The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast

58 Leadership in a Virtual World: Shaping the Future of Work with Gwen Stirling Wilkie

April 08, 2024 Dr Nia D Thomas Episode 58
58 Leadership in a Virtual World: Shaping the Future of Work with Gwen Stirling Wilkie
The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
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The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
58 Leadership in a Virtual World: Shaping the Future of Work with Gwen Stirling Wilkie
Apr 08, 2024 Episode 58
Dr Nia D Thomas

Welcome to the Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast, where we explore the intricacies of self-aware leadership and its impact on others.

In today's episode, hoss Nia Thomas talks to Gwen Stirling Wilkie.  They delve into the shifting dynamics of virtual work and its potential in unlocking the art of the possible.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie has had a successful career in corporate leadership, with a focus on retail. She has always been fascinated by people and their behavior, particularly in a retail setting. Gwen has a talent for spotting potential both in store performance and in individuals, and she takes great joy in mentoring and helping others grow in their careers. Through her leadership, she has been able to help others thrive and succeed in their own career pathways.

Gwen shares insights from her extensive experience in organizational development and her innovative Omni Working framework, designed to address the challenges of hybrid working and leadership in uncertain work environments. They discuss the importance of self-awareness, the impact of virtual work on relational dynamics, and the future demands for both technical proficiency and relational intelligence. Join us as we navigate the evolving landscape of work and leadership to adapt and flourish in a rapidly changing world.

Check out Gwen's website here

Buy Gwen's books here

Support the Show.

Find Out More
Thanks for joining me on my learning journey! Until next time...

Rate and Review
Once you've taken a listen please leave a rate and review on your favourite podcast player. A little word from you means a big deal to me!

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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to the Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast, where we explore the intricacies of self-aware leadership and its impact on others.

In today's episode, hoss Nia Thomas talks to Gwen Stirling Wilkie.  They delve into the shifting dynamics of virtual work and its potential in unlocking the art of the possible.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie has had a successful career in corporate leadership, with a focus on retail. She has always been fascinated by people and their behavior, particularly in a retail setting. Gwen has a talent for spotting potential both in store performance and in individuals, and she takes great joy in mentoring and helping others grow in their careers. Through her leadership, she has been able to help others thrive and succeed in their own career pathways.

Gwen shares insights from her extensive experience in organizational development and her innovative Omni Working framework, designed to address the challenges of hybrid working and leadership in uncertain work environments. They discuss the importance of self-awareness, the impact of virtual work on relational dynamics, and the future demands for both technical proficiency and relational intelligence. Join us as we navigate the evolving landscape of work and leadership to adapt and flourish in a rapidly changing world.

Check out Gwen's website here

Buy Gwen's books here

Support the Show.

Find Out More
Thanks for joining me on my learning journey! Until next time...

Rate and Review
Once you've taken a listen please leave a rate and review on your favourite podcast player. A little word from you means a big deal to me!

Nia Thomas [00:00:08]:
Hello. And welcome to the Knowing Self, Knowing Others podcast where we discuss self aware leadership with thinkers from around the globe. I'm your host, Nia Thomas. Join me as we talk to today's guest. Today,

Nia Thomas [00:00:20]:
we welcome Gwen Sterling Wilkie. Gwen has an impressive array of qualifications, including an MBA and an MSc, having held senior positions in prominent retail corporations during periods of rapid growth, served as a charity trustee and operated as an executive director in consulting, Gwen has a profound understanding of the challenges inherent in leadership roles. Gwen has also written 2 books, From Physical Place to Virtual Space, and I love that title, and Omni Working. Her belief in the untapped potential of individuals, teams, and organizations forms the cornerstone of her philosophy. Gwen's success lies in her adeptness at fostering meaningful conversations and embracing principles of cocreation and participation derived from principles such as behavioral science and complexity sciences. Gwen's approach creates an environment where people can flourish and organizations can prosper. Gwen, it's absolutely brilliant to have you here. Thank you so much for joining me.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:01:22]:
No. Well, thank you for the invitation. I'm really excited about our conversation today.

