hello and welcome here today to our new episode at Virtual Frontier. today we have a guest in Günther Wagner and i'm together with Manuel Pistner. Günter Wagner belongs on LinkedIn to the Top HR and Digital Leadership Influencers, was already several times LinkedIn Top Voice, and is an expert for management and also has his own consulting firm. i noticed Günther especially because of his positive and absolutely direct way of calling things by name, but also to show perspectives and alternatives when it comes to business and business models.
dear Günther, but i'd also like to ask you to introduce yourself so that the listeners who don't know you today have an idea what you do, who you are.
a wonderful good morning, what am i doing? i have actually been dealing with leadership and digital transformation for 40 years. back then, 40 years ago, the computer systems were only a little bit bigger. but we, as people reacted to the digital transformation, are still identical today. even if some people are or were just euphoric, we have just made it into the home office. but now they are realizing that we as people simply need social proximity in order to understand each other, to come together.
and this reaction, etc., i accompany people, organizations and also in the development of such business models.
very exciting. i also read a post on your site in LinkedIn a few days ago, that with the whole situation and the digitalization there are possibilities at the moment. but on the one hand we see a hype and a damper at the same time. that was a bit of a commentary i read on your site. concerning the points, how do you act in such uncertain times? how do you lead virtual teams or work from home? i think you can tell you a thing or two about it.
we have to keep in mind that the current situation is stressful for people. let's take a normal person who has been transported to the home office, suddenly has to work in an unfamiliar atmosphere, maybe he is still in home schooling, maybe he is still in the same three-room apartment with his partner. and while the video calls with the boss, the cat runs over the table or the child runs through the screen, and in the atmosphere you are supposed to work, where all this between the lines, i.
e. what this small-talk is at the coffee kitchen, at the printer, etc., everything has disappeared, and we have to look at the whole picture. people are currently on the road with this stress, and even though we all know that stress is a narrowing, suddenly they have to be open for new things. it's a dilemma or a contradiction in terms. and you have to be aware of it, in order to be able to cope with it.
definitely. topic self-determined work. Manuel how did you experience that the last weeks, how did it change outside of your personal sphere of influence. what did you maybe see at other companies?
first of all, let's go back to what günther just said. it also opens up a new perspective for me. i've never seen it like this before. that's absolutely right, and i can see that people are under stress right now, because i notice it in me when i suddenly have to do things completely differently because external circumstances require it. then i'm under stress too. change, rapid change, radical change is not what people like. and what you're saying now is exactly that in stress, which restricts people anyway, they should also still be open, which is a contradiction in itself, in order to welcome change.
i've always ignored that a bit, because i've seen for myself. it's okay, i'm already here. we've spread our team across 67 countries, that's 150 freelancers, and they all work self-determined and all work when they want, where they want, how they want, with whom they want. daniel is also part of it. there
Günther, how do you manage to keep your balance as a company or as an individual in such times of crisis? you're stressed, you have all these change processes. but it's still important to keep your balance somewhere. do you have starting points?
so if you're not trained yourself, i'd like to use the word work-life balance in theory, something that many people always say. i mean it more that i am careful with myself, that i find my centre, that i practice mindfulness. if i haven't learned this beforehand, it's of course almost impossible in stressful situations, because i'm already running in emergency mode anyway. therefore. is this perhaps the wake-up call of the shaker for everyone? that i simply learn leadership begins with self-management, that is, with myself.
whether i meditate, whether i go for a walk with my dog, whether i simply organize my day and cycle on my bike, simply in order to reduce stress hormones in my body. everyone has to find the right path for himself. it's also important that i constantly fall out of my centre. the decisive thing is do i actually notice that i fall out of my centre, only to come back again more quickly?
I have a question about that.
