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Updated: Mar 22, 2022


3 ideas from me.

2 quotes from others.

1 question for you.

This is the set structure of the newsletter of Atomic Habits author James Clear. This structure bestows the text with a funky rhythm. So I thought: why don’t I take on this format too, to inspire people.

So here we go.

3 ideas from me

Idea 1

rotten fish

'The importance of self-leadership and enhanced self-awareness of how we employ our time. Yes, really interesting, Isabel. But what I notice is that our managers are not great followers of these ideas. On the contrary, people at the highest level demand we all go back to the office as often as possible.'

This is what a participant dropped on my lap last week.

My reaction was the following: 'That makes me sad. And you know, it’s a bit like with fish.'

Then I paused for a moment The room held its breath.

'Well, the fish always stinks from the head downwards.'

The room cracked up with laughter.

By the way, did you know Goldman Sachs CEO summoned his people back to the office full-time 2 weeks ago? It's the guy who stated during the pandemic that remote work is not the new normal, but simply an aberration. Well. Barely half of his employees turned up.

Poor chap.

Idea 2


Those who support working from home use the word autonomy with great enthusiasm. They will then often refer to the self-determination theory of Deci & Ryan. Two old American chaps who were already conducting research on what drives people back in 70s.

While reading articles written by Deci & Ryan the following caught my attention:

when they talk about autonomy, they are not talking about control options or choices – a concept sociologist Karasek does refer to. Deci & Ryan are talking about autonomous motivation: the ability to carry out those activities that make you happy or activities that you deem meaningful and purposeful.

In other words, if you use the word autonomy as being able to choose then you are referring to Karasek. If you want to refer to Deci & Ryan, then use the term autonomous motivation.

I see a clear link between Karasek’s autonomy and the ability to organise your own work in a hybrid setting.

I also see a clear link between Deci & Ryan’s autonomous motivation and hybrid work: to be invited to reflect upon an optimal, ergonomic, and responsible use of your time and energy.

So: both of them are interesting.

And both of them are linked to the future of work.

But don’t confuse the two of them.

Karasek and Deci & Ryan will thank you for it.

Idea 3


Do you know what storytelling means?

The more I work on the topic, the less obvious the definition seams.

  • Some talk about applying fixed narrative schemes, as those fervently used in American Pixar films (hero – problem – catharsis – all’s well that ends well).

  • Some refer to storytelling as “speak from the heart, be authentic”.

  • And yet there are others who claim that storytelling is the skill of the future for managers who want to bring meaning to their employees’ activities.

That Babylonian confusion of tongues gets on my nerves.

I’ll dig deeper into that in the coming weeks.

I hope to be able to shine my own light in that darkness.

2 quotes from others

Quote 1

loss of connection

'Whether an employee works often or seldom from home has little influence on the connection one feels with colleagues and the organisation', says Heidi Verlinden at Securex. 'The leadership style practiced in a company is much more important.'

Quote 2

working from home

'The way in which people respond to working from home and the pandemic is determined by two factors: individual characteristics and job characteristics. Individual characteristics concerns optimism, hope and flexibility. Job characteristics refer to the job’s requirements, whether people have autonomy, and whether there is support and clear communication.'

The above quote comes from Professor Kathleen Vangronsvelt of the Antwerp Management School.

I understand this quote as follows: it’s not that working from home is good or bad as such.

The vision on working from home is defined and shaped by the individual as well as the way in which a person may/must work.

Yep! I then also see a clear link between quotes 1 and 2.

1 question for you

Keep track of how many times you open your mailbox.

Are you ashamed at the end of the day?

Are you a knowledge worker? Then your email box should not be your primary workstation.

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Last week I came across the following visual on LinkedIn.

Visual material always makes the grade on social media. So do decision trees.

But I’m going to be honest with you: Decision trees deeply annoy me. They simplify things just that tad too much. The elegantly styled tree is telling us one thing: we are all idiots; follow the arrows and hocus pocus problem solved.

What the drawing of the tree isn’t telling us is the quality of the soil feeding it.

That soil often oozes pestilential elements. I see three of them:

Toxic element number 1: we confuse being together with value-creating collaboration.

Bringing people together will not guarantee true, productive collaboration. Do the following situations sound familiar?

  1. Decisions need to be made in the meeting. The person entitled to take decisions is absent.

  2. The meeting is used to push a great deal of information to a large number of people. Participants have put themselves on mute and are happily tapping away on their mobile phones.

  3. The meeting was meant to be a brainstorm. It is immediately hijacked by the more extravert and those higher in rank.

Well, there is no decision tree that can compete with that.

Toxic element number 2: macho-behaviour.

Careful, also manifested in people with breasts.

Some organisations worship a culture of secrecy: meeting marathons where power is exhibited, preferably around a physical table.

To be allowed to attend these meetings = to get information first hand = to be important.

Well, there is no decision tree that can compete with that.

Toxic element number 3: chaos.

What if work processes are not clearly defined in an organisation? What if it is not clear who is allowed to make decisions? What if there is doubt about when to throw a task over the wall for someone else? What if there has been no clear agreement about who can determine when something is good enough? Or, what if the information that people need isn’t clearly structured?

Well, there is no decision tree that can compete with that.

Being constantly available for one another. Always having to ask other colleagues questions to be able to do your job. In my opinion, this does not portray a sense of togetherness or of a strong culture. It is rather a symptom of badly organised work – of carelessly structured information and knowledge – a small heap insipidly held together by 4 walls.

Decision trees are handkerchiefs for the bleeding. They shush the symptoms.

In my workshops and webinars, I invite participants to dig deeper. To grab the roots of evil with two firm hands.

I then put them to work, together with the team, on the basis of strong statements and assignments.

Some examples:

  • Meetings are intrusive moments. They veer us away from the real work. That real work: what is that exactly? Make a list individually and with the team.

  • Which meetings in the past weeks were scheduled because our work processes are not defined clearly enough? What should be done to clarify those work processes?

  • Which meetings were scheduled because the information colleagues needed was nowhere to be found?

Do you want to grab the evil in meetings by the roots? Don’t hang around in decision trees.

Dare to look down at what lies in the ground. And I will gladly guide you along the way.


Which elements have I missed out above? Meaning, what else – deep in the ground – makes meetings so ravingly rampant?

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