Nia Thomas [00:01:27]:
Definitely. And we we happened to bump into each other when we were delivering workshops, but we haven't actually spoken until this point, so it's really nice to be here together. Yeah.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:01:37]:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Nia Thomas [00:01:39]:
So tell us a bit about your professional journey to here. As I mentioned in in the your intro, you you've had lots of different career journeys and lots of different experiences. So how did you get to here?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:01:51]:
I think I'm probably on about my sole sourceist career.

Nia Thomas [00:01:54]:
Oh, okay.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:01:54]:
If I If I think about it, if I go way, way, way back, it's probably more than that. But my I guess a lot of my professional role in in what I call corporate leadership was in was in retail. You know, I've always been fascinated by people. I've always been fascinated about how people behave, what drives their decisions, and of course initially that was from the perspective of, well, what happens when people come into a store? What is it that might kind of encourage them to want to browse, to stay, to maybe buy something? And, you know, and how do we help in a store them to find out all of the things that they may not have thought of buying, you know? So so I've always been very fascinated by people and behavior. And then on the business side, I've always been somebody who's been able to kinda spot potential, both from a, a store performance perspective. So how can we improve what's happening in this in this retail environment? But also from an individual, from a people, and a potential perspective. You know, for me, earlier in my career as a leader, one of the best things in the world was when I would spot somebody with potential, help them grow, help them learn, help them develop, and then see them kind of thrive and grow on their own career pathway. And I think having somebody who kind of mentors you in that way is so rewarding.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:03:21]:
I've been lucky enough myself to have that in 2 or 3 parts of my of my journey through life. And, it just is I don't know, it's something very special. Something very, very special. So, I moved from retail, then into into consulting and into behavior change and culture change, which was part of the last couple of years when I was in, the corporate retail world before starting my own consulting business.

Nia Thomas [00:03:49]:
Wow. Quite an interesting journey. Interestingly, I've I've spoken to somebody recently from the retail sector. So there's obviously a a a bit of a shift, and people are starting to talk a little bit more about self awareness within that retail sector, which is just brilliant. Your working style has been described as, relational, dialogic, and systemic. How do all of these things pan out? How do they translate into practice?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:04:16]:
I think because of my curiosity about people, naturally, I'm wanting to find out, you know, who they are, what makes them tick. And I just love meeting new people. So I think there's something which is very much part of my personality about being relational and being approachable and warm and curious and friendly. And so I think that's probably one of the underpinning parts of my relational approach. And, of course, in my work, I'm also encouraging other people to do what I call connection before content. So not to be in so much of a hurry to get down to the task, and these are all of the things that we have to do in this meeting or this conversation, but actually to just spend some time connecting and relating as human beings because that's who we are fundamentally is we are relational beings.

Nia Thomas [00:05:11]:
And I'm really interested to hear hear you saying that something that I, I think I determined as part of my research was that both leadership and self awareness are socially constructed and that, actually, we can't do either of those things when we're on our own. And it's all about relationships. And when we're talking about leadership, it's how you behave, how you interact with people, and your impact. So, I definitely agree and align with what you're saying about how you need to build up those relationships, and you need to develop those to to be an effective leader and to develop your own self awareness.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:05:46]:
Yes. Absolutely. And I think building on from the relational side then becomes my dialogic approach. Because, you know, in those relationships, if relationships are the foundation stone of how we choose to work together, then our style within a team or within a conversation between you and I is more likely to be more dialogic. So, rather than me talking at you and telling you all of the things that I think are the way that we should do things, it becomes much, much more of an exchange where I am informed by and inspired by some of the things that you say, and so together we are exploring and being informed by each other and informing each other, which of course is that wonderful nature of of dialogue that we're open to being shaped and shaping in our exchanges, which of course, again, it comes into that social construction approach. We create things together in the moment.