I was going to say the Manuel the martial artist, he already has the...
yes we have something in common. i've been doing martial arts since i was 12. used to be in the national team, karate, and now i just box and keep myself fit a little bit. but i also started meditating three years ago, because i noticed with all this. i always feel like i'm in a hamster wheel, driven, driven from one day to the next, put me to bed, my head just goes on. i can't switch off anymore, and most of all i just do the things that somehow scream the loudest and that i'm used to do, but they don't bring me closer to my result.
what i was missing is somehow awareness of what's really important. today i just built that into my morning routine. so 5:30am, get up, take an ice-cold shower, meditate for 20 minutes, do some sports. period, there's no discussion, then the day has started well. what i'm asking myself now. when i listen to what you're saying, and when i also experience
we are on a good path. when i think back to ten years ago, when i was in companies and addressed this whole topic, then it was something rather esoteric. and when it was... i have a large, a very large bank in front of my eyes, the general manager, who also had the facilities, thought at the time. i have a room here with us, almost secretly as a meditation room. i simply made it available for those who were interested.
the next big step was actually Google with its program Search Inside Yourself. and there, for example, SAP has launched a large program for the german market, where you also, they have over 7000 employees in total through this mindfulness program. and when i take out this missionary, religious program, which is not usual for some people who are not used to it, in certain hardcore meditation, then they think, now i'm going to be a missionary.
well i am, i studied computer science and i like to think in systems. i'm already thinking about it. that's also how i restructured my own company, thinking about what is actually going on, how can i build a company that brings the interests of my customers, the interests of me as the owner and the interests of my employees into line as much as possible? i think that's the only way i can make it work that the employees do things that make sense in some way in the interest of the company, but because they see their own interests being protected in it.
and when i did this change process, i told a lot of people here how they should do things differently now, because i was convinced that it was right. when i listen to what you said, i'm inclined to say. look, the optimal course of a day looks like this. if i go to your company and meditate for a quarter of an hour, and then see how you can change the structure from your day to day, i'll be able to do it.
personally, i'm more in favor of a construction kit, because i don't think there's a blueprint that i can transfer. and if i look at the new work movement, we tried to put that in forever and three days. hello? why don't you talk to your employees on an equal footing? why don't you take their impulses and still don't claim to be the only omniscient one? and that naturally meant that you were disempowered by the... or you felt disempowered and thought i couldn't do that.
of course, if i invite the employees to contribute their know-how, then i naturally have a much higher complexity. i have to design the communication in the company in a completely different way, and i have to be able to let go. that means that i don't claim that my knowledge with my decision-making power is the right thing right now, but i have to say "so, now decide".
that's another good point. i had a video podcast with someone yesterday, and it was also about why we find working with competitive athletes to be much freer, more productive, more efficient. i feel that way because i come from this history. and then we thought about what can be learned from competitive sports. and the only or most important thing i took away with me from that was that i choose competitive sports for myself, and choose for myself what goals i want to pursue, and then decide with my coach what measures i want to take, training for example, to achieve my goals.
whereas in most organisations i sign my employment contract. here i am a manager, what do we do? i think that's a big difference, don't you? and if the problem is not solved, i think that employees can't make a self-determined contribution... to the company's goals, because they usually don't want to.
i would not only do it down to the employees, but i would definitely start further up the ladder. is actually aware of the entire staff, including the top management, the famous Why by Simon Sinek. why are we doing this? what is actually our purpose that we are doing here? the motivation, And that gives motivation and strength.
and especially in such crisis-like situations like the present, where business models have often really pulled the existing ones away with a jerk under their feet, where you just have to say Hey, what exactly do we want to do? and now simply ignite this creative potential from everyone. yesterday i had recorded an interesting podcast with a famous politician and entrepreneur here in salzburg, sepp Schellhorn, where he simply said, We need ten to 15 years for the conversion of salzburg as a tourist center.
but what motivation do i need, what power, what endurance do i need, that i simply don't lag behind there. and if you do that with a quasi To receive your monthly salary, you will not manage this conversion. there are really people needed there, who identify with the place, identify with the culture here and get involved accordingly.
since we were at the why, how can companies, because we were at the why, work on their raison d'être and on their why or their why, especially in this phase of crisis or change? maybe sharpen this and work it out even further? because especially in times of crisis we tend to get tunnel vision. and the task would actually be to focus on how to sharpen this why even more. how would that be possible from your point of view?
