Tougher Minds founder Dr. Jon Finn explains why cutting-edge Leadership Science is essential for success in the new world of work.
Some people call it agile working, some call it hybrid working and others refer to it as flexible working. Whatever the name, the new and increased challenges for leaders are the same.
In this short podcast, Dr. Finn explains much more and highlights the steps that any team must take, to succeed and thrive in this context.
He also discusses the recent demands by staff at tech giant Apple for more flexible working. And explains the implications and challenges of managing a team remotely.
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Hi, everyone, Dr. Jon Finn here, welcome to another episode of the Tougher Minds podcast. Today we’re going to talk about hybrid, flexible, agile working….different companies call it different things. But lots of people are talking about this at the moment and making decisions about what has been termed the new world of work.
We’re working with many clients of ours on this. And, and I want to focus on a few related things today, one of them being Apple’s approach to this because that’s generated many headlines. And I think it’s really interesting. Before I go there, I think, the first question we need to ask ourselves in this space, and the first question we’re going to ask ourselves is, what is the aim of this new way of working? Why are we doing it? What do we want to achieve?
And I think the number one outcome is that we have to prioritise new ways of working and helping our people’s brains to work properly. We live in a world described as the VUCA world, which is the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world. That means there is only one constant and that constant is change.
Change is getting faster and faster and faster. And we hear stats like the lockdown period over the last 18 months has also accelerated our use of technology, for example, by, I think, two or three years. What this change means is that what you did last year to be successful, probably isn’t going to be exactly the same thing that you need to do this year to be successful. Because technology is changing all the time. That means that our roles and responsibilities are changing all the time.
So what the VUCA world brings is many problems that we need to solve. It brings lots of stress. But it means the companies that are going to win, in the medium to long term, are not the companies that are the wealthiest now, not the companies that have the smartest people, it’s the companies that are best at adapting. And if you want to be good at adapting, you need your people to be good at solving problems.
If we go back in time to the first, second and – to an extent – the third industrial revolution, we have much more of a factory model where once you’ve learned your once you learned your job, as a young person, you could pretty much do that same job for the rest of your life. And you didn’t really have to learn too much, or develop your skill set. But that isn’t the case, as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.
Everyone needs to keep changing and adapting themselves to meet the challenges of the VUCA world to overcome the problems and also to optimise the on the opportunities that present themselves. So in order to do that, we need our people’s brains to be working properly more than ever before. We see poor mental health being a bigger concern than ever before. And it’s thought now that a mental health pandemic is coming because of this lockdown period that we’ve been in. If people’s brains are working properly, that’s going to help us to manage those challenges better.
But also, we need people’s brains to be working well, if they are going to be able to think creatively, innovatively, where the core foundations of solving problems in teams is communication and collaboration. A team is potentially far better able to solve problems than an individual is and this is homosapiens’ unique survival advantage. We’re not the biggest or fastest or strongest animal on the planet. All we are is better than any other animal working intelligently in teams. So we work together. There have been 300,000 plus years on the planet to solve problems, including to work out how to light fires and create the first wheel and then more recently created vaccinations to fight against COVID and things like this. But the power of any organisation is its people’s brains working together. The communicating and collaborating, in order to solve problems to overcome the challenges that businesses are facing for themselves or for their clients.
So whatever new model of work we’re going to adopt, it needs to prioritise helping people’s brains to work properly. And if we just think about this pure remote working model that many people have been forced to adopt, that brings about some challenges with communication and collaboration. So the current core technology we have in our brains to help us to communicate and collaborate are called mirror neurons. And these sites in the brain allow us to read or the people, they allow us to read their emotions. How are they feeling? Are they getting what I’m saying to them? Are they understanding me? Are they angry with me? Are they focused, are they engaged? So these mirror neurons are absolutely essential for helping us to communicate and collaborate.
And when we find ourselves on video conferencing, the mirror neurons don’t work as well. They’re designed for in-person interaction. So when we are only working with our colleagues via remote means, by video conferencing, the main technology we have in our brains to help us to communicate and collaborate is compromised. So this is a problem. And I think there are probably three, three issues that emerged from that, or my thinking about the pros and cons of agile, remote, flexible, working, whatever we want to call it. And the pros and cons of the new models, we’re going to adopt going forwards. If we’re purely working remotely, or if we have any element of significant remote work in our new work patterns, it will mean that teamwork is more difficult. Because teamwork is going to be easier if you’re meeting in person. But there’s a way around this that means we have to pay more attention to what good teams do and help our teams to understand that. So, they can be more proactive in contributing towards the team’s success. And this is some of the work that we’re doing with our Habit Mechanic and Chief Habit Mechanic training programmes.
And connected to that, it is going to be harder to lead if we’re working remotely. Most people receive promotions to leadership positions, because they’re really good at getting in a room with people bringing energy and influencing people’s behaviour in a really positive way when they’re in the same room as them. But of course, when we start to work remotely, that superpower gets taken away to lead is going to be more difficult. Again, there are ways around that we have to help our leaders to develop their leadership repertoires. We do that through our team power leadership model, where we help leaders to analyse their leadership habits and build new ones. That’s a core part of our Chief Habit Mechanic programme.
