Veldhoen + Company exists to fulfil one clear purpose: create a better world of work. The members of the Australian V+C team set about to represent their personal ideas of what actually makes a better world of work, with thoughts on how to realise their vision. Over the coming year, we will publish these musings; one at a time, one per month.
We would also love for you to imagine and describe your own “better world of work”. Send them to us, confirming whether you are happy to have them published.
But first, from our team, please enjoy Allison Tsao’s thoughts on the subject:
What does “creating a better world of work” mean for you?
I joined Veldhoen + Company over three years ago after coming from NYC and after working at huge global organisations. I was longing for a place where I could show up as my full, quirky, flawed and creative self. In my previous roles, I had received so much conflicting feedback – much of it unhelpful, ranging from how I looked to what I said. It started to make me fearful of who I was and doubt what I had to offer, and I spent much more time trying to fit the corporate mould rather than just being myself and doing my best work.
So, for me, a better world of work is a world where everyone, no matter background, gender, ethnicity, tenure, experience, physical appearance, etc. is valued and celebrated for who they are and what they bring to the table. It’s a world where politics, gossip, and judgments are replaced with authenticity, honesty, and openness so that people feel safe and invited to be their full, wonderful selves. This is a world where true innovation and creativity is unleashed and unimaginable results are achieved.
What work routines/paradigms would you like to break?
So many! I’ll keep it to two for now.
Firstly, I’d like to eradicate the artificial concept of functional roles. It’s a safety shield for people to shirk responsibility and say “that’s not my role” or “I don’t do that” or “I can’t help you”. It is a completely human-made problem, and we exacerbate it by all the re-structuring and re-engineering we do, which is a complete waste of time, energy and money. Instead, I’d love to see a world of work where people say, “yes, that’s a big, scary problem, and solving it together would make our company awesome” or maybe “I totally don’t know where to begin with that, but let’s have a free from brainstorm and see where we get to”. This model would also reduce the territories and egos that are developed based on expert models that create deep siloes and artificial boundaries that we hide behind. This future world of work demands so much more from us, and the only way we can deliver is by pulling together, not by standing alone.
Secondly, and very passionately, I would tame the masculine culture that is so prevalent across Australian organisations, especially at the leadership and board levels. This extends above and beyond having more women in leadership roles. No, what I am talking about is nurturing more feminine traits in how our leaders run organisations, because, let’s face it, even many of the women in leadership roles show up with masculine traits. In particular, I’d love to see more emphasis on being rather than doing – meaning who you are is more important than what you do. Your character and values are just as (if not more) important than the tasks you execute and the achievements you list. If we were able to slow down the pace of doing, we could truly be more strategic, make decisions with the longer term in mind, and stop this insane cycle of more is more. People are struggling with the pace and amount of work, and a more feminine approach to leading can help support the wellbeing of our people AND contribute to more productivity. It’s about doing things in a fundamentally different way.
What do you experience/see happening in leaders that move to a new way of working?
Introducing a whole system change as large and confronting as Activity Based Working brings out all kinds of leadership reactions. However, there is one thing I see time and time again with leaders who undertake any kind of transformational change – the lack of understanding that if they are fully invested in the change, that they themselves need to change. How can we all in good faith ask others around us to change without considering that we ourselves need to change first in order to lead others through the change? The organisations that struggle the most are the ones where leaders do not want to hear this message. I will be bold and tell you know, if you don’t acknowledge this up front, your change will fail. If you do not want to change yourself, your change will fail. If you do not take responsibility for driving change, your change will fail. It’s no wonder that in the last 2 decades, the stats haven’t changed – 70% of organisational change efforts fail. It is precisely because of this leadership blind spot.
What advice would you give to others who want to create a better world of work?
Firstly, know where you stand on the change. What is it you really want to change to create a better world of work? Do you really believe in it? Does your heart tell you it’s the right thing to do, or is it just another change that you put a rubber stamp on? Leading change requires you to commit with your head and your heart. The most effective leaders are the ones who engage emotionally in the change.
Secondly, put your money where your mouth is. This means investing in resources that will help you create change. This doesn’t mean you pass responsibility to others. This means you surround yourself with the right people with the right skills to help you.
Thirdly, create a hyper focus. Change cannot happen when people are balancing numerous other priorities. Time and time again, I hear “we don’t have time” or “that meeting will take 2 months to schedule” or “it’s just not at the top of my priority list right now”. If you really believe in the change, as a leader, you must create space for people to engage with it properly. This could mean shutting down existing projects or otherwise it’ll be just another flavour of the month.