The digital workplace - where everyone leads

The most important leadership in our workplaces is everyone's leadership, everyone's ability to create job satisfaction and performance, both for themselves and those we work with. Now that many people have started to work more digitally and not in the office, our ability to lead ourselves has emerged as one of the most important competences.

What's new in the digital workplace?

The digital workplace is like any other workplace, you might think. The hybrid one too, for that matter. We walk to work more or less steps, use public transport or a car or neither. We have morning meetings, other kinds of meetings, we have lunch and coffee alone or together. Physically or digitally. We work, alone or together.

What is new for many is that we don't meet physically as often or as much. Many managers report that they "lose" their group. They find it difficult to know if everyone is prioritising in the best way. They have difficulty reading how the group and individuals are doing and how they feel. The important physical meeting that, among other things, facilitates culture and innovation work is difficult to organise, say many managers, even when the pandemic has eased. Many employees would prefer to stay at home, and others who go to the office to meet physically are disappointed when not everyone who should be there is not there. The focus has become more on the operational and too little on development work, and many employees complain that the digital meetings have become more boring than the physical meetings.

Is the manager fully responsible?

But is it really the manager who should initiate and take responsibility for culture and performance, innovation and development work, the quality of meetings, etc. all by himself? The answer is obviously no. "It takes two to tango". A modern organisation encourages and expects everyone's ability to interact and take responsibility for the good of the organisation.

Co-leadership, self-leadership and co-creation - more important than ever in the digital era

We are our relationships, as the saying goes, and in short we can also describe a company that way. That a company is its relationships. The workplace is not a buffet invented by someone else, we need to be in tune with each other no matter how small or large the organisation is. We need to be open to investing in relationships in the workplace, open up to renewal and change, we need to create security in roles and responsibilities, we need to understand where we are going and how to get there. And we need to tolerate that things don't always turn out the way I want them to, or that I may not get the role I wanted from the start.

Opening up to co-creation, creating together and also understanding and accepting that we have and take different roles requires everyone's ability to communicate well, to create an environment around us of openness and security where we follow decisions and directions for the good of the organisation and the group.

But aren't managers needed if we are all going to be leaders?

This is a common comment from the employees we meet. Of course we need managers, organisations often have high complexity, it is not optimal to organise and manage in silos anymore. Pillar organisations have many disadvantages. Sub-optimisation, lack of motivation and inertia are some of them. In addition, silo thinking results in a lower understanding of the whole and a poorer relational coordination, understanding and responsibility for how, for example, the department's decisions affect other departments in order to achieve the common goal.

Culverts provide 'lead with the whole hand'

Pipework results in "leading with the whole hand" and employees having to do what someone else says. Motivation and performance is not strengthened by someone thinking, planning and judging where someone else has to implement and someone else has to evaluate. This is where the organisation loses power. The majority studies shows that an organisational culture where people are highly engaged has a very high impact on overall organisational performance. Workplaces where people do what they should but no more, a low level of employee engagement, reduce their operational performance by an average of 32%. But the fact that it is the leaders, the managers, who should drive and increase engagement and performance in the workplace is not the way.

Leaders need to be role models but not lone players

Motivation and meaning come from within and are also a decision and a responsibility. Leaders need to be role models but not solo players. In a culture that values interaction, it is more about creating partnerships internally and externally. In a culture of interaction, where you feel seen and included and where you give that experience to others, a sense of meaning can more easily arise. Reality needs to become tangible in order to understand how to contribute to a common goal. The sense of meaning gives energy and job satisfaction, which opens up for interaction with others.

Then managers need to act as role models

We need to feel that our opinion counts at workthat you are expected to speak your mind. Managers need to act as role models for a culture that encourages, listens and where responsibilities and mandates are clear.

The manager's role is to guide in complex organisational structures, to listen to his or her part of the organisation in order to meet other parts of the organisation in various forums and to act as a spokesperson or filter to clarify the overall picture. The key is that everyone understands how they can contribute to the vision and goals, and that they are important on that journey. For example, organisations with high involvement create job satisfaction and efficiency with standardised and regular cross-functional forums for problem solving. We humans are usually very good at problem solving in an environment where we listen to each other's opinions. Feeling that your opinion counts at work contributes to a safe workplace that strongly correlates to better performance. But, again, it's not a buffet that someone else serves, in a high performance culture it is clear what I am expected to lead and what I am expected to follow.

Key competences and skills in a digital or hybrid workplace:

  • Ability to create warm open relationships with everyone in the organisation
  • Be a skilled interactor and collaborator, inviting others and making people feel that their voice is important.
  • Courage to ask for feedback on their performance and co-operation skills and open up to development and change.
  • Ability to create good meetings as a participant or as a meeting organiser
  • Ensure that you have a clear working framework, vision, roles, processes, missions and then follow this.
  • Ensure that there is consensus and clarity in how we view failure, act when someone has made a mistake or in case of rule violations
  • Put energy into what you and your team can influence. Turn complaints and grievances into wishes with an action plan that takes us where we want to go.

Developing leadership in your digital workplace

Contact YesP today to find out how we can help you and your organisation improve leadership and collaboration in the digital workplace. Together, we can create a work environment that promotes job satisfaction and performance.