This is how you create a solid foundation to stand on as a manager
The proportion of managers who become ill is increasing. The increased complexity means that managers have a lack of time for reflection and KASAM – sense of coherence. In fact, many managers cannot give a clear answer to the question as to why their organization exists. In this article, we give you tips and tools on what you as a manager need to get better at to become a “sustainable manager”.
The increased complexity has made it a huge difference to be a leader today compared to when we started Kontura 46 years ago. To perform well and sustainably in this complex environment, managers (and other employees) must have a solid foundation to stand on.
Two parts that organizations need to get better at to create “sustainable managers”:
Kasam keeps us healthy for the long term
The term kasam was coined by Aaron Antonovsky, an Israeli professor of medical sociology which means sense of coherence. Antonovsky came to the conclusion that the greater the sense of coherence (kasam) we have, the healthier we stay. To achieve kasam, what we do and what happens around us must be perceived as understandable, we must have knowledge and resources that make our mission feel manageable and also the mission must feel meaningful.
– If you do not feel that the job is meaningful, the energy runs out quickly, says Gunnila. The project “Sustainable Managers” unfortunately shows that many managers lack the sense of coherence. When the wheels spin faster and the efficiency winds wind around the ears, we simply do not take the time needed to create KASAM. In fact, many managers cannot give a clear answer to the question as to why their organization exists.
Formulate the assignment from the target group’s perspective
Most managers know exactly what they are expected to deliver – in financial terms. However, many cannot formulate what they are expected to deliver to customers. When we ask managers in the business world what the main task of their company is, they quite often answer “To deliver returns to shareholders”. Here you should instead define your assignment based on the target group – regardless of whether it is the customers in the business world or the users in the public sector.
When you let several managers in an organization define what the organization’s main purpose is, it often turns out that different individuals have different definitions depending on where in the organization you work. The result is then that you pull in different directions and the effect for the organization is absent. When the hard work does not give results – then it is not easy to feel meaning with what you do. Staying in an organization with a mission that you do not know makes sense – it drives your health to the bottom, Gunnila warns.
Build knowledge of your own experiences through reflection
The ability to build knowledge from their experiences and thereby create their own experience-based knowledge base is a key to becoming a really good manager and staying in the long run. With your own knowledge base, you become more confident as a manager, you grow from within and you feel confident in yourself.
In order to build one’s own knowledge base based on one’s experiences, systematic reflection is required.
If you have something that you experience as a problem or something that you have difficulty dealing with, something that you feel you have failed at:
Ask yourself in which other situations you experience similar problems and make a list.
- Do you find any pattern in the list?
- What could be the explanation for this becoming a problem?
- Why is that?
- What can you do differently to make it better?
- Is there a tool that fits?
- Act differently and evaluate – how did it go now? Why?
This is how people do by nature. There is nothing strange or difficult about this method. The problem is that time for reflection is a scarce commodity today. And when we do not have time to reflect and build knowledge from our own experiences – that is when we start calling for tools. Many organizations are building toolboxes for millions that they believe will solve managers’ problems – but it will not work.
Time for mutual reflection
In addition to reflecting on our own, we also need to reflect in groups within the organization. When we reflect in a group, we acquire common knowledge. Shared knowledge is a very important part of the organizational culture.
– If you have a common body of knowledge, you also have a common language. And then the quality of communication in the organization becomes higher. There will be fewer misunderstandings, you will go further and the achievements will be more valuable.
A common view in our organizations: Everyone works hard, but you pull in different directions and the effect in the organization is absent. When you do not see results of the hard work, it is difficult to feel meaning and if you do not feel meaning, the energy quickly runs out.
When the organization’s main mission is clearly formulated from the target group’s perspective, everyone pulls in the same direction and the work feels meaningful. The organization is moving towards its goals.
Formulate for yourself why you work – more than for the salary.
A clear formula helps you to see the meaning and increase the degree of kasam, something that keeps you healthy in the long run. Perhaps you should also ask your employees to formulate this?
Leadership training that delivers measurable results
Our one-year leadership programme Sustainable Managers® is probably Sweden’s most thoroughly researched. It is based on the Bliwa project where 96 managers who joined the program were measured against a control group. 10 years later, the participants have been followed up with lasting effects. Kontura has also measured the effects since 2010 on each participant, both through self-assessment and through the participant’s manager. We see an average development of 17%, which is very high in these cases. The program provides a good picture of the organizational context in which the manager operates, with a focus on how you lead the business, changes, employees and the participant himself.
More than 800 managers have joined the evidence-based management program Sustainable Managers®. We have a large knowledge bank about how to best conduct leadership training. We know what types of problems you managers struggle with in everyday life!