that i define for myself, what is the benefit that my customer actually gets, because in the end he pays for the whole thing. whether it is a service or a play, because we are here in salzburg. so in other words, what does my customer get out of this performance? what does my customer get out of my service? what does a customer get out of my product? and not that i try to push something into the market, according to the motto "early in the morning at seven there is always someone who gets up, he will buy.
and if i sharpen this exactly and keep an eye on my customers, but also on the service providers, suppliers etc. that are connected to me, then we can also sharpen this why together and design it accordingly.
what i'm still wondering. let's assume we have a company that has this why. after all, there's a rule that says whether a company survives or dies. these are the laws of profitability. in other words, if a company is not profitable, it dies, then it goes bankrupt, and then the sense is gone for a while. and then maybe the employees will look for another company. but in most companies it's like that, and especially if we look at listed companies, they live for shareholder value.
of course, the customer value is important in order to give the company its shareholder value. but it's often in the foreground. and i've also founded companies so that i can say at some point. sure, i've done something good here. but on the other hand, i can somehow be forced to live freely financially. but now it's still the case that a company is built in such a way that there are owners. they provide managing directors
But there are more, there are several conflicts and dilemmas in this way of thinking. that is exactly the way of thinking that has led us to the point where we all stand today. it is as it were that this economy, which is trimmed purely for efficiency, is actually not at all resilient. we have only looked at how I can skim off even more profit, and have not even considered what will happen in the worst case. according to the motto of this worst case, it won't happen.
and now a sack of rice has practically fallen over in china and the whole world economy is collapsing like a chain of dominoes.
Because there was Corona in there, you mean?
this is only symbolic, so that ... the dominoes topple over. that is to say, we did not pay any attention at all to building up a resilient organisation. that is, one that is not so susceptible to disruptions. resilience costs money. but we were simply driven to this higher, faster, further level. i would like to skim off even more profit for the shareholder. as a board member, i would like to take even more millions with me, and that's exactly what the incentives of management systems in companies were designed for.
now please do not take this as an accusation, but only as a description. and when we quasi create something new, several aspects are necessary. the first thing is that we build up a resilient organisation. resilient organisations, which quasi have an unbundling, but which also have redundancies, and redundancies must not be efficiently exploited to the last, but this redundancy must be there when in an emergency it is necessary to replace my other product line.
I also remember that in our preliminary talk with Günther you mentioned that many companies have a growth plan, but no real plan to scale down or shrink, which is very noticeable in the current situation.
Very good point.
yes, because that's not in the scenario at all, because most people study economics, whether business studies or economics, actually always have only one scenario, unlimited growth, unfortunately in limited markets. and i just have to look at my own short life at the age of 61. hello, in my short life, humanity has doubled. and when i look at my parents' and grandparents' apartment, the farmhouse, how many square meters of living space we each had, that was significantly less.
and how many cars we had in the yard where i was a child, that was also significantly less. that means that we not only have doubled humanity in this short time i live, but we have multiplied what we use. and that can't work. it can't work. business schools teach something different. and the second thing is, now i'm going to go into my other career. my first professional career was in the military. in the military it's completely
It's a good point, I wasn't really aware of that, that it actually needs completely different skills to develop an organization a little bit backwards, but in such a way that you can also develop it forward again quickly when the next commander or manager, whatever that is, comes in.
How do we move away from the permanent growth idea just mentioned to a truly sustainable economy from which everyone benefits as much as possible?
i believe that at the moment, a great many people are simply shaken up because they themselves experience in person that this old business and economic model that we had is simply not suitable for everyday use in all situations. and certainly some people are now already in the starting blocks and are already starting a fire under the kettle and want to push the sales department in order to get back into the old growth business. i just think of the automotive industry knocking on the door of the federal chancellery in germany and would like to have the next scrapping bonus.
we always come up with the solutions of the day before yesterday because they worked back then.
But they have led us exactly to where we are today.
