Teams are busier than ever, but accomplishing less.

Teams are busier than ever, but accomplishing less.

That is what new research from Atlassian shows: 25 billion hours (!) are lost to to ineffective collaboration each year within the Fortune 500.

Regardless how busy we are, leaders should not underestimate the power of making time for teamwork. Why? Because having the right foundation to moving from planning and talking about work to actually doing work that matters is a priceless investment.

Start by reflecting on:
Are we working on the right things, prioritizing and collaborating on work that is mission critical, ensuring that we are having the impact we envision? And are we clear on that vision?

Is this also reflected in our calendars or are we spending too much time in meetings that are not strategic, are not relevant for all invitees and end with no concrete outcomes?

Are we regularly sharing, learning and harnessing our collective knowledge through retrospectives?

How are you making time to collaborate on your highest priority work?

Living with change, leading with liminality

It was great to spend three days in Tangier at House of Beautiful Business with leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, philosophers, activists, game-changers and more.

Next to great input on AI, Climate change, impact business, peacemaking and belonging, my main takeaway was around liminality.

” . “, John Fullerton said during the conference.

I couldn’t agree more.

Many of the leaders I work with are seeing multiple – often dizzying -coinciding transformations – from dealing with radical new technologies, changes in market dynamics, to the need to completely re-think and adapt their organizational purpose and design.

⭕ The nature of this transformation is more difficult to define than what we typically call “change.” Old solutions, logic and analytical approaches no longer work. Indeed, there’s very little familiar (and comfortable) ground to stand on amidst this sea of change.

So maybe it is time to get lost. To get comfortable with the unknown. To step into liminality.

⭕ Liminality is a powerful yet scary space. It means we have to deal with dualities that are shaping today’s world. Destruction and construction. Disorientation and re-orientation. Unmaking and re-making. Unlike the old “change” we know, where it is all about “surviving” in the change until the new state arrives. The skills needed are no longer about managing ourselves and our people to get through it more quickly. Liminal time requires leadership who themselves experience liminality.

Liminality is about how we grow and are transformed by the time spent in liminal space. It is in liminal times leaders can have their greatest impact. But for that we actively participate and play our part in shaping the future. I believe that we often find change hard because we cannot see ourselves in the future.

So maybe it is time to ask some tough questions:
✔ How do we want to live in 10 years?
✔ What business landscape do we want to have?
✔ What is your part in a corporate world for creating a desirable future?
✔ How do we want (or even need) to balance contribution vs. profits?
✔ What does luxury and status mean for us? What matters most?

Of course, we can choose to sleepwalk through this time and avoid the feeling of chaos and discomfort. But then again, we will stay in situations that no longer serve us, missing out on the experience of working inside this powerful time, the change of era, alongside those forces that help to shape us, as individuals and leaders, into the more evolved versions of ourselves.

What tough questions are you asking yourself?

World Economic Forum 2024: Change, innovation and adaptability

With the World Economic Forum underway, the past days we have seen many companies rushing out new research, feeling the pulse of business. Here are some things that caught my eye:

  • In business we hear it all the time, yes, the pace of change is faster than ever. Accenture’s Pulse of Change: 2024 Index found the rate of change to have risen steadily by 183% over the past four years (33% in the past year alone) and 88% of CEOs anticipate an even faster rate of change in 2024.
  • What’s driving change? Technology seems to be the top driver (it was still least mentioned only in 2022). We probably can credit that to the release of ChatGPT in 2023. However, 47% say they are not fully prepared for the accelerating rate of technological change.
  • Pair that with PWC’s Annual Survey, showing that 45% of global CEOs believe their companies will no longer be viable in ten years’ time if they continue their current path.
  • Speaking of technology: interestingly this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer shows that public trust in innovation is declining.

Here are some questions for you as a leader:

How can you as a leader become more transformative in your approach to make sure your organization continues to thrive?

What can you do to build trust in and foster innovation through involvement, removing concerns around poor management and job displacement?

How will you cultivate adaptability within yourselves and your team, encouraging a mindset that embraces change as an opportunity for growth rather than a threat?

The world’s first org chart: putting people first

Supporting a client on their global strategic restructuring recently , I have seen many, many org charts the past few months. Full of squares, triangles, solid lines, dotted lines, big boxes, smaller boxes.

What if we designed charts that reflect what organizations are: not some rigid pyramid, but ecosystems made up of people and relationships?

