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The New Management Ideal

Management Corner – Part 2

Annette Reissfelder, a Professional Accredited Coach active in Prague and Hamburg, shares her musings on management, innovation and beliefs in this series first published in BUSINESSWOMAN this summer.

This article first appeared in “BusinessWoman” in June 2013.

The business world is changing- and if we don’t change along with it, we’ll be out of a job.  There is a new ‘management ideal’ developing- it’s ideal because it is what is most likely to bring success to the modern manager. This ideal is the same whether you’re a man or a woman - because unlike in the current model, where a ‘weaker’ counterbalance is necessary to maintain team stability - the ideal business team will be made up of truly equal players. Not equal in sense of women rising up to meet men on an equal level, but in a new sense where both men and women will have just the right mix of masculine and feminine qualities. However - your own particular upbringing, as well as your gender, will place you closer or further away from that ideal, as well as at a different standpoint in relationship to that ideal. Why is that?  In particular, what we believe - not what we KNOW - shapes who we are, and what we may become. Our beliefs, in turn, are shaped by our gender and our upbringing. We need to be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, to determine what beliefs we have, throw out the ones that don’t serve us, and add in those that will serve us better. Here’s why:

No Excuses, No Blame Games

Prof. Gunter Dueck, the ex-Chief Technology Officer of IBM, has turned into a prolific writer and business maverick ever since he retired from IBM at age 60. He is very concerned about the dramatic changes technology brings to the workplace, and as a consequence, the innovations Europe needs now in order to keep our privileged position in the world. He argues that we in Europe will need to educate a different type of personality that is prepared for a future where managers won’t be able to just “deduct-guess-derive” their goals from those of their bosses. Instead, goals will be defined in a much more general way, and only business results will count. In the new business world, it will be up to every person in the organisation to make sure they have what they need in order to meet their goals. There will be no excuses, and no blame games: either you made your target profit or you didn’t.

If you are fluent in German, and are concerned with innovation, check out Gunter Dueck’s insights on how technology will change our professions in the coming years – e.g. his (long!) talk on professional intelligence or how (many) people deal with change – or for some more philosophical insights, his excellent TEDx speech. Stunning stuff! You can also email me for my 5-page newsletter (in Czech) dedicated to innovation, and specifically Dueck’s works.

These changes in the workplace (which mean any job worth considering will require an agile brain, and everything else will be outsourced and/or low paid) will favour people who can negotiate not just their pay, but also their resources – which includes people, time, budget, and support. Now women are for the most part still NOT very comfortable negotiating – so they lack practice, and often don’t appreciate low-risk, or no-risk, ways to learn how to negotiate. Women still behave as though according to an underlying belief that “Things should be the way I want them to be”.  This idea belongs to the realm of fairy tales, not to the business world; not even to the “better version of it” that I believe aware and educated women can shape.

I’ve been arguing this for years, and have also helped many highly talented people of both sexes to find those resources within themselves; sometimes, this takes a little digging… Dueck calls those the “new top notes”:

• Creativity, originality, sense of humour;Constructive, joyful will;

• Initiative that radiates to others;

• Sense of community, which activates others;

• Sympathetic appearance and openness;

• Balanced self-confidence;

• Looking forward to a good personal future;

• Curiosity that inspires others;

• Positive attitude to the diversity of life;

• Loving general attitude towards people.

Women’s issues are discussed a little differently in the ex Austro-Hungarian empire, and countries with a Latin culture than in the Protestant Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and German part of the world. Though there is lots of exposure to gender-specific content everywhere nowadays, there do seem to be more alternatives. In particular, the more educated the family, the less parents expect daughters to be docile and pretty. I was really lucky that, as a teenager who showed little interest in clothes, make-up, parties or boys, nobody in my family saw me as “weird”.

Ambitious Worker Bee

In her recent talk at the Katz School of Business, Elisabeth Rodrigez Dennehy touched on another relevant point: women in management positions still have a tendency to implicitly or explicitly justify how good they are – instead of just walking into the room with the underlying SECURITY of “I belong here”. But that’s difficult to do if you haven’t experienced in your childhood that you are good as you are - even if that’s different from others. This is where many men still have an amazing advantage.

Now, we all know what behaviours girls are encouraged to show – and as we can read in books like „The Drama of the Gifted Child“ (nearly 35 years after its first publication still a highly relevant classic by Swiss Alice Miller!), girls pick that up and try to comply – because they try to please, originally Daddy. They pay much more notice to the subtle and implicit messages from those around them than boys. This could be good or bad - depending entirely on context. While perceptivity and receptivity are some of the qualities of a great leader, these need to be complemented by more proactive skills.

Because when “gifted girls” grow up, their luck changes – now, they will often just do more of the same, even though they can no longer reap the desired rewards from it. If they then go and train those old behaviours more, they will just confirm their positioning as worker bee. Or shall we say, ambitious worker bee… because in the kingdom of mother nature, worker bees are believed to have no higher ambitions, no drive to self-actualize, and no need to be appreciated by others…

The next article will look into beliefs in more detail.

Management Corner – Part 1 Why Good Girls could be losing out in the workplace now
Management Corner – Part 3 Beliefs Trump Facts: An Introduction
Management Corner – Part 4 Personal Myths: Beliefs That Might Be Holding You Back

About the author: Annette ( studied economics and holds a master degree in psychology. She started her coaching training in 1998 while she ran a management consultancy for manufacturing companies. Today her clients are business owners and senior managers who want to actively shape an important personal or professional change project. In her work, she combines the roles of consultant, strategic thinking partner and psychologist. She is multilingual and works in German, Czech and English. 

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