Rien ne va plus! So Let’s Start A New Game!

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we_magazine:
Does this “new” corporate culture demand new management structures and leadership?

Sattelberger: (Laughing) That’s a very difficult question to ask of someone like me with my patriarchal style of leadership! But seriously it’s a very important issue and I do worry about it! How should I change myself? What should the frameset look like for my employees? Where are the boundaries?

Kruse: When I talk about self-organization, new management structures and leadership, I often hear criticisms to the effect that I’m moving too much on the level of general principles and not going into sufficient detail – that I’m not sufficiently specific. Even so, I still think that as soon as you start to reflect on these issues you have to elevate the form of leadership into a higher form of abstraction. You are working on building the frameset. You no longer have, so to speak, the opportunity to delve into all the operational details because that’s an area in which you really have to provide maximum room for maneuver and development. The question that needs to be asked here is how can I create this framework and have it accepted by all the stakeholders in a company? And here we are up on the values level.
Which is often a difficult level to deal with. I totally agree with you because basically it’s leadership on a metalevel – “level three” leadership above command-and-control and also above performance contracting. And this level isn’t more simple, it’s more complicated. What I’m increasingly concerned with are questions like does my style of leadership allow my association, the social organism, to remain intact? So that my expertise stays there and feels at home. How diversified must a system become to be responsive to outside influences? But also to what extent does the strength of the system depend on the integrity of its players? I can see from my own experience that I now take much longer periods of reflection in my interactions with people. And that outcomes are often much more open than they used to be.

Kruse: On this level of principles and values a leader – or actually anybody in the system – has to be aware of the fact, that it’s becoming increasingly important that you yourself become your own role model – that you walk the talk, as it were. People will no longer    assess you by your operational side, they’ll rather tend to evaluate you on your values-based side. Are you   acting and leading according to your values? This is   a tremendous upgrading of the importance of the  role model function within the concept of leadership. Competence in some field of expertise no longer stands alone as a quality for leadership; in future what will carry clout are role models on the values level. And this could certainly lead to the situation in which an employee much further down the hierarchy has in fact a lot more to say than me, the leader at the top …

Sattelberger: … and in order to achieve this, we managers have to become actors within the network.

Kruse: (Laughing) I’m pleased to hear you say that! This is the central point. It’s crucial! What you really have to do is to dive into the networks, “swim” in it as if it were the most natural thing in the world and simply become part of it. You as one among many others. That’s the only way of finding out which directions the various currents are taking, and it’s the only way of getting network feedback to the impulses you feed in.

Sattelberger:

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As a manager I lead an election campaign for the hearts and minds of other network participants.

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Kruse: Yes, you’ve got to keep pitching for reputation and resonance.

Sattelberger: Even though as a member of the executive board you’re given role and power is present, nowadays it’s becoming increasingly obvious that   managers can’t survive when they aren’t accepted by their people. When they lose the assent of their people, they become hollow shells, empty vessels with no heart and soul in the network. This is something we mangers have to recognize and accept.

we_magazine:
How do you yourself operate in these networks?

Sattelberger: I am clearly dependent on help from other people. Producing something unique like a blog post requires a great deal of energy. People help me – for instance by researching the hard facts. In that way I can produce something in 20 minutes which otherwise would take me twice the time. Every now and then when it’s a particularly “hot” topic, I make a personal intervention and give the subject my personal imprint.
Take, for instance, my blog post on women’s quotas in the company where I intervened on two particular points. Although – you’re always better off with the benefit of hindsight – my intervention should have been a lot more “personal” in nature. I was too hidebound, too “statesman-like”. I think in networks you have to be much more direct, crystal clear and authentic than in traditional types of communication whose style is often colored by propaganda and too grandiloquent – which simply puts people off. So here too I am facing another challenge: I have to find MY way in terms of how I comment and argue.

Kruse: I think so too. You have to be to the point and quick off the mark.

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If you are authentic, you can be quick on the draw because all that PR-polishing isn’t needed any more.

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Sattelberger: Yepp.
And then there’s also the question of how much time I spend networking. At the moment I’m none too sure how much time I can allow myself. I do feel that the network is a place I should be in order to respond spontaneously, quickly, directly and authentically – and to keep in touch with what’s going on. So I need to rethink the way my work is organized. And that’s another true challenge. “Networking time” doesn’t yet figure on the agenda of a board member at Deutsche Telekom.

we_magazine:
How far would you subscribe to the idea that corporate culture – or communication to the inside – is only the flipside of brand communication or communication to the outside? And that the more a company masters this synchronization, the better a market player it will be.

