Changes - How must companies think and act today?

Interview: Sabine Bredemeyer

coach and expert for personal and entrepreneurial change processes

Sabine Bredemeyer is an expert in the healthy growth of companies and their development into attractive employers. As a mentor for executives, board members and managing directors, she helps companies to develop loyal and inspired employees and thus promotes employee retention and continuous growth. Her book "Happy Leaders: Happy People: Great Results!" will be published in spring 2019.

Our environment is constantly changing. Innovative growth markets are emerging, but some products and services are becoming less important. How must a company react to such changes?


Sabine Bredemeyer - Coach und Expertin für persönliche und unternehmerische Veränderungsprozesse


I think the question would have to be formulated differently. In my opinion, a 'reaction' to the rapid changes in the global economy would be the wrong approach, an orientation based on the models of the past or the immediate present. I would put it this way: 'How do companies have to think and act today? The well-known US economist Peter Drucker said: "It is important to find and use the time span that lies between the recognition of a change in the economy and society and its full impact - in other words, to anticipate the future that has already occurred. It is important to impose on the still unborn future an idea that points the way for future events and evelopments; one could also say that foreseeing the future means no different: Shaping the future".


In my experience, only companies that think and act proactively - i.e. independently of past or current developments -, that open themselves to the possibilities of modern, flexible corporate development and align themselves with their entire human potential to future-oriented developments can survive. Because it is not the 'companies' that are responsible for their successful future. They are their people. And they are the ones who must learn to deal with continuous change in a flexible, intelligent and creative way. The Internet with its spectacular possibilities led to an information explosion. The human mind and also the physical prerequisites of the human being did not develop to the same extent.

So when companies support their people in learning a risk-taking, imaginative way of dealing with change, they create the necessary conditions for thinking ahead and adjusting to new things without resistance and old reaction patterns "But we have always done it this way".

In order to implement changes effectively, an organization must develop accordingly. To what extent can a company's management team shape and shape such organizational development?

Today, a management team can influence and shape above all the climate in the company, the working conditions and the conditions for employees to give their best and also to develop the ingenious ideas that will take the company forward. Not everyone is a Steve Jobs with his groundbreaking ideas. And even he once said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."

Gone are the days when the impulses that point the way come exclusively from leadership. The market conditions today are such that a management team can no longer afford it. The intelligence of the system, the potential and the ingenuity of the people in the company - sometimes external specialists - are necessary to be successful under today's market conditions. So today, more than ever, it is important to be an attractive employer so that the company can attract and retain the experts they depend on. And that's what the management teams alone can do.

It is the task of leadership to stand up for the purpose and values of the company, to inspire employees for a vision, a vision and great goals and to provide the people who make up the company, the most important co-producers of this future, with everything they need to achieve the goals.

What effect does this have on "leadership"? Does leadership behaviour in a company also have to change? And if so, what new leadership skills are needed?

The success parameters for companies have changed dramatically, as have working conditions and the needs of employees. And so the people in management positions must also reorient themselves, change their self-understanding and, of course, their behaviour. Today, effective leadership is a fine art. In my opinion, it is even a discipline in itself.

I have been working with companies in change processes for almost 30 years. Especially with managers, because they are particularly challenged. How many have I seen who worked their way into burnout with a traditional idea of leadership that says what has to happen how and supposedly knows more than their employees? The first step in my work with them was not about their leadership behavior or their leadership competencies. Because it is not enough just to change your behaviour or learn new skills.

What made the difference was a new self-image and an understanding of a changed role as a leader. They let go of the old idea of a manager as an 'omniscient doer' and took on the role of the 'facilitator'. They internalized that their new role is about inspiring other people to develop their full creative joy, creativity, wisdom, ability and willingness to perform and to make them available for the common goals. And so it was easy for them to acquire the necessary prerequisites and skills:

1. Physical and mental health as the most important prerequisite
Without them, a manager is always consciously or unconsciously concerned with his or her own imbalance, which makes him or her an unpleasant or at least difficult contemporary. Healthy and in balance, she can concentrate fully on her employees and has the necessary resilience and flexibility to deal creatively and successfully with the ever new challenges.

2. Emotional and social intelligence
A manager has a strong influence on the psychosocial health, the working atmosphere, the well-being and thus also the motivation of your employees. To inspire other people to perform at their best, you need to understand them, put yourself in their shoes, know what they need and find out what support they need. Emotional and social competence can be trained. Empathy, the ability to listen, appreciative communication, feedback as a growth aid and positive self-criticism are some of the effective abilities of an emotionally and socially intelligent person.

