LeadershipGarage - Interview with Sabine Remdisch

2020-10-19 The "LeadershipGarage" project brings together experts from science and industry on a regular basis to develop solutions to the challenges of modern leadership in the digital working world. LeadershipGarage is headed by Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch, Professor of Human Resources and Organizational Psychology and Director of the Institute of Performance Management at Leuphana. In an interview, Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch explains how the LeadershipGarage guides its practice partners through the current situation and specifically addresses the challenges.

[Translate to Englisch:] Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch ©Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch
[Translate to Englisch:] Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch ©Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch
[Translate to Englisch:] Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch ©Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch
Are employees working from home more satisfied - or do they only seem to be, e.g. because they are more relaxed?
Our pilot study "Digital Logbook" has shed light on how people really feel working from home, both in a topical and random way. We wanted to gain insights into what it means for people when work suddenly takes place online from home. To find out, we asked test persons to assess their current work situation at home - we asked, for example, how satisfied or stressed they were, how well informed they felt, how virtual collaboration worked, how they organised themselves and what their scope for action was. In addition, we asked the test persons for a retrospective assessment of their previous work situation in normal office life.
What was the result?
The result in three central points: The scope for action when working from home has increased, cooperation has decreased in the perception of those surveyed, and transparency has decreased significantly. In addition, there is a strong correlation with the job satisfaction experienced while working from home. The respondents reported back that they experience less transparency at home, i.e. the prioritisation of tasks and the responsibilities are less clear, and the evaluation criteria for work performance as well as feedback from colleagues and superiors also suffer. For managers this means: Transparency represents a promising starting point for job satisfaction when working from home and should be promoted, for example, through daily team meetings, joint virtual coffee breaks and digital tools that make tasks and responsibilities visible.
Do supervisors want a return to office work or do they benefit from the "remote work" of their employees?
Leadership at a distance by no means makes tried and tested leadership principles completely obsolete. On the contrary - previous core tasks of a supervisor, such as employee motivation, personnel development as a central task, or the classic agreement of objectives remain important components of good leadership. However, they are overlaid by the factors distance and virtuality. Overcoming distance in the leadership process is a challenge and can be aptly described as "being there when you are not there". The central variable here is building trust. This can be achieved by involving employees in decisions, providing them with the relevant information, giving them a clear orientation and being sensitive to their needs. Leadership will always be social interaction and now has the additional task of transferring this social interaction into the digital world. This is where "digital empathy" comes into play, a new field of research of LeadershipGarage, which we are currently addressing.
How can we cope with possible excessive demands of online work or phenomena such as "zoom fatigue"?     
In the current situation, a feeling of isolation quickly arises, employees have the impression of not being involved, of not being aware of anything or of being left alone with technical problems. This is where supervisors have to intervene at an early stage and are called upon as coaches and networkers. Recently, together with students, I compiled a small 7x7 workbook on the topic of healthy working from home. It contains seven exercises based on health-related, psychological models that can contribute to sustainable health at the online workplace over seven consecutive days. In any case, it is important that the current situation is consciously perceived and understood as a learning process in order to mature from the required ad hoc changeover to long-term successful work and leadership at a distance.
What impulses does LeadershipGarage provide?
At LeadershipGarage we develop scientifically based support for large and medium-sized companies on their way into the digital future. LeadershipGarage managers can check how well their own company is prepared for this future, for example, by using "Digital Culture Fit", which we developed as part of our benchmark study: With the help of this tool, they can compare their company against the large database that is already available and identify very precisely where they need to adjust their company's innovation and digital mindset in order to drive digitalisation forward.
The LeadershipGarage is also closely linked to the Digital Leadership Lab - what is this collaboration about in concrete terms?
The aim of the Digital Leadership Lab is to connect companies and their managers with tools and working methods of the digital future that are relevant for them. To this end, the lab provides innovative applications that are tested in practice under scientific supervision and then developed into successful digital and innovation cultures. These applications include telepresence robots, interactive whiteboards, web conferencing systems, or smart glasses for mixed reality scenarios. In addition, there are artificial intelligence solutions for the data based management decisions, which will become increasingly relevant in the future. In all these areas, the Digital Leadership Lab draws on the research results of the LeadershipGarage. You could say that the LeadershipGarage investigates how leadership success is created in the digital working world - and the Digital Leadership Lab translates these findings into innovative practice. The lab is an important instrument for making the research knowledge of the LeadershipGarage practicable.
What are the highlights of the coming six months?
We are currently working flat out on the "Leuphana Digital Leadership Campus", which is scheduled for 5 November in cooperation with Leuphana and well-known partners from the field. For this purpose, we are setting up a virtual conference environment, within which the participants can train their digital performance in the style of circuit training, strengthening it sustainably. The target group for our Digital Leadership Campus are managers and HR decision-makers, as well as naturally all interested parties from science and practice, and students are also welcome. Implementing an event of this format online represents a particular challenge, but also opens up enormous options for us: For example, there will be a live connection directly to Silicon Valley, which will further expand the opportunity to gain insights into digital companies and to establish profitable networks. In addition, we will launch a LeadershipGarage group specifically for HR decision-makers in early 2021.