Nia Thomas [00:06:51]:
So what is your thought on self awareness in that case? How how would you define it, particularly when we're talking about relationships and we're thinking about, as you said, when you're in dialogue, it's give and taken, it's back and forth, and it's an exchange.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:07:07]:
I think it's it's one of the most challenging parts developmentally. I think when I think back to my role as a leader, I I don't think I was as switched on as perhaps I am now in the work that I do. And I can think back to some situations where I was probably quite clumsy and I was probably much less sophisticated because my level of self awareness hadn't been as developed as it has in the work that I do now. So I think it's part of a lifelong journey that we all go through if we're curious. You know? Because I think there's something which is much more common now in terms of leaders' development pathway about what level of awareness do I have about my impact on others, both intentionally and unintentionally. And if I'm starting to think about what's the impact that I want to have on others, then that starts me down that pathway of self awareness. Because if I know more about myself, then I can then start to be thoughtful about, well, how am I coming across? And then if I'm then really paying close attention to, well, what's the impact I'm having in the moment right now on that other person or those other people who are with me, I've then got a choice point. I can either carry on with my chosen style, my chosen topic, the way I'm talking about that topic, or I can kind of pause and dial back and become curious and ask questions about, well, I'm noticing that you're threatening.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:08:46]:
What does that mean? Let's let's just explore this. And then we move into a relational dialogue piece.

Nia Thomas [00:08:53]:
I like that. And, and the more people I talk to that, that self awareness gives you choices, and I don't think it unless you understand a little bit about self awareness, you don't realize that those choices are available to you.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:09:07]:
Yeah. And I think in my work and my own my own journey of developing my practice as an organizational development consultant or an organization consultant, then for me in that field, it's called use of self. And it's a really big part of the progress and the development of my own practice. Becoming really very closely aware of the impact that I have when I'm standing in front of a room and working with a whole group. Or when I'm working with an individual executive or leader. You know, what is the impact that I'm having on that other? And how do I choose to step in and step out of that and switch between advocacy and inquiry. And so it's a constant dance of paying attention to myself, recognizing what's going on for me, paying attention to the other person, seeing things, interpreting them, but also asking and checking in about what I may be interpreting. Is that actually right?

Nia Thomas [00:10:17]:
Definitely. And Max Stone referred to that as the tango. And the things we choose, do we tango or don't we tango? That's exactly right.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:10:25]:
Yeah. Absolutely. So that was the just coming back to your question then you talked about, you know, well, how would what does it mean about this relational dialogic and systemic style? So I think that's the relational bit and the dialogic bit. But for me, the systemic piece is so important in all of the work I do because nothing happens in isolation. Yeah. So really pausing and stepping back and thinking about the context within which I'm either invited into an organization's system, and I'm only ever a guest in that system. And yet being a guest gives me the opportunity to perhaps see things in a different way from those who are immersed in something day to day. So what's the context that's going on within the organization and what else is happening at that particular point in time as I'm thinking about what might be the nature of the work I do here to support either an individual leader or a team or the of the wider organization.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:11:26]:
What else is going on that might impact some of the decisions and choices that I'm making about what I might put forward as a as, you know, some options that we might want to work with and solutions that I might want to co create with them. Because it needs to be thought about in the context of everything else that is happening. Because some things will enable it, and some things may actually constrain it. So that whole systemic piece is everything's connected.

Nia Thomas [00:11:54]:
Yeah. Absolutely. You, mentioned isolation there, which makes me think about how do we develop these relationships. And especially now that we're moving into a a hybrid world, and I'm just thinking about your first book. So from physical place to virtual space, which I do that it is just such a great title. It's it really captures the essence. It's about working as a virtual consultant. But what inspired you to focus on that particular part of the work virtual working world, and maybe it was related to COVID?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:12:30]:
It very much was. It very much was because, you know, pre 2020, I would say 90% of my work was face to face. Mhmm. You know, I was very much somebody who, energetically was able to, kind of, read the room and work with what was going on. And I really enjoyed that in person work. And I was right at the beginning of a big piece of consulting work when everything changed, you know, probably 4 years ago, almost to the week in fact.