The world’s first ever organizational chart: When Brigadier General Daniel McCallum took over the Erie Railroad Company (which with over 500 miles of tracks was the largest than any railroad company at the time), he found it disorganized. Recognizing a need for a different way of managing staff and operations he created the world’s first organization chart.

What I love about this chart:
Foremost it reflects what an organization is all about: people.
It shows how they work, who is part of it, where they are, what they do and their relationship to each other. Not just who they report to. Leaders are not on top, they are actually at the bottom. McCallum placed them there, right at the back, empowering the front-line workers to deliver on the mission, on taking decisions. Plus, I appreciate its beautiful, aesthetic design.

What does your organizational chart look like? How could it reflect the true dynamics of your teams?


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Ways to re-energize your team when morale is low

When organizations face multiple tough changes at once, it’s hard for morale to stay high. Leaders often ask me what they can do to re-energize their teams. These 3 R’s may come in handy:

1. Revitalize – constantly emphasize why the work your team is doing matters. What is their contribution to reaching the set goals and vision.

2. Repair – with tough changes in the organization, relationships can break down. Make time to listen, forgive and then recommit.

3. Refocus – sit down with your team and ask the following questions:
•What can we do better?
•What do we need to let go of?
•What is truly essential for achieving the work that we really believe matters?

And of course, as a leader make sure to also take care of yourself in those changes. If you’re burned out, you can’t help others.

Trust is the key for an inclusive workplace

While many companies have been focusing on DEI for several years, there is still room for improvement. If this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer’s results show one thing, it is that there is no doubt that the current trust dynamics create an opportunity for leaders to step up on issues that affect society such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Having worked in and with various industries for many years, I know that diversity doesn’t mean a thing if company’s do not offer an inclusive workplace. Diversity is the who and the what, and inclusion is the how. What makes people feel included in their organization? Many things of course. Trust is definitely a key component. And trust comes down to leaders, because what leaders say and do makes the difference on whether an individual truly feels included. Why does this matter? Because when we feel included, we speak up more, we collaborate more, and we go the extra mile making a difference to the organization’s performance. (read more on how you can become a more inclusive leader)

After a rough start to my career, experiencing severe sexual harassment in my first job straight out of university (and without any support from peers or HR, leaving me no choice but to leave the company and that in the middle of a recession), I quickly became aware of the value of trust in my next jobs. Yes, I was young and female, but this never mattered to my managers because we all were working towards the same goal. They recognized my talents and showed me they believed in me, leaving me feeling included. These trusting relationships helped me grow and explore my potential. I have been blessed to work with leaders who possess humility, empathy, ambition, and audaciousness.

So how can you – as a leader – become more inclusive? 

  • Have the courage to hold brutally honest discussions. Ask for feedback on your behaviors that support or inhibit inclusion. Things like: Do you give equal speaking time to all meeting participants? Do you acknowledge everyone’s ideas and input? Do you make sure that people are not interrupted when talking? Do you refer to just one gender when giving examples? Leading this conversation is a first step in achieving change, getting an accurate view of your inclusive leadership capability and shows that you are putting people first.
  • Recognize and openly address biases. We all have them. Share stories about your growth, what you have learned about diversity and inclusion. The positive and the negative. This shows your humility and, with it, builds trust. Ask others to share their stories too.
  • Become more accountableon how well you are faring with diversity and inclusivity within and outside of the organization. And remember that there is a difference between activities and actual outcomes. Data is a great place to start. Noting the recent Edelman Trust Barometer, PwC US Chairman Tim Ryan explained in a blog post why his company has taken the somewhat unusual step to make its data on diversity public.
    “… I’d suggest that with trust in business running high, there has never been a better time to be transparent about our data as a way of holding ourselves accountable for the progress we seek to make…There’s no substitute for clear, widely shared information in that endeavor. Uncomfortable though transparency may be at first, I’m convinced that vulnerability is a necessity if we want to lead effectively on diversity—and as the business community has the greatest share of trust we’ve had in recent memory, now is the time.”
  • Leverage diverse thinkingin your organization. Immerse yourself in uncomfortable situations, spend time with people outside of your usual “group”, address DEI topics even if they make you feel uncomfortable, ask more open-ended questions, take time to raise your self-awareness (for instance through executive coaching or psychometrics). There are many things you can do as a leader to expand your horizons and disrupt pre-conceived ideas.