Sattelberger: Pressure to synchronize is clearly increasing. Organizations are diversified and have many voices, but you have to hear the melody when the choir sings. And the melody clearly refers to the values of a company while the voices are more brand-related.

Kruse: Actually it’s always been the case that brands don’t belong to the company but rather to the discourse between company customers. Only now – driven by social media – this fact has become startlingly apparent for the first time. And the contradictions are becoming steadily more visible too: everybody can spot them straight away.

Sattelberger: This means that at some point the theme of Enterprise 2.0 will also be reflected in a higher brand authenticity and – hopefully – a brand identity with fewer contradictions.

Kruse: You can actually take this idea a very long way. If company employees become participants in the discourse on the brand, then they really do become brand ambassadors – as we used to say about company field reps. Nowadays it’s not the field reps who are brand ambassadors, it’s all the company staff. The entire company! And so straight away there’s the   question: how should we react when individual employees post a comment on a company or a brand and suddenly trigger an avalanche?

Sattelberger: Would you advise taking disciplinary action against them?

Kruse: Certainly not! But you’ve got to be clear about exactly what you’re doing when you open the floodgates and the water starts to gush. Because there’s no certain outcome as to how things are going to develop. And once you’ve released the water, it flows …

Sattelberger: That’s also something I worry about  – just how much the floodgates should be opened? You can’t open them just a bit! When they’re open, they’re completely open, not just slightly ajar …

Kruse: … that’s the way it is! Difficult to control!

Sattelberger: … sure! When management and staff operate within the same network, when all the various departments in a company do so, when all these day-to-day cultural interactions bear fruit, the risks of the floodgates opening is tremendously reduced. So even when someone “sends up a rocket” the majority of people will raise their voices and say we don’t see it that way at all.

Kruse: Yes, this is an experience you can really make. When a company has a resonant baseline, so to speak, discourse will not turn into scandal – it will always start to balance itself out. This is simply the way networks function.
Let me highlight another benefit companies can achieve when they and their employees become part of the network. They gain a certain understanding of the social dynamics in their environment that can be highly profitable and beneficial to the company. When we have company staff engaging with these dynamics, we have people who are very close to the brand. People who simply know what’s happening with the brand. Many retail companies are really proud to see their employees becoming something like highly desirable and sought-after network partners for their customers. Customers make special efforts to engage with particular staff members endowed with a particular expertise in the network – quite independently of where these people stand in the organizational structure. This is very well worthwhile developing because it offers a different kind of representation. A representation which strengthens ties to the customer.

Sattelberger: Once again, this underlines the increasing importance of values in corporate culture.
Brand ambassadors can turn into brand renegades. And when that happens big time, it’s pretty dangerous. It creates a kind of whirlpool effect. The more people are active in the network, the more we managers are forced to promote internet democracy and set the frame!

Kruse: Thank you. That is a key statement I can immediately subscribe to. The fact that we are intensifying our work with this network on the outside constrains us to adopt this network culture on the inside. Traditional internal power structures have simply begun to totter. And this means that the issue of power is one that we’re going to spend a lot of time on over the next few years. Don’t you agree?

Sattelberger: A rather flippant remark has just come to mind which says – most things in life are to do with sex and love, money … and power, the basic forces and motivations that drive people. The really interesting question is whether in fact the Web can work against this human genetic wiring – whether the Web can induce large-scale, long-term change in power structures? Has the network really got the power to tame – or to put it more elegantly – to sublimate basic human dynamics?

Kruse: What we are now involved in is nothing less than re-writing the story of how business should be done or – on an even broader basis – how nations should be governed. It’s a complete reversal of what we’ve known so far! Today, however, we are dealing with a situation where consumers, customers and citizens sometimes wield more power than companies and governments themselves.
And at least I’ve learned that when we change the rules in a system, we pretty much start a new game. And if you ask me how the game will end, I’d just say – let’s first start to play it! Even so, with regard to companies I’m already pretty certain that if they don’t change their rules they’re going to have long-term problems in the globally networked markets we now have.



Who Is Leading WikiRevolutions?
(Don Tapscott)
Leading From The Edge (John Hagel)
Leadership Must Walk The Talk! (Martin Spilker)
When Brand And Corporate Values Meet (Hermann Demmel)

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