Nia Thomas [00:13:00]:
Yeah. Yeah.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:13:01]:
You know, when everything suddenly changed. And, so, my client said to me, you know, this piece of work, which was all being planned for a series of in person workshops all over the country, You know, can you do this virtually on this thing called Zoom, which I think I've been on a couple of times. And, you know, somebody else had put me into a breakout room, but I had very little idea of how to get the best out of this technology that existed. And I kinda went, yeah. I'm sure we can do I'm sure we can. You know? Let's see what happens. I'm kinda quite experimental. And if somebody says, can we do it? My first response is, let's see.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:13:36]:
You know, let's see what happens, let's see what emerges. And so I found myself in a in a position where I needed to learn incredibly quickly. There was a lot of trial and error. There was a lot of learning from, you know, what other people were doing. I think everybody was in those 1st few weeks of sort of like, right. Okay. Who knows what, and who might be able to help me with this, and let's have a go, and let's see what happens, and sort of really quick, fast, adaptive cycles of testing and experimenting and and sharing knowledge and sharing information. And probably about, I don't know, about 4, maybe 5 weeks in, I was then asked to do a presentation to the rest of the consulting team who were working on this project across different work streams.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:14:23]:
You know, can you can you share with us the best ways to go about facilitating a workshop online or kind of doing some data gathering online or how we might generate co create something online. So it was really driven out of necessity, quite honestly. And, you know, I discovered to my surprise how much I loved it.

Nia Thomas [00:14:46]:
I was like,

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:14:47]:
I'm really, really enjoying this. You know, I would never have said, when you're going to write a book about how to do all of this stuff online, bring out the best, you know, facilitation, reinvent facilitation methods and processes for on a technology platform. I would just me? Don't be ridiculous. But yet it was something that I found I was able to do. Yes. I had to do a lot of learning, but I absolutely loved it. And I produced this, and I think it was originally, I don't know, maybe 10 or 12 slides in a PowerPoint presentation, which I'd shared with this group. And I thought, you know, I'll just adjust it slightly, and I'll put it onto LinkedIn, Cause we're all in the same boat.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:15:29]:
And then I got a response from somebody who had actually been one of my tutors on a, on an organization development program that I was on. And he went, can you write a book on this? Because what you really need, you know, as OD practitioners, and consultants, and facilitators and leaders who were trying to run workshops online, we need to know how to do it. So I went, well, why not?

Nia Thomas [00:15:55]:
You know? Why not indeed?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:15:56]:
Why not indeed? I don't like saying no to something. I think there's a, there's a pattern there. Yeah. And so then yeah. So then I wrote the first book, which was, amazing to write. And and, and yeah, and people still come up to me and I say still, it was what published in 2021. So it's 3 years old. And they said, you know, I just bought your book and there's so much useful stuff in it, and it's still really applicable now because, you know, as you said, some of our work is done in person and some of our work is done online.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:16:30]:
So there is still all of those really good habits. All of those things that we need to be skillful at about impact, about building relationships, about working dialogically, which we can do in my book absolutely relevant. And I refer to a lot in in my omni working book because it's the core base of the work that I've built.