3. Resilience
It is understood as the ability to overcome crises and to use them as an opportunity for development with the help of personal and social resources. The prerequisite for mental resilience is both physical balance, i.e. a healthy body, and the ability to react emotionally stable, full of self-confidence and solution-oriented in difficult situations. Resilience is attributed to people with the ability to control their own emotions and actions, people who can handle uncertainty confidently, who have the ability to actively shape relationships and have a continuous problem-solving orientation. They include the perceived perspectives in their options for action, accept the unchangeable and concentrate all energies on the next to be mastered and the strategies developed for it. Resilience is an important topic in coaching and can also be trained in workshops.

4. Sovereign, trustworthy appearance
At best, this presupposes that the manager is aware of his or her purpose in life, his or her personal goals, his or her own values, his or her role, his or her potential, but also the areas of competence in which he or she is dependent on the help of others. It must be able to recognize others in its size and to ask for help. This creates trust and loyalty.

5. The willingness to be helped by experts
The changes in the economy have always called consultants and coaches onto the scene. For more than 20 years I have been in continuous contact with consultants and coaches from all over the world. We learn from and with each other how we can help managers and companies find their way in the 'new world'. The challenges and human issues are the same on all continents. We have developed many great approaches and methods with which we can successfully guide managers and their employees through their change processes. These include, above all, coaching and methods that help people in companies to use collective intelligence to develop innovative solutions and goals and measures supported by everyone. The 'new leaders' who use these intelligent methods and are supported by competent companions have it easier to master the changes.

In your opinion, which tools are becoming more important in order to fulfil the tasks of leadership? In your opinion, is there a trend with modern approaches?

I wouldn't talk about tools. From my point of view, it is becoming increasingly important for managers to consciously invest in their own personal development and that of their employees in order to be able to fulfil their tasks. The 'tools' and 'methods' that can be used meaningfully vary from company to company. A prerequisite for the success of methods and 'tools', however, is always the attitude, the attitude, the personal maturity and thus also the openness and readiness of the people who have to work with them. Resilience, as described above, is a skill for both managers and employees to learn. This gives our mind and body a chance to keep pace with technological progress. And this is the prerequisite for the effective use of any method or trend.

As far as trends are concerned, it is vital for all companies to identify relevant trends and incorporate them into their corporate orientation. This is neither new nor surprising. And yet not all companies have a trend analysis. For many it is too time-consuming and considering the fact that trends only have a limited lifespan, some may consider them only a 'fleeting phenomenon'. Ignoring trends, however, can lead to losing the connection and losing the competition. On the other hand, it is not necessary and even harmful to follow every trend that is 'in'. Trustworthy experts can help. Those who can recognize when a trend has hardened, proven to be meaningful and have the competence to judge whether it could actually be used profitably for the respective company.

"Agile" is a trend I've been watching. Agile is in! Whether in the trade press on the net or at congresses - agile methods are omnipresent. They are regarded as a promising answer to increasingly complex processes. And this agility is no different from all other trends: they are 'in', everyone wants them and those who have to deal with them are not asked or not well prepared. And then they fail. They may not be bad at all and useful for some companies - but it is impossible to produce great things with the resistance of those who have to work with them.

In many companies, new customers to whom I am called, Scrum - an agile project management method - is used. The people I met there, to whom this method was 'prescribed', don't get along with it. They weren't asked if they wanted to work with it, nobody prepared them properly for it, they are blocking this change. And so they work 'well-behaved' and full of inner resistance "We can still manage it somehow". What they often lack is not an understanding of the method but the ability to adapt flexibly to new situations.


Can the ability to deal with change be learned? Are there standard training courses that can make the employees of a company "fit" for change?


The effective and successful handling of crises and changes, the so-called resilience, can be trained. Yes. In coaching as well as in workshops that convey exactly this ability. I don't think much of standard training courses, but more of those that are adapted to the requirements of the company and its people.
In these coachings or workshops a rethinking process, a personality development is essentially accompanied, in which the participants consciously identify old belief systems and accept new ones. As soon as thinking changes, the counterproductive behavior patterns automatically change. Those who go through this coaching or training will no longer interpret change and challenges as catastrophes, which awaken their resistance and paralyse their performance, but as an incentive to mobilize their entire potential in order to develop creative solutions and amazing results.

This new ability to deal with change is essential for people in companies. However, there are other methods that can inspire people who do not yet have this ability to perform at their best and produce amazing solutions using a company's collective intelligence. I work a lot and with amazing results with these methods.