And overall, don’t forget to ask yourself regularly: “How do I inspire trust? And how can we all enable mutually beneficial conversations that allow us to continue to grow and flourish?”

2021: The Future of Work

“As leaders we tend to be an unusual group, far more resilient than the average bear. Don’t assume others have your strength. Go beyond your own experience. A bit of empathy and creating psychological safety for others goes a long, long way”
– Carol Kaufman, Assistant Professor Harvard Medical School and Founder/Executive Director of the Institute of Coaching

 In 2020, we saw the greatest shift in the way we work. Hybrid ways of working are now becoming the norm, bringing great opportunities such as flexible working models, better work-life balance and giving access to talent pools around the globe. The pandemic truly fast-forwarded the ‘future of work’ by years. There is no going back. Now we need to make hybrid working “work”.

 Part of this means, that leaders need to recognize the connection between productivity and wellbeing. While productivity was up last year, research shows that a majority of employees are experiencing severe levels of stress. This is no surprise with lines being blurred between work and personal life, lack of connection creating isolation and many of us dealing with uncertainty. It should also not come as a surprise, that wellbeing is an important factor that affects an organization’s bottom line. To drive and sustain, human potential, well-being needs to be part of work.

 2021 will be a great opportunity for leaders to move away from falling back into a pre-pandemic pattern. It will mean making the changes needed to become more aware of their team’s needs. This includes being more transparent, being compassionate (i.e. having a deep understanding of yourself and others), helping people construct meaning to their work and open channels for feedback. Psychological safety plays a key role in creating and nurturing the new culture needed for wellbeing. We all know that a team can only be highly effective if there is trust and respect. These are the two qualities that allow people to speak up, share ideas but also concerns, challenge the status quo while supporting each other.

If the pandemic has shown one thing: at the end of the day, organizations are all about people. The success and wellbeing of both, in 2021 and beyond, are closely intertwined.

Leading in the COVID-19 crisis: with character, despite fear

What managers can learn from positive psychology in a crisis

Co-authored together with Jan Kiel

“Fear is useful, cowardice is not.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Knowing what is right and not doing it is the greatest cowardice.” Confucius

Tens of thousands have died, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. The global economy is facing an unprecedented slump. Countries are going into debt at an unkown extent. And we still don’t know what to expect in and after the corona pandemic. This uncertainty creates fear. Leaders in politics, business and society face challenges of a new dimension and must face up to their responsibilities despite fear. This requires strength of character.

Positive psychology has identified 24 strengths of character, which it bundles into the virtues of wisdom, humanity, justice, moderation, transcendence and courage. Courage is the decisive virtue when dealing with crises. But what is courage, how does it arise and how can we use it sensibly in times of crises?

Courage is taking determined action despite fear

Courage is the ability to overcome fear in dangerous situations. Courage, like perseverance, honesty and enthusiasm, is an emotional strength that helps us to achieve goals against external or internal resistance by excercising our own will. Mark Twain defined courage as “resistance to fear, control of fear, not absence of fear.”

But how do we find the right measure to use courage? To this day, the Aristotelian “Doctrine of the Mean” is the ethical guideline. Aristotle sees the correct practice of a virtue between its excess and its lack.

Courage is therefore not about daring or cowardice, but about bravery. Aristotle sees courage as the essential virtue, since the practice of other virtues depends on it. If managers succeed in overcoming their fears, this radiates on the people around them. Courage enables courage, gives orientation and creates confidence. And this is the essential task of managers in crises.

Navigate the crisis with judgment, determination and implementation power

Carl von Clausewitz, military scientist and general of the Prussian army, considered judgment, determination in the “fog of uncertainty” and strategic adaptability to be essential characteristics of the successful general. The crisis-tested German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, following the same logic, required executives to have judgment, determination and implementation.

In a crisis, framework conditions change abruptly, knowledge is incomplete or outdated, emotions cloud analytical clarity. Processing available information quickly, setting clear priorities and making decisive decisions is critical to success. Concentrate on the three to five most important topics. Share this clearly and repeatedly. Correct if necessary but stay on course. Think in scenarios. Establish clear responsibilities. Give your employees the greatest possible freedom to make decisions. Encourage activity and tolerate mistakes. Ensure regular coordination and the possibility of escalation. Go with the dynamics of change. Use internal and external sources of information. Distinguish between important and urgent. Respond to changed framework conditions with changed measures. Share openly what you know and what you don’t know. Keep in touch with key players. Show presence and collect impressions on site.