Nia Thomas [00:17:04]:
And listeners and watchers, we will make sure that there are links in the show notes Yes. However so that you can make sure that you can access these books. There is, an element in the book where you talk about reframing participation, which, I guess it seems it's about relationships, connections, communications. How do you think that virtual world has really changed those relational dynamics? Because you just said that you didn't think you were going to enjoy it, and you said you really enjoyed relationships and watching the room and being able to read the room. How do you think that that's really changed those relationships?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:17:41]:
I think it's changed them in a couple of ways. I think the art of the possible is far greater than perhaps we give ourselves credit for, in the virtual world. So working online. And I think there's something for me about the mindset and the shift, which I think is even more important now when we have different choices to make about when is the right time for me to physically bring everybody together. And when is the right time for me to actually, do you know, I can do this work virtually. We can progress it in an asynchronous way. We don't have to have everybody together in the same room at the same time to move this work forward. And so that whole notion of reframing participation, when you start to unpick it, there's a lot that sits beneath it, which for me shows a level of thoughtfulness and in and what I call intentionality about when we bring people together in person or at the same time, they are ready for active participation.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:18:52]:
So in order to reframe part the whole the whole perspective of participation, for me, it was about decoupling it from actually physically being together in the room.

Nia Thomas [00:19:06]:

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:19:06]:
And thinking about what can be done ahead of time, and what might my ask be as a leader and manager of people who I've invited to come to this meeting. What might be, what might I be asking of them so that when they come together, whether it's a 2 hour Zoom meeting or a half day in person, we're ready to actively participate. So I'm guessing the best of people in that moment. And I may have had to do some different kind of preparation as the host and as the chair or the facilitator for that, and they might have had to do some different kind of preparation as as attendees or participants. So it's that whole thinking about, I'm not gonna use time at the beginning to update people with a big presentation or to go through information that they can have looked at beforehand.

Nia Thomas [00:20:04]:
Yeah. Okay.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:20:05]:
I'm gonna I'm gonna share that with them differently, and I think this is even more important in today's world because, you know, people are saying, I'm spending too much time in meetings, and I'm spending too much time talking about something in a meeting that I actually just need to have some space to do. I can't deliver it. I can't progress it forward, because I'm in all these meetings talking about the thing that you're asking me to do. So it's kind of we kind of got ourselves in a bit of a bind. So decoupling those things sometimes can really just help make our time together sharper, smarter, and more productive, but it does require me to maybe do a little short Loom video that might go alongside some slides or might go alongside a briefing document that I've uploaded into the team channel or the project channel in a piece of, you know, project management software that requires whoever's coming along to read it, to watch the video, maybe do a bit of prethinking. This is what I want us to explore. Maybe go and do a little bit of, let me go and check that out with people I work with, or people who might be interested in this topic. So when I come into the meeting, either physically in the room or log in online, I'm ready.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:21:31]:
I'm ready to contribute. I'm ready to play the part that I'm being asked to play in this meeting.

Nia Thomas [00:21:38]:
I don't think that that is something that we have readily moved forward with. I think we we are doing what we've always done and using our virtual tools to do it, but we haven't necessarily changed the way that we are doing things. So that's really made me think, and I'm gonna have to think differently about my practice, certainly, about how I prepare and what I use those getting together opportunities for. Mhmm. That's very interesting. And I'm gonna put you on the spot now, Gwen. What do you think about these organizations and companies that are saying to their employees, we want you back in the office. We want to see you.

Nia Thomas [00:22:20]:
Where does that fit with all this new technology we have and opportunities we have to get together in a different way?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:22:27]:
Do you know, I'm always really curious when the next piece of news that comes, the CEO of x, y, z has has made this mandated return to the office. You know, I always get really curious. What's behind that? Because it's never quite as straightforward as it's portrayed in the media. And, of course, the media have created this huge divide between being in the office is good, working from home means you're sitting around in your pajamas, not doing anything. And I'm that is just not the case. That really isn't the case at all. And often when you start to sort of poke a little bit more underneath the headline, actually, what you may find is that organization has had some really bad results over the last 2 or 3 quarters. So you've got a chief exec who's under pressure from their board, maybe from their shareholders, maybe one of their shareholders is a big investor in real estate and has got empty office buildings.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:23:26]:
Maybe there's a very big expensive lease commitment that they can't get themselves out of. So there's all kinds of other reasons that may be behind it. It also may be the the personal view and personal perspective of that senior leader, that that's how they have always experienced work. And for them, it suits them. It suits their personal working. They may not have any caregiving responsibilities. They, they may prefer personally to be with people in that office environment. It may be their, their style of leadership and management that they've been successful with.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:24:09]:
So there's lots of different things happening, I think, that are going on, which are driving these decisions. We're also now starting to see a performance gap opening up between organizations who are offering flexibility versus organizations who are mandating people to be in the office 4 or 5 days a week. You know, you're starting to see their performance stall and in some cases decline, and you're starting to see organizations who are offering flexible working and distributed working approaches. Their performance is starting to to rise.

