Interview: "New types of organizations and leadership are inextricably linked"
Bettina Boele works at BlinkLane. She’s a consultant specializing in digital transformations and related areas such as changing leadership and new organization design. In addition, Bettina is an executive coach, helping leaders to align their teams and (other) stakeholders. She has experienced firsthand that new forms of organizing and structuring companies and leadership are inextricably linked.
Following her studies in clinical psychology, Bettina started her career at Unilever. Subsequently, she was given the opportunity to work at a startup: “Something totally different than working at an established corporate!”, Bettina explains. Having had two very different professional experiences, Bettina decided to study again. At the London School of Economics she enrolled in various courses in macro-econometrics. End of 2016, Bettina started at Blinklane Consulting: “Having seen two sides of the organizational spectrum, I wanted to become a consultant. The combination of the human aspect, organization, and data perfectly came together. The projects I am currently involved in primarily focus on leadership and transforming organizational structures.”
Future organizational structures
It is a very exciting and interesting time for organizational design and structures. Major changes – including in technology and related customer expectations – make those companies need to be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. This calls for new structures. Being agile, having autonomous teams and having a customer-oriented approach are crucial. A case in point is a project Bettina is currently involved in at Schiphol airport. The airport is currently transforming the way teams collaborate and its organizational structures. “Schiphol wants to be the leading digital airport and to become an even better and more attractive airport for its annual 68 million passengers (in 2017). Achieving this objective requires various steps and actions. How does Schiphol collaborate with other airports? But most importantly, how do the various teams at Schiphol work together? This is something I am working on. I help managers to connect and collaborate with various teams and departments in a changing and complex environment,” explains Bettina.
From manager to leader
Supporting and assisting management to make the required changes is essential and a challenging element in renewing organizations. With the rise of autonomous teams, the role of managers changes. This is not always easy. Previously managers were used to ‘be the boss’; now team members expect a different style and role. Bettina experiences that managers find this slightly frightening: “They need to ensure that digitalization takes place from within. Only then can a transformation be truly structural and permanent. Management can be supported and assisted by consultants and other experts, but the transformation needs to be embraced by the organization."
She explains that for managers it has become much more important to focus on the overall strategy: “The primary need in terms of leadership is that managers become leaders. If that happens – if a manager is actively involved in the major issues in organizational design and the so-called digital developments – change can take place quickly and value can be created. As a consultant, I play an important part.”
According to Bettina, leadership is the key to becoming a successful digital organization. “Eventually the people in key positions need to facilitate the transformation into a digital organization. A different type of leadership is accordingly required. Less ego, accepting and stimulating that others lower in the company take more responsibility and make actual decisions.” For many managers this is, however, more easily said than done: “It is a difficult process. Call it a loss of control. And what does a manager get in return for taking on a more vulnerable role? Leaders will need to give direction to a team or organization and only to
step in when needed. For most of us, that is a new way of managing. I challenge leaders to deploy this new type of leadership on a daily basis. Because only changing the organizational structure is not going to cut it.”
In addition, at a different client – the renowned French bank BNP Paribas – Bettina contributes to a change in leadership style. Using executive coaching, she helps managers on a one-to-one basis to refine their leadership qualities: “How to do you deal with a growing business, pressure, stress and divergent stakeholders, etc.? If you are being promoted from a previous function where you only had to focus on content or only on a particular dossier, it is not always easy to quickly develop the skills required to
become an effective leader. While many companies offer traineeship that focuses on such skills, not all managers have participated in such traineeship.”
Bettina explains to thoroughly enjoy being involved in such transformational projects: “One of the biggest qualities of a leader is to remain self-critical and to continuously strive to improve yourself. Helping leaders to do so is something I greatly enjoy. It gives a lot of energy to work together with people who are very keen to gain a new perspective and to find room to further improve.”
The importance of strong leadership is also something that she experiences in the digitalization process Schiphol is currently going through, “it really affects every aspect of the airport’s daily operations.” Bettina: “An organization of the future has end-to-end departments which bring together customers and digital solutions. That requires a change in culture. How do we as managers find each other and can we strengthen each other’s departments instead of only realizing our own objectives? As the governance structure changes, that initially leaves people slightly disoriented. In transitioning into a future proof organization, I see the real leaders stand up.”
Interview published at www.consultancy.nl on 29th of March 2018