You cannot influence essential factors. Take responsibility anyway, take up the challenge. Request this from your employees. Strengthen collaboration within and between your teams. Use three to five simple and effective indicators to measure and actively control your most important priorities. Report them up and down regularly. Pay attention to the stability of your employees. The better you support them in overcoming their challenges, the more powerful and resilient your organization will be.

Communication is important. Keep your team up to date on changing framework conditions. Make sure that your employees meet regularly, if necessary by telephone or video conference. Listen, take concerns seriously, report on successes and failures, show the context and the importance of crisis management. Do not despair but dare to show your own weaknesses and accept help. “In times of crisis, people reach for meaning. Sense is strength. Our survival may depend on looking for and finding it. ” (Viktor E. Frankl)

Prepare for the time after the crisis – despite uncertainty

In the short term it is crucial how leaders and companies prove themselves in the crisis. For some it is an opportunity to demonstrate quality, for others it is not. The behavior of a leader in a crisis shows strength of character and potential, but also development needs and limits.

Who needs support after the crisis to fix shortcomings disclosed during the crisis? Who will no longer belong to the inner leadership circle in the future? Which leaders have proven to be particularly reliable and which additional responsibilities should they take on in the future?

Learn from the crisis yourself. What do you want to do differently when you are tested next and how can you prepare for it? When the dust has settled, it will be important to find your way around in the new normal, to anticipate developments at an early stage and to find entrepreneurial answers to new social questions. We can already anticipate some of these questions. How deep will the coming recession be? Does the expected economic V-curve or do we have to expect a flattened L-curve? What impact will this have on political stability? Can tax increases or even property taxes be expected? Will inflation rise sharply despite persistently low interest rates? How will consumers and investors react? What lasting changes in consumer behavior will the experience of the crisis make? How will the value systems of customers, employees and investors change? What does this mean for future product development and marketing? What do the supply chain managers have to learn from the crisis? What role will remote work, business trips and video conferences have in the future? What effects does this have on everyday cooperation, coordination and trust in the company? What does this mean for leadership and hierarchy?

The answers to these questions are still open and will be very different for each company and market segment. It is important to ask the right questions at an early stage and to derive relevant scenarios. The right time for strategic decisions is important. The range of possibilities will initially be very wide. This carries the risk of wrong decisions. Keep close to your customers and follow their signals. Make the most of your company’s market and customer knowledge. Anticipate the most realistic scenarios and prepare yourself for the worst. Check how well prepared you are and what preparations are missing. And actively seek opportunities beyond the crisis. What strengths did your company show during the crisis? How can you use them for new business approaches?

Derive optimism from coping with the crisis and use it to make a fresh start

Taking on new opportunities will take courage again. The courage to make decisions with knowledge of risk and uncertainty, to break new ground and to escape the pressure of conformity. For this, a culture is important that allows one to be different, to think outside the box and to consciously take risks.

Trust in the strengths that your employees have shown in the crisis. Don’t tell them how to do something, but what. Give them the opportunity to face their own challenges. Support your employees in discovering and developing their character strengths. Give them tasks that match these strengths. Question the status quo and encourage your employees to do the same. Ask questions about why and “what if …”. Transfer responsibility. See problems from different angles. Surround yourself with people from different perspectives. Identify brave lateral thinkers and reward their dissenting opinions.

This crisis caught us when we least expected it. But we will survive it. At the same time, it is a great opportunity. A chance to prove ourselves, to use the optimism of the crisis that has been overcome for new beginnings and new activities. Courage is a prerequisite for emergence from crises to be stronger and more confident.

About the authors

Barbara Kearney and Jan Kiel coach, advise and support entrepreneurs, managers and their teams in successfully mastering challenges and increasing their performance. They not only share their love for positive psychology, but also encourage their clients to develop their strength of character and to exercise their own leadership role authentically and powerfully. Benefitting from both their different character strengths themselves, when writing together they describe themselves as Mozart and Beethoven.


Positive psychology, a relatively young, Anglo-Saxon research area of ​​psychology, does not aim to help sick people better, but rather to make healthy people even stronger. Positive psychology has defined 24 globally valid character strengths, which describe the human character through their respective composition and characteristics, bundled into six virtues (











Can’t touch this – Change and Communications in times of COVID-19

“A pestilence does not have human dimensions, so people tell themselves that it is unreal, that it is a bad dream that will end,” Albert Camus wrote in The Plague.