Nia Thomas [00:24:49]:
And that's probably a very good segue into my question about your book, Omni Working, and your Omni Working framework. Very interested in that. Tell us a little bit about your Omni Working framework.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:25:03]:
Well, it came about it came about in from from 2 perspectives. 1, sort of 2022, I was being asked a lot from organizations to say, you know, when you've been fabulous helping us learn how to how to do things virtually, but now I'm getting people saying I've got some people in the room and some people joining virtually. How the heck do I make that work? So that was one thing people were saying to me. Other people were saying to me, do you know, as a leader or manager, I'm really struggling with the fact that I've now gone from, you know, I had everybody in in the office, then I had everybody virtually. Now I'm in this space where I'm just really not quite sure what we're doing, and I don't know how to lead and manage in that environment. And then I had senior leaders in organizations going, how do we create a hybrid working policy? Right. So I got really curious, and it coincided with the start of my, my doctorate program. So I'm in in the midst of a of a doctoral program.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:26:07]:
And I got really curious because I wanna because it's kinda like I'm immersed in it. I want to write about and continue to research and learn about the future of work. So I got a group of leaders together from all different kinds of organizations from spread across the world, large, small, tech, non tech, and just said, tell me what's been going on. What have you what did you do leading into the pandemic? What did you do coming out? And and how's that going? So it was from that combined with my knowledge of organisation development and organisation design, Those two things together, plus a lot of research and conversations I did generally on on other people, what they were finding out, all blended together to create the Omni Working Framework. And at the moment, I don't think anybody else has viewed it in such location based. And I think that's the wrong question to ask. For me, location based? And I think that's the wrong question to ask. For me, it's how do we enable organizations and people to grow and thrive where location is only one part of the equation.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:27:27]:
So I wanted to really pull it away from location as a sole focus, and say, hang on a minute. Let's look at the whole system here. You know, this is how my systemic approach comes in. Let's look at the whole system here and let's look at the kind of the behavioral and the relational pieces, as well as the enabling pieces of which, of course, location is 1.

Nia Thomas [00:27:51]:
Mhmm. So if you had to describe Omni working, give it a a two line definition, how would you define Omni working?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:28:00]:
I describe it as working effectively in all ways from all places, which is the kind of like the subtitle of the book. And and, you know, what choices do we need to make both strategically and operationally as leaders and managers to equip our people to be able to do that either with the right human centric skills, relational skills, but also how do we enable them with technology? How do we enable them with with some sort of guiding framework? How do we we enable them with the right physical office location, the right setup from home, the ability to have autonomy and choice about working from a third space, and also enable them from a digital workspace. So, you know, that's how I would describe it. It's about enabling both the human centric relationship piece and also all of the supporting technology and and, physical and working environments as well.