Exactly, and what we need here are simply decision-makers with courage and guts, and we don't need - I'll simply say that I'm currently observing a "defense decision making" among decision-makers. That means that they are not actually looking for the optimal solution for the situation, but rather for a decision that does not leave them open to accusation. And that naturally leads to ... and then of course there is the automotive industry, which I can even understand, because they have so many jobs.
They have shareholders who want to make so much profit, and they come with the big stick. If you don't do that, we will lay off tens of thousands of people. Daimler has just, or rather have just been in the press, trained its managers on how to manage the dismissal of 10,000 employees. And what we need here are new models that we can discuss with society as a whole.
Now, that was specifically related to the design or to the..the relaunch of which city, Salzburg?
Salzburg, I live in Salzburg.
If we now relate this from the city to a company. i had talked to someone about it and we parted company with them in such a way that we said. yes, but with all those tankers driving around out there right now, which we call corporations. he sees no perspective on how they are supposed to change so quickly, so that we can achieve our goals together with them. in other words, more sustainability. to somehow avoid our whole climate catastrophe.
all these things, how can that work? let me add one more thing. Salzburg is a democracy, most companies are not a democracy.
oh, you don't get that much democracy when you transfer that to a company. i'm german, after all. but you just have to imagine that here, for example, many entrepreneurs are currently struggling with bureaucracy and are simply afraid to say anything because they are perhaps rightly aware of problems or fears. i won't get any money from the hardship fund. but i need it to have liquidity as an entrepreneur, entrepreneurs. i'd say that i need to be able to breathe somehow until i start my business, to get away from the heart-lung machine, so that i can simply breathe again and my heart beats again.
i think it's the same with companies... we simply need managers who simply have the courage. i think that's very, very important. we need people with courage who simply don't just march in step. it always occurs to me when i now
So we actually have to make sure that the authority of certain people is reduced because those who have the authority trump with their opinion, those who don't have the authority and have different opinions, right?
what we need above all is diversity of opinion, this pluralism. and let's just take the media, because the media are also in a bad way at the moment. because the media don't just live from the newspapers they sell, whether it's print or online, but they live mainly from advertising revenue. and advertising revenue has also collapsed at the moment. and now many media are living from the subsidies of the crisis support and of course they get that from the government.
and let's not fool ourselves. whose bread i eat, the song i sing. the media have been brought into line in a certain way. and so the social media also simply have a role, a responsibility, as the famous fourth power in the state, which is what the media are otherwise virtually credited with having this informal power. only if this informal power has been brought into line, then of course we must also research and publish in-depth articles in the social media.
and please don't
absolutely. and what i also see above all. i mean, there are already, i don't know if that's the general view, but for example with the people i deal with, and also those through my second direct contact. i see that there are a lot of opinions, actually. but i see that there's very little practice. that there are a lot of ideas and a lot of opinions. there's seldom really profound experience behind it, and even less often there's an execution afterwards.
sorry, every idea is worth just as much as when you say at the beginning of the year, "i have to do a bit more sport. most people don't do that either. how do we get from the idea and the opinion to practice? and quickly.
That takes courage. now, of course, we can say hello, just as the entrepreneurs in Austria are currently being treated, at least. that they are waiting for weeks to receive a cash injection so that they can survive, because the old structures simply did not allow that. and then to proudly stand on the stage of the politicians. you have now received something from the hardship case pot. excuse me, but 500 euros or 1000 euros is charity.
It's an insult.
We both know as entrepreneurs, how much fixed costs we have. And these are not just the zoom fees now. There are other cost centers. And normally you could say, pessimistically speaking for a young person. Are you crazy? Please don't do it, because the financial risks are so great. Nobody will catch you afterwards, they'll drop you like a baked potato. The only ones being rescued at the moment are Adidas, Lufthansa, that's the car lobby.