But leadership is harder when we’re working in our agile, flexible and hybrid formats. So we have to give our leaders better training to help them to do better in those situations. And the third factor that really is a fallout of it being more difficult for teams to function well and it being more difficult to lead is that we are going to be more reliant on people being good at self management. Because people are going to be working remotely, they’re going to be left more to their own devices. And they’re going to be more dependent on management rather than managing their own behaviour, which is extremely challenging in the VUCA world, in the attention economy. Which is why we’re seeing an increase in mental health problems for example. However, that’s the challenge, but we can overcome the challenge. We have and we teach people to become Habit Mechanics, so that people do know how to manage themselves, they do know how to give themselves the best chance of being at their best more often.
So when we’re creating our new ways of working – ,whether it’s where we call it hybrid remote, flexible – I think we’ve got to prioritise helping our people’s brains to work properly, because that’s going to help them to communicate and collaborate In order to solve problems so that the teams can adapt and adjust and keep thriving in the VUCA world. The specific problem with the remote working piece is that it makes teamwork harder, it makes it harder to lead. And it means that we’re going to be more dependent on people self managing. And what we’re seeing at the moment is lots, lots of different businesses talking about lots of different ways they’re going to ask their people to work. Because every business is ultimately different.
And businesses are making decisions based on what they think their people need. One of those stories that’s received press attention recently is Apple’s approach. Because that’s actually a slightly different approach. I think it would be fair to say that most companies are kind of saying, look, we want you to come in the office for a few days a week, and then you can work remotely the rest of the time. Apple has said, teams that require to work in person.
Apple said we want people to be in the office four to five days a week. So almost going back to full time in person work in the way that we did before we had the COVID situation. The reason they said they want to do that is because they think that when people are not working in person that it is harder to create that energy in your team. It’s harder to be creative and to collaborate and to collaborate, to feel the sense of community add something to a team’s performance. And everything that they’re saying makes complete sense to me, neurobiological and I’m sure that they’ve done the work on. So they’ve thought about what we need to do to get our people’s brains working properly?
The challenge is that what’s emerging from the employees is that they feel this is quite coercive. And it looks like there’s gonna be some resistance to do exactly what senior management wants people to do. And I think this just paints a really interesting picture of this, okay, knowing what we want our people to do. But actually, how do we get them to do it? Maybe it’s looking like Apple have possibly shot themselves in the foot a little bit here. Just past them, Why can I read these in these press stories, because it looks like they’ve got a lot of angry stuff. And one of the things that in our leadership, coaching and training programmes, we teach leaders to be team team power leaders. There’s four components: the role model, the action communicator, the cultural architect and the swap coach. There are about 89, two habits that sit underneath those, those four areas that help leaders to analyse themselves on these habits and to start building new healthful leadership habits. One of the one of the pieces of the cultural architect section of the team power leadership model, centres on empowerment, and self determination. And we know that self determination is the most important type of motivation that we can have, or it’s the most powerful type of motivation that we can have. When you’re self determined, you’re gonna be more likely to persist, and to keep going. Even when things are difficult. In self determination is one on one end of a continuum. The other end of the continuum is coercion is I’m doing things because I’ve, I’ve been forced to do them almost. And we know that coercion is a really fragile type of motivation. People that are coerced to do things given very quickly. And I think that’s what we’re seeing here is that the Apple staff feel like they’re being coerced to adopt a way of working, which they’re married to. I feel like they’ve had a saying, and there are ways and tools and techniques we can use to make people feel more empowered and more self determined about these choices that have been made about the new world of work. So I just wanted to explore hybrid, flexible, agile work in this podcast. Some of the things we’ve been working on with our clients will also bring to life, a real case study that’s out there at the moment. So, I hope that’s interesting.
And it’s got you thinking, all the challenges that remote working brings are there to be overcome, because that’s what challenges are and we can overcome them. Now the science is very compelling. We can overcome these challenges of helping teams to work better, of helping leaders to lead better, and helping people to get better at self management. And the best way that I understand to help people to do that is to train everyone to become a habit mechanic, and to train the leaders and future leaders to become Chief Habit Mechanics, obviously, what we do at Tougher Minds, but anyone can learn to start to become a habit mechanic. And we actually just made our level one hub mechanic course, completely free to anyone who wants to take it. So if you go to the website, you can, you can sign up to the level one habit mechanic course and start learning more about how your brain works, and how you can start to get better at managing yourself and building better habits for health, happiness and performance.
And once you’ve done that, you can learn how to become a chief hover mechanic, so you can start helping other people to build better habits in and create environments where it’s as easy as them to do that as possible. So please do take it as if I’m alpha guys and have the level one mechanic costs absolutely free at the moment. Lots more podcasts coming out in the near future, on all the hot topics that we hear about in the news and that are of interest to people. If there are any topics you want us to cover or me to cover in these podcasts, just let me know you can connect with me on LinkedIn or some or send us a message from the website. Because we want to create content that’s really interesting for you. So until next time, stay safe. And remember, we’re only ever one tiny small new habit aware from being at our best. And that’s why it’s important to adopt the habit mechanic mindset.