Nia Thomas [00:29:04]:
In your omnimeworking framework, you, there's the element of cultivating connection. And I was just wondering, how does cultivating connection from that framework with reframing participation from your previous framework? Are they similar? Are they connected? Are they same? What's what's their joiner?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:29:27]:
There are bits of that are similar. Mhmm. But in some respects, they're quite different. So in the only working framework, cultivating connections is about our social capital in organizations. So yes, in terms of reframing participation, we might want to draw on some of our social capital, but this is very much about understanding our relational map across an organization, both as an individual. So where are the relationships that actually don't fit neatly into the organization chart, the reporting lines, the structures of departments and teams? Because we all know we have this web of relationships that you will know, who do I need to get in touch with? Who can kind of help something happen? Or who can just let me know what's going on? Or who do I might want to get involved with a piece of work that may require me to have different access and different relationships across an organization when I'm socializing a new idea, who do I go to as my sounding board? And that's all of our social capital, which is all about very intentionally both creating your own network of social capital, but also helping your team with if you're in a managerial and a leadership role, helping your team to raise their awareness of their own social capital and and connecting them with others. So when so there's 2 elements of social capital which are really important to pay attention to. 1 is bonding capital, bonding social capital, which is all about my team.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:31:11]:
It's all about team cohesiveness. It's all about a team being able to to do their strategic execution and deliver on their commitments. And so during the pandemic, the the quality of people's social bonding capital within their teams went up because that's where our attention was. Is my team okay? Have they got what they need? How do we keep everybody together? And what what dropped off was the bridging capital. Now bridging social capital is where I might reach out to other teams and other functions and other departments, either within our own organization or with partnering organizations, maybe delivery partners, maybe somebody in the supply chain, maybe somebody in a in a similar role, but in a different sector who might give me a source of innovation and ideas that I could bring into our organization and create something new and different, which would add value to our customers or end users, depending on the nature of the business that you're in. So bridging social capital is just as important as bonding social capital, and we need to be aware of where both are used and where both can be used really, really effectively, either in a product development cycle or a service improvement cycle, as well as strategic execution and team cohesion.

Nia Thomas [00:32:38]:
That's really helpful. I I as you're explaining that, I can see that Venn diagram of where those reframing participation and cultivating connection, where where they overlap. Yes. As as part of your omni working, you talk about omniwow. What is omniwow?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:32:56]:
It's an abbreviation of of omni ways of working.

Nia Thomas [00:33:01]:
Oh, yes. Of course.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:33:04]:
But it's also a really lovely way to say, well, actually, let me look at my own personal omni wow. You know, how how wow is my is my ways of working at the moment when I look at it through the lens of the Omni Working Framework. And so there's my individual Omni Wow, and there's our team Omni Wow, and our organizational Omni Wow. So it's just a it's just a way for people to be able to stop and pause and think about how does all of this relate to me as an individual, as well as my team and the organization.

Nia Thomas [00:33:38]:
It's funny isn't it? I often use the phrase ways of working but I've never realized that it the the mnemonic is wow.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:33:47]:
Yep. Neither did I. And so now I just saw it, and I went, oh, actually, that's really cool. I'm gonna put that together.

Nia Thomas [00:33:52]:
Definitely. I'm really interested in the difference between, people working at the strategic levels of organizations who who operate as, in in inverted commas, bosses, and those who are operating as the more modern and the more enlightened leaders. Where where do you see those different leadership characteristics sitting in terms of, getting or understanding your omni approach?