And these are the unemployed, who are getting the increased unemployment benefits. So, if you want to get through life safely, then do that. But that would be, that's just the pessimistic one. We just need the optimistic thing. We just really need people who have the courage now to tackle something new and just try it out. Just really do it.
then we come to the next point, error tolerance and how to look at mistakes. i mean, i have made a lot of mistakes, but i would say that's why i have a company today, where i can proudly say that this is the one i always wanted to work in. it cost me a lot of mistakes, and it cost me a lot of money and probably a lot of my hair, too. but without these mistakes ...
you did something like that, too. but the mistakes i made, that's where i ended up. but if i look at how many fingers have pointed at me during that time and said, "you can't do that. but you can't do that. if you do that, everything will be ruined. are you crazy, how can you do that? then actually ... if i hadn't been so thousand percent convinced, my environment would have completely stopped me from doing those things, because otherwise i would have made mistakes.
and of course we get it taught at school, made mistakes, s
Well, I think we can learn on the one hand from the so-called High Reliability Organizations, the classic ones that exist, from the fire brigade to the aircraft carrier, nuclear submarine, where everyone is not just sitting in one boat, literally and so to speak to their doom together, but where the whole organization has been trimmed to perceive the smallest deviations and to put them on the table and discuss them. Because as a rule, it is not a small mistake, a small deviation, that brings us, but the concatenation of many of these things, which will still happen at some point, but not at a planned time that I would like to see happen, where everyone can look and be ready to work.
And there we have to develop a culture that we simply have to pay attention to these deviations, I don't even want to consciously talk about the mistake. Pay attention to these deviations and discuss these deviations together and not say them. According to the motto "Oh, that's not so bad
although it hurts sometimes, but i chose it myself. that's when one thing becomes very clear to me, and that is that training is absolutely important. i made a big mistake with us. it becomes even clearer to me now, because i was so convinced that transparency, radical transparency in the organisation, is a good thing. only if i show all employees the facts, and that includes the salary, and that includes the profit and loss account, and that includes the balance sheet.
then you can make decisions that are in line with these figures. then you can also... only if i'm sitting in the car and i have a speedometer, then i can also assess whether i was driving too fast or not. but i suddenly did all this and said, okay, we're going to do everything open now, salaries open, balance sheet open, my salary, everything open, and above all self-determined. you can decide your salary yourself, because whether it's economical and fair, you can see into the fence.
it's just the kind of culture that is lived out in Germany and also in Austria, because we are in these two countries at the moment. what happened in the corona crisis at the moment? people deliberately played with the factor of fear, because people let themselves be controlled by this fear. and exactly the same thing actually happens in companies, which you, now only in the opposite case, simply want to protect them. according to the motto "i don't trust you to work in a self-determined way, but maybe you are running away from me.
and i personally believe that i don't have to protect them from this, but i simply have to empower the employees to deal with it and not to keep it a secret. and of course you will then have the employees in your organization who also fit the culture. and that's not so bad now. i just think that i have completed the transformation of the standard li
Or pretend to, and those who don't identify themselves. Yes Daniel, sorry I interrupted you.
no problem. if we now move a little towards the conclusion, as far as the podcast today is concerned, again. we have already ventured a little look into the future. how can companies embark on a journey into the future? i have written down two more keywords on our warm-up talk. the future check or also what you are doing with the future workshop, dear günther. can you perhaps explain a little bit more about that?
most companies are currently doing what they are symbolically sitting in the pit below, being stressed out. and how do we get out of this pit now? and we are of course doing what they have learned. we are making forecasts. and that again limits me. i am limited because i am in my current state of stress. i only make my forecasts from what i have available at the moment. i invite the companies, the entrepreneurs. let's forget about everything.
let's just imagine that the three of us meet on one, in Mexico, because you are sitting there right now, Daniel, in Mexico, in May 2023. in 2023 we meet there and we describe now how our company looks like, how we will be there in 2023. we are sitting in the warm and paint on a blank canvas, which is not prepainted, which we do not paint over now, but on this blank canvas we paint this
man, i think we'll just leave it at that, that's a great conclusion. in 2023, i hope to see günther again for the next podcast here at Virtual Frontier. maybe even before then, and just stay on the ball. it was a pleasure to meet you. courage. i think that was the big keyword today for everyone who listened. have courage come and do, above all. and i'm especially happy that we had the opportunity to talk about this topic today.
then i'd like to say thank you again dear günther and see you here at Virtual Frontier next time.
Yes, thank you.