This rings very true, as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis that is currently developing. Change is hard. And today most of us find it hard to bear that something so invisible, so incomprehensible to us can have such a major impact on our plans and our lives.

As someone who advises and coaches organizations and their people how to move through change, seeing how we are trying to make sense of what is happening with COVID-19 as it unfolds has many parallels. Both are characterized by high uncertainty — about what is happening and what we should do about it, as individuals as well as a collective.

So I just wanted to write down and share some of my thoughts:

Understanding our brain and how it deals with change can help us better understand how we can deal with it. Neuroscience is a great place to start. Most of us know, that for our brain, the goal is survival. And it is very good at trying to meet that goal. To survive our brain needs to do two things; avoid threats like the saber-toothed tiger and to seek rewards like food or shelter. Both matter – but a threat is far more important. We can go without food and shelter for a while (although judging by the panic buying going on in my local supermarket you’d think otherwise). But if that tiger gets us…..

Our brain is a prediction machine always trying to make sense what is going on, what is happening to us, what it can do to protect us and how to make sure we survive.

So a feeling of uncertainty (or “threat” in fight or flight terms) leaves many of us thinking less clearly and having difficulties controlling our emotions. We start to perceive the world around us as much more hostile. This is where the uncertainty causes anxiety, leaving people struggling and asking many questions about what is happening, what we could or should do. Studies have shown, that we are more comfortable with certainty about a negative outcome than dealing with uncertainty itself.

With COVID-19, the facts around the situation are highly dynamic, there is very much we do not know yet. And that is why good and transparent change /crisis communication is key. When people feel there is a void, they try to fill it by coming together to make sense of what is going on which often can turn into the spread of misinformation. This can be dangerous.

The challenge now is to ensure that those who are managing responses from leaders to scientist to journalist diminish bad information, increase a trusting, transparent communication to decrease uncertainty and anxiety, and to make sure people can take the right decisions based on what we currently know is true.

Here are some of my tips for those communicating around COVID-19:

  • Keep communicating, talk about facts, debunk misinformation
    In times of change and crisis there is no “over communication”. Even if you have shared the story already a dozen times or more, the more people hear, the more they can process and understand. Remember that not everyone is always on the same level of understanding about what is happening yet. Talk about facts and debunk misinformation (constantly). It’s more important than ever to be clear and thorough, even if you feel like you’re repeating yourself again and again. Repetition in times of change is actually a good thing!
  • Use clear language and include context
    No one likes jargon. How many people truly understand what the term “community transmission” means or what quarantine is? So explain things in clear language. Also provide context in helping people understand more about how science works (what a great opportunity!) – from immune systems to scientific publishing, these subject are not only vital in communicating around COVID-19 but also are fascinating subjects in themselves.
  • Showcase competence
    The world needs to know and to appreciate that, science is a process and real people do science. So showcase these people, but make sure they are truly experts. In times like these it is especially important not to provide false balance. So stop showcasing people like anti-vaxxers or other deniers of scientific facts.
  • Explain what we do not know yet
    When working with change in organizations, I always advise on being as transparent as possible with their communications to alleviate as much uncertainty as possible. This means clearly communicating what we know, what will happen, what will not happen but just as much on what we don’t know yet. People have a lot of questions and it is ok to say that some we cannot answer yet. Just make sure to let them know that there are many people, such as researchers and scientists, who are working hard on finding answers we need.

  • Acknowledge fears and uncertainties.
    The worst thing I read or hear in the media (on – and offline) currently are the words “don’t panic”. Many people are worried and that is understandable in any situation where we cannot predict how it will end. So be respectful and acknowledge them and what they are feeling. Then provide these people with what reliable information we have to date , so that we can help them process the changes happening in a better way.

Yes, COVID-19 is a worldwide health crisis. It means that each and everyone of us needs to undertake specific actions to protect ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities and the world. To master the coming changes, it will be critical to have good, constant, factual information that we can trust, to inform the actions that we need to take. That is why I would urge  all leaders and communicators to use the right kind of communication that will help us in best responding to COVID-19 on an individual and collective level.

PS for those who like music, dancing, fun and positivity, check our my collaborative playlist on Spotify around songs in times of COVID-19 “Desinfect yourself, before you wreck yourself”