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:34:21]:
What has emerged for me, and I think and there was actually a piece of research done on this at the back end of last year, And the data, I think, was pretty much evenly split. I think 52%, 48%, you know, very evenly split, between some senior leaders who view distributed and flexible working as very much an HR benefit, or HR policy, or perk. And sitting within the domain of the HR function to create and organize and to communicate. And then the other half view it very much as a source of competitive advantage. So here's a way that if we think about and approach it strategically, that, and recognize that it affects everybody in the organization and it affects our entire operating model. So if we embed distributed and flexible working approaches across the whole of our operating model, that is a source of competitive advantage. Mhmm. And so as you can imagine, those two mindsets create a whole set of different decisions.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:35:38]:
They create a whole set of different frameworks and approaches and ways of working in an organization, and they create 2 very, very different sets of employee experience. And so so what I see are those leaders who are really forward thinking and considering, how do I create high performance flexibility in my organization? One, to give me a source of competitive advantage, but actually to create a modern workplace, you know, of which an office is just a place to work. It's not the place to work. And and how do we enable people to always kind of work if that's what their their their job enables them to do, almost work wherever there's an Internet connection. But then when we are in those environments where, and and there's a lovely story in the book that I talk about, a construction company who did their employee engagement survey 12, 18 months ago, and quite rightly, you know, there was some feedback in there that said, well, office based people, it's fine. You know, they have flexible working. They have location flexibility. On a construction site, you know, we can't be anywhere other than on the construction site.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:36:55]:
Yep. So, you know, what about our flexibility? Now they made the choice to go, okay. Well, let's see what we can do. So they started a whole series of experiments, 1 on a large construction site and 1 on a small construction site to give autonomy and choice and freedom to that site manager and his team to say, okay, we still need to do whatever piece of construction within the budget to the timeline. How you go about organizing yourself is up to you. So they've created schedule flexibility, which when you look at the data, is equally and in some cases more important for people having autonomy and choice around their scheduling of their timing of their work during the day than is the location of their work. So, you know, there's all different kinds of ways that we can approach flexibility in distributed working.

Nia Thomas [00:37:50]:
How interesting. My final question just before we go, I'm reading a lot more about the future skills that people are gonna need, and it seems to be highly technical in the digital space and highly humanized in that relational space. What do you see are the, emerging work demands based on on that need for for those skills, which I guess we could say that they were on a spectrum and they one end and the other end of the spectrum.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:38:19]:
Yeah. Yeah. Do you know, I think in some respects, it comes back right to the very start of our conversation about what does it mean to be relational and dialogic. Because I think without that, no matter how much you've got enabling technology, we're still human beings wanting to connect and relate to each other. We're enabled by the technology. So so you need to have a skill set that says, here is a suite of different technology packages, which I can make some choices, which will help, automate some of the things I'm doing, which will help streamline, and and share platforms, and channels, and communication, and data, and information with others. And how can we make those discerning choices so we are enabling, but not overloading with so many different acts? We don't know which one to use. So there's a discernment and an understanding and a knowledge skill base that needs to be built And wrapped around that are the relational, what I call the relational intelligence suite of skills that says, actually, I can build those relationships with people.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:39:37]:
We can build a trusting relationship. And I feel through my use of technology, I have sufficient visibility to know that progress is being made, the signals of progress, which can be seen anywhere in the organisation to say that these things are on track, we're delivering against our priorities, which are also our organizational goals. But I can use my relational skills around the suite of technical skills.

Nia Thomas [00:40:05]:
Very interesting. And and really, I I my cogs are whirring here. It really is making me think. Thank you so much for joining me today. I've really enjoyed the conversation, and it really has made me think about the the way that we think about working together, working virtually, working in a hybrid way. But are we ensuring that our ways of working are adapting to our new proximity, maybe, we we can call it? And I think that's something that we really need to take away and think about. And listeners, watchers, that is probably something you're gonna want to think about. How can you influence that in your organization? How can you start to move your organization so it does have that future edge, and it does have that ability to compete in that future world and this this rapidly changing world, where change is exponential.

Nia Thomas [00:40:59]:
Gwen, it's been absolutely brilliant having you here. Thank you. I've really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you so much for joining me.

Gwen Stirling Wilkie [00:41:05]:
Me too. It's it's been it's been great. And, and I I look forward to hearing from your listeners as, any questions and what their reactions are to what we've shared with them today.

Nia Thomas [00:41:17]:
Definitely. We will make sure that there is a link to Gwen's website in the show notes so that you can contact Gwen and have a further conversation. Thank you very much for joining me. Thank you.

Nia Thomas [00:41:28]:
Thank you for joining me on today's episode where we aim to develop self aware leaders around the globe to generate kinder, more respectful, and creative working relationships through recognition and regulation. Head over to my website at to sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date with my blog, podcast and book Looking forward to having you on my learning journey

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