a safe space, people more easily share their honest opinions and innovate their ideas without the fear of negativity or someone ignoring them.
- Pushing team members to move out of their comfort zone sparks learning and innovation.
- Ideal happiness and improvement occur when people are faced with new situations that provide them an opportunity to learn and get excited about new ideas. Leaders who can help their team achieve goals are inspiring and often remembered. These types of leaders also acknowledge and adapt to changing working environments to create a more modern and progressive place to work.
- Admitting mistakes and having raw conversations increases integrity and bravery.
- This can make a leader more approachable and understanding. When the person in charge can admit errors and show development, it can motivate the team to work and innovate more towards goals.
Ella’s Book Reflection
After reading John Mackey’s book Conscious Leadership, it became apparent that there are defining differences between just leaders and conscious leaders. Being able to run a company without thinking of how actions affect both people and the company’s surroundings is much simpler than taking into consideration the community, customer, and coworkers. That is what sets these two types of leaders apart. Mackey made it clear that conscious leaders have to prioritize the company’s purpose, innovating to create value, and the development of a safe work environment.
One of the first things a leader must take into consideration is if they are up for the job and they can put the company and its people first. Anyone can take a leadership position, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is fit to be a leader. John Mackey had founded his company, Whole Foods, in 1978, and put all of his blood, sweat, and tears into it. However, in January of 2001, he was at risk of being told to step down from the position of CEO because he had taken the company in the wrong direction both financially and structurally. Mackey had to rethink his entire career, and it was after the experience in 2001 that opened his vision to a new possibility for Whole Foods.
In the book, Mackey mentions the five main qualities of a business leader: honesty, honor, trustworthiness, authenticity and courage (Mackey 2020). Each quality doesn’t necessarily provide a direct definition for the word, but instead identifies the multiple aspects to a company of character and value. These characteristics also reflect on the customers, employees, and other members of the company.
Out of the five qualities, I found that honesty and courage are the most important. Honesty goes hand in hand with transparency, which is equally as important. For employees and colleagues to trust their leaders, there must be a safe work environment where everyone feels trusted to share information and ideas honestly. Courage is a quality of self-leadership as well. For a person to learn, they must step out of their comfort zone which requires courage and the ability to believe in oneself. This trait comes into play in more challenging or uncomfortable situations that are difficult to deal with and where leaders learn the most from.
For this academic essay Veikko chose the book Leader Shift by John Maxwell.
John is originally a pastor who is really interested about leadership. He read books and went to multiple different events. He was eager to learn more about leadership and looked for ways to improve he´s skills in leadership. In this book he goes over one of the biggest learning in he´s career. How to Leader shift.
Veikko´s Book reflection.
Why every leader needs a leader shift?
Leaders need to be able to make changes jump into different directions and be active all the time to make the best decisions to take their team forward. Leaders need to also be able to admit when they are wrong and improve their work by the feedback they have got. Good leaders are good hearted, but they also must have the courage to show the direction to the people they lead. Leaders also must bring the people they lead to the top with them together we make things possible.
What Leader shift means?
Leader shift means that we learn from yesterday’s mistakes but watch to tomorrow and live in today. In leader shift it is important to also remember the people you lead. Make them shine and think about them before you. Make a base for your team to shine and seek out things you can complement and improve.
Here are few of the important elements of Leader shift
1. Continuously learn, unlearn, and relearn
2. Value yesterday but live in today
3. Yesterday’s homerun doesn’t win today’s game
4. Yesterday ended last night
5. Good yesterday doesn’t guarantee a good today
These are good short and efficient phrases that you can follow as a leader. Usually, the phrases in the leader books are more superficial than these 5 listed here.
In the book John points out few ways of thinking to become a better leader:
shift your focus from Soloist to conductor. He’s metaphor in this is: You can get everything what you want if you get other people get what they want. When you help other people, they are also willing to give you help in the future. When you work like that you will multiply your growth.
Work to bring out the best around you. You will have a lot better team when you want to go on the top and take your team to the top with you. No one likes a soloist leader.
Change your thinking from “Me to We”. How can I bring value, not only for me but also my team? What kind of decisions and need to do to take my whole team forward?
A good point I picked up from Johns saying:
“It’s lonely at the top” Where are the people that you are leading in that sentence shouldn’t they be at the top with you!? Don’t be fool and be humble enough to give credit also for other people. Instead of competing each other complete each other. Don´t be a soloist leader. You will benefit a lot more from leading with an example and trying your best to bring value for your team. Show your team that you care about them. Some people still lead in the way that they just boss people around and don’t think how the people they are leading feel or think. Understanding from the team’s point of view will make you a better leader. Its leader’s responsibility to create a foundation for their followers to make the succeed the better the foundation is the easier it is for the follower to shine. And the easier it is for the followers to shine the more your team will shine. Is that good enough explanation to lead this way?
Realizations from the book
I liked this book. I think it was different from these usual leadership books in a positive way. It explained well the things the book included and did not pretend like there would have been a golden way to do things to succeed. I listened this book and I have to say I love John´s deep reading voice.
It was also interesting to read this because John is a strongly religious person where I´m not. He brought that lightly up and I think it’s cool that we different kinds of people here and we are still able to respect one another. It also brought up new things to my thinking as well.
John takes the role of leadership from a humble positive attitude. You must also bring value to the table as a leader as the team you lead.
Also giving others as much value you can for others is one of the centres of the book. When you understand the deeper meaning behind giving you will feel better about giving things for free for others. Not always looking it from a way “what will I get from this”.
The way I see myself in this book is that as a leader you should see yourself as selfless as you can and make the decisions you face as selflessly as possible. When I was in army as a leader, I was awarded with fair teammates award. It´s easy to be a bossy leader in the leader position but I did the not those nice jobs with my team although I had the change to look from the side and watch while they do the work. Like most of the leaders there did.
Lee, M. 2020. The Great Covid-Driven Teamwork Divide. Read 4.4.2022. https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/the-great-covid-driven-teamwork-divide-15391
Mackey, J. 2020. Conscious Leadership. New York City: Penguin Random House LLC.
Maxwell, J. 2019. Leader shift. Nashville: HarperCollins Leadership.