We read about it. We talk about it. The science backs it up. We can see it in the reality of our workplace, and when we allow ourselves to take a moment, we can feel it, too: Leadership is changing. But why is that?
If you look for explanations, you will find plenty. Some classics: We have to get more done in less time, demands are on the rise and coming in from all over the place, and we have to make decisions faster. The pressure is immense, and all of it is true. There’s profound change happening in our society. We see hierarchies crumble and department lines blur. People have come to reject power as an end in itself (which is a good thing), and snub siloed knowledge even more than ignorance. We understand that Generations X to Z all expect very different things from their workplace. We know (at least in theory), that diversity delivers the best results. We are well aware that collaboration and team agility have become prevalent. When we were grounded by the coronavirus, every last one of us got a very vivid idea of how we can function as dispersed, location-agnostic teams. At the same time, there’s a great deal of diversification: Is it still enough to think of leadership in vertical terms alone? What about the people who lead horizontal teams? Change is truly everywhere. It’s no easy playing field for leaders—in fact, leadership is hard work. All the more reason to take a closer look at it.
Right now, leadership is a hot topic at Bechtle, too. Again, we should add. It’s something that comes to the surface and into focus at certain intervals, and in that we’re probably not that different from other companies. At our annual in-house conference, STRAT_2020, in front of 1,500 participants CEO Dr Thomas Olemotz had a clear-cut answer to the question of why leadership is such an important topic for Bechtle: “Because I strongly believe that the way we lead in our organisation is pivotal to our sustained success in the future. One of Bechtle’s most critical assets are the people who we work with every day. That’s why excellence in leadership is the key to success.”
Bechtle had just concluded the most successful year in the history of the company. So to hear this from our CEO was remarkable. It meant our leaders aren’t doing badly at all, didn’t it? All the same, as we kicked off the new year, the Executive Board has put leadership at the top of the agenda. Very visibly, and for a very good reason, too: In our Vision 2030, Bechtle has set some ambitious goals, and carved out the important role of leadership in achieving them.
We all know how difficult it is to bring about change when times are good. There’s no sense of urgency. There’s no immediate need. But we also know that change is best tackled when we’re on top, when we can be in control of it. This is the backdrop of Bechtle’s Leadership Initiative that launched in February 2020.
I strongly believe that the way we lead in our organisation is pivotal to our sustained success in the future. One of Bechtle’s most critical assets are the people who we work with every day. That’s why excellence in leadership is the key to success.
Dr. Thomas Olemotz
The foundation to raise awareness of good leadership as a critical factor for success has been laid. For instance, we’ve given our Leadership Principles a complete overhaul. Five new principles set out the way of true leaders at Bechtle, published to coincide with the launch of the initiative.
Another visible sign was the appearance of Bechtle’s leadership platform that aims to make leadership the water cooler topic. And by that we mean for everyone, not just those who lead. Just as our Leadership Principles require us to be open and transparent, the new leadership platform aims to be a beacon for these very same traits. Because leadership is about everyone. That’s why everyone should be part of the conversation. Each one of the five Leadership Principles gets the limelight for ten weeks. And each week the focus is on a specific topic, inviting leaders and employees to engage in an open discussion. The goal is to make the people working at Bechtle aware of the real difference good leadership can (and will) make. Site visits and click counts attest to the site’s success. Leadership is on everyone’s minds and there’s keen interest in the subject. Both leaders and employees want to get to grips with it.
The Leadership Initiative is just part of a long-term process that will stick with Bechtle and Bechtle will stick with it. Making change happen in leadership takes time, and we’d be ill-advised not to take ours. That’s why we created a roadmap to pinpoint the milestones of this transformation. After creating awareness and a framework for it all, Bechtle set out to—in the best sense of tradition—offer leadership training. Through a combination of compulsory and optional seminars to be held over the coming two years, we’ll be setting benchmarks, create a shared understanding of leadership, and develop critical skillsets.
At the same time, we’ll be adapting and tweaking the programmes designed to prep both up-and-coming and aspiring leaders for new or more advanced roles in our organisation, and revamping our portfolio of leadership qualifications. And there’s more in the pipeline: For instance, there will be a group-wide employee satisfaction survey to help us better understand the things that drive employee happiness and wellbeing. Incidentally, it will also serve as a first test of how well we’ve embraced the new understanding of leadership. Because what it boils down to will not be the survey itself or the charts it will yield, but the way our leaders handle the results. If we are accepting of the fact that our employees harbour the (biggest) potential for our success, then we’ll take them very seriously and strive to create an environment that allows them to flourish and feel good at work.
Leadership Feedback is an instrument we’ll see introduced next year, helping leaders better understand their behaviour and style. Current plans are for traditional 180-degree feedback, and a variety of other formats are to follow. We’re deliberately going one step at a time, not too fast, not too far, but with the clear goal of taking an active role in the change.
If leadership will indeed be critical to our success in the future, the best thing we can do is to truly engage everyone’s attention.
Head of People Development & Academy, Bechtle AG
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Published on Sep 28, 2020.