Samantha Woolven November 16 2021

Transforming your fishbowl in a hybrid world

Samantha Woolven explores how you can transform your fishbowl in a hybrid world and make it shine.

Once again, it's time for me to talk a little bit about your fishbowl.

This is your leadership fishbowl - the culture in which you work.

Leadership development programmes, training programmes, manager programmes, coaching, and all of these wonderful things, all focus on your fish.

Your fish are the people, your colleagues, staff, and people who swim about in their fishbowl, going about their day. They may work with the other fish, swim through their little castles, blow bubbles, or do what it is that fishes do. What happens within all the ‘typical’ training and development is that we shine up that fish. We take them from their bowl, give them the skills, capabilities, behaviours and awareness that helps them shine their scales, and then we plop them right back in the same world they came from, into the same culture, the same water, the same fishbowl.

As we head into another winter in this hybrid world, your fishbowl becomes even more important. Workplace culture means something different than it did two years ago, three years ago, 10 years ago. Your culture lives around you - whether you’ve designed it with intention, or not. So how clean is your fishbowl and what do you want to do with your culture?

The world is full of transformation programmes, change programmes and all sorts of wonderfully different things that are designed to boost your business, accelerate sales, widen profits, diversify your portfolio, and attract and retain talent. What is it within your fishbowl that you can pay attention to - or change - that will transform your culture so that it sustains your people and your business into the future.

In a hybrid world, it's not one culture that fits all. In fact, it never really was. In the last two years, it's just become more apparent and more obvious that this doesn't work. So one approach really doesn't, and won’t, fit all.

If you want to make informed and strategic choices about your culture you have to enable and empower people to have better conversations. These are what’s known as ‘adult to adult conversations.’ In order to get the accountability, ownership, and innovation so desired by businesses today, businesses - and the people who lead them - need to stop treating their employees like children and need to start to be ok (and more than ok) with a difference, ambiguity, and people bringing their whole ideas to work.

This starts with informed, experienced and open conversations where people are allowed to have needs and wants. In part, this means more behavioural skills training for people managers. Then it builds to a culture of open feedback where challenge and questioning are encouraged. When we're asking questions, when we challenge - in a polite and respectful way, when we receive and are asked for the feedback we become more invested. This level of engagement is real and it supports our motivation to do more, better.

Your fishbowl is made up of teeny, tiny moments where each individual gets to make a choice about how they show up. It is these behaviours - the ones you want - that need to be rewarded and recognised above and beyond your productivity, your profitability, and all of those other things that you can actually measure.

So, how do you go about recognising and rewarding ‘good behaviour’?

Start by understanding and knowing what good looks like for you and your business.

  • Decide what it actually means to be a person who works for your company?
  • Where are the boundaries you want to set?
  • Where are your guardrails that protect your ambitions?
  • And what milestones have you set and can check to achieve these?

None of these are obvious, common sense, or given when you haven’t taken the time to identify and articulate them. My common sense is not yours, and you don’t approach things in the way that works for me. We need to have an adult conversation so we both know what we’re aiming for; and, can course-correct as we go.

So. How clean is your fishbowl today and what do you want to do to make it shine?



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