A different type of blog post this time as I wanted to share a story of a change journey, or maybe a stroll. Sometimes these journeys are long, sometimes short, and then sometimes they are light instead of cumbersome. This one is light as I’m all for reducing friction! Especially friction in the adoption of something new or somehow different from before.
So, in the past months, we have purposefully been developing the way we want leaders to lead at Insta, to lead our teams and ourselves in such a way that it determinedly supports reaching our strategic targets. At Insta, we all lead as we lead our own actions and are responsible for how successfully we can cooperate with each other, how well we can build upon each other.
We know that it takes time to develop culture and ways of working so that the new practices root in and become a new natural way of doing and being. Roots don’t grow and start nurturing a plant’s growth unless we all have an active approach, take the time to reflect on what we have learned or heard, and then allow ourselves time to discuss with each other to agree upon a common situation- or need-specific frame.
Well then, what have we done? We did use some very typical ways to deploy new approaches; for example, we facilitated short workshops with the different leadership and steering groups. But as said, that is nothing new, and I’m yet to see if what we did is helping the leaves to grow or the tree to bear fruit… That is a somewhat scary thought but if fruit do not materialize, I’ll just know that we need to do something different or in another way going forward!
What I specifically wanted to share here was how we have soft-launched the selected themes for the entire organization. Even this might be “nothing new,” but maybe a nice story on how to paint with all the colors of the wind. Everybody seems to be creating podcasts for the external world, but we decided that creating podcasts for internal use might be a simple and effective way to share our thoughts about our new lines and lanes on leadership.
Stories of leadership
It must have been early summer when Raisa Aromaa from our communications and I were discussing how to take the written materials to our intranet pages. We started toying with the idea of making some kind of videos or recordings on the selected leadership themes. It could have been that we had just spoken about the Johdon datanyrkki podcasts that our senior consulting team had made. We quickly then brainstormed a simple frame for what we wanted to achieve.
Our goal was to tape authentic and relaxed recordings where some of our leaders from various parts of the larger organization would share what they thought about the selected leadership themes in their own words. We sought to learn about their own views instead of scripting any speaking points. I personally find it important that individuals have figured out their own guiding principles, even if there would be a common backbone. Otherwise, it is very difficult to lead, even one’s own actions.
My first thought was that the persons would naturally need to have been exposed to the new themes. Well, duh. This demarcation simply narrowed the target group mainly to the earlier steering group participants and then a select few with whom I had been discussing leadership in general.
Some might find it weird, but I purposefully did not want to have many of the executive team members take part, so we only have one. This decision was to ensure that we get a wider and varied voice heard throughout the organization – diversity and inclusion! This approach might also get our people to listen to the podcasts, as the participants were closer to their work spheres.
I reached out to each potential participant, or, well, the voluntold... We then organized a few debrief calls where we went through the simple concept together to create a shared understanding of the purpose and what was expected of us. Raisa had created a concept paper and technical tips for recording, and I had thought of the questions to ask, and we shared those. As said, we didn’t want to script too much, so the only actual script there was, were the theme descriptions and questions we had in mind.
It took us some time to get to the actual tapings as there were “urgent other projects,” and we were investigating the editing techniques and tools. None of us had done anything like this before.
Just before the tapings, we again shared a shorter and individual outline and questions, and the participants could choose if they wanted to include other questions or then choose what questions they didn’t want to address. Sometimes a question can just be such that you have very little to say about the topic, don’t have experience or a view, or then it is somehow difficult for the individual. In my opinion, that’s totally ok when you are seeking authentic views!
Because of the pandemic, we were in remote mode and recorded using Teams. This actually made it in a way easier as we didn’t need to think of our schedules from a physical availability point of view. We also agreed that each interviewee could decide whether it would be helpful to have cameras on. In some sessions we did and in some not. I myself, for example, often find it easier to formulate my answers while in motion as I tend to process while I’m speaking, and that might be weird for other participants to follow via video. Sometimes I took part in the tapings from my bathroom, as it was the quietest place with construction going on in my neighborhood! Boy, did we have a few laughs about such things!
To edit or not to edit, that is the question
It must have been tricky to edit for Raisa as we jumped into the discussions pretty freestyling even if we had specific questions in mind. But, when you are passionate about a topic, you know what happens: you just forget you are being taped, and you interrupt each other, new ideas pop into mind, and the dialogue just flows.
Raisa taught herself to use Adobe Audition. It required some effort, but she said this was also the most invigorating work task she'd had for a while. She would edit the recordings: remove excess bits, long pauses, some scrapped bits, reduce noise, and fiddle with volume levels, for example. We didn't want to do too much editing to keep the conversations and stories authentic.
Finally, she created a full episode mixing in intro words for the podcast and our own theme tunes. Those were a blast from the past: a couple of years ago, one of our musically talented colleagues, Henry, had recorded some harmonica tunes for a podcast that never saw daylight, and he immediately said yes for using them now.
When Raisa had completed editing a tape, we participants got the opportunity to pre-listen to the recordings prior to their launching. Oh yes, as always, it was somewhat painful to listen to one’s own voice, the choice of words, and such, but we all chose not to edit more and even leave in some nice gaffes. Even if it made some of us feel insecure and somewhat nervous. It is never easy to expose oneself to other people’s views and possible critique, no matter how much you would have tried to practice it!
Easy does it
We didn’t make a big bang about the internal podcasts, not really. We named them Jutulla johtajuudesta (loosely translated as Lines on Leadership) and then created a short launch story on our intranet main page. We started by launching one episode with a plan to make one new episode available every week.
I think we were mainly thinking about reducing friction and then building up an audience. Keeping the topic alive with new content week by week sounded like a way to enlist more listeners but let’s see how successful we are. We just don’t know yet as we’re in the middle of the process. We had a few other ideas to support the launch, like dialogue sessions around the themes, but for now and due to the pandemic, those may become a reality later on.
What I hope will happen now is for our crew members to find the podcasts and the related content, to listen, reflect and discuss the themes with their colleagues. Hopefully to find the themes worthwhile to adapt in a way that works for the work community, fostering performance and a sense of belonging. For me, the goal is typically to understand the framework and then adapt it so that it helps; it rarely makes sense or is helpful to use a direct playbook as the work context and situation varies.
I know that it is often easy to focus on numbers and to lead via numbers. It can be more difficult to, in addition, place time and effort upon understanding humanity and diversity and upon understanding how we humans function, especially in interaction with each other. Focusing on numbers is what we have been doing for a long time, and the swipe culture around us does not help us in dedicating mindful time.
This time our solution was to try and make it easy for individuals to learn and expose to new content. One can listen to these types of “blogs” in a moment that is suitable for oneself. It’s an easy start, and then you can figure a way to take the topic forward in your work life and with your colleagues. It tosses the ball into your court, and then the next move is yours – will you stay put, or will you move forward?