2x Gold at the European Training Award 2024

As part of the European Training Award 2024, we were nominated twice and won gold in both categories – Classic Training & Online Training. We are proud.

That’s what the jury said:

Gold for MagnoliaTree’s “First Mover Programme” – Elke Pichler and Sabine Gromer – for Oldenburgische Landesbank AG .
The training approach enables a comprehensive development journey for self-motivated participants. It presents a wide range of innovative approaches within a convincing conceptual framework. A colourful mix of development spaces brings learning to life and offers a wide range of opportunities for personal development.

Gold goes to MagnoliaTree – Sabine Gromer, Holger Gromer and Elke Pichler – with “Inclusive Leadership Programme – How to uncover your biases”
The online training offers a didactically well thought-out and medially diverse programme that invites you to try it out. With a high-quality virtual learning environment and a coherent overall concept, it enables participants to embark on a personalised and flexible learning journey that goes beyond right and wrong. Thanks to a multi-digital approach that is customised, it reaches a diverse group of learners and creates an open space for reflection on an important and sensitive topic.

We are very happy and our two new gold owls got on well with the gold owl from last year.

Leadership and Mental Health

In the dynamic landscape of the modern workplace, the intersection of leadership and mental health is becoming increasingly prominent. Leaders who strive to drive their organizations to success need to recognize the importance of addressing mental health concerns. Let’s explore this intricate relationship between leadership and mental health, and look at credible research findings and data.

So, how often anyway can a mental health issue be a problem for an employee?
A study by the Harvard Business Review in 2021, found that a striking 76% of employees experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year. This is a noticeable percentage increase from 59% found in a similar 2019 survey. This trend underlines the escalating need for mental health awareness in organizational leadership. This growing trend shines a spotlight on the urgent need for leaders in organizations to really tune into mental health issues. 

It’s clear now that mental well-being isn’t just a personal matter; it’s a vital part of a healthy, functioning workplace. For today’s leaders, this means diving deeper into understanding mental health and weaving it into the fabric of their organizational culture and policies. It’s not just about caring for employees’ well-being; it’s also about maintaining the productivity and longevity of the organization.

Now we know that effective leadership is no longer just about strategic decisions, but also about understanding and addressing mental health. Leaders have a profound impact on the mental health of their employees. Research published in BMC Public Health reveals just how impactful different kinds of leadership can be. It turns out, that when leaders are supportive, employees’ job satisfaction skyrockets, and their stress level drops. This isn’t just a theory; it’s a reality that plays out in workplaces around the globe, both in traditional office settings and in the increasingly common remote work environments.

Health-Oriented Leadership is a three-legged stool…

… with each leg crucial to keeping it from falling.

  • One leg is about the leader taking care of their own health.
  • The second is about nurturing the staff’s well-being.
  • The third is about encouraging the team to take care of themselves.

There are several Studies in Psychology emphasizing that when leaders embrace this holistic approach, the entire team thrives, showing reduced stress and improved overall mental health.

Emotional intelligence is increasingly recognized as a critical component of effective leadership. Several studies on Emotional Intelligence suggest that leaders with high emotional intelligence tend to create more positive workplace environments that support the mental health of their teams. This points to the necessity for leaders to develop skills like empathy, self-awareness, and emotional regulation.

  • Recognizing the burden of mental health on leaders: The first thing a leader should do to become a Health-Oriented Leader is to realize that leaders themselves are not immune to mental health challenges. This means that leaders must prioritize their own mental hygiene to effectively manage stress and prevent burnout.
  • Promote Work-Life Balance: Encouraging a healthy work-life balance is crucial. Flexible working hours and acknowledging the importance of personal time can reduce burnout and stress. 
  • Foster Open Communication: Creating channels for open communication where employees can discuss mental health issues without fear of judgment or reprisal is essential.
  • Invest in Mental Health Resources: Providing access to mental health resources, such as counseling services or mindfulness training, demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being.
  • Lead by Example: Leaders should model healthy behaviors and attitudes towards mental health, breaking down stigma and encouraging others to prioritize their well-being.
  • Regular Check-ins: Implementing regular one-on-one check-ins can help leaders stay informed about their team’s mental health and provide support when needed. This practice is especially important for remote workers, as it helps foster a sense of connection and belonging within the organization.

Training leaders to understand and support mental health is vital. Programs focusing on mental health awareness, stress management, and emotional intelligence can equip leaders with the tools they need to support their teams effectively.

As awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace grows, future trends indicate a continued focus on this area. This highlights the growing importance of mental health awareness, the integration of technology and mental health tools, and the focus on holistic well-being programs. These advancements are not just trends but are becoming essential components of effective workplace management and leadership strategies. Keeping up-to-date with these developments will be vital for leaders who aim to foster a supportive and healthy work environment.

The intersection of leadership and mental health is a complex but vital area in the modern workplace. Leaders play a crucial role in shaping the mental health landscape of their organizations. By adopting strategies that prioritize mental health, leaders can create a more productive, engaged, and healthy workforce. The journey towards integrating mental health into leadership practices is ongoing, but it is clear that the benefits to both individuals and organizations are substantial.

Fostering team alignment and productivity with the GRPI model

Authored by Cynthia Oliver for MagnoliaTree

In today’s fast-paced business environment, team effectiveness and productivity are key facets to organizational success. As such, ensuring that alignment is created amongst team members is a foundational step in project management and execution. Throughout time, a number of models have been developed to foster team alignment. This article will introduce the GRPI model and how it is used in the workplace.

Developed in 1972 by Organizational theorist Richard Beckhard, The GRPI model was created to structure group efforts and diagnose problems within teams. In the model, the key factors that teams need to function in an effective way are outlined:

Conflicts within groups can be attributed to

  • Unclear goals – 80% of the time
  • Unclear roles – 16% of the time
  • Unclear processes – 3% of the time
  • Interpersonal relationships – 1% of the time

In his work in developing the GRPI model, Beckhard found that 80% of team conflicts are due to lack of goal clarity; the other 20% are split between the remaining three factors of the model. In order for teams to work effectively, there must be mutual understanding and consistent communication regarding these four factors. Ambiguity at any time related to these factors may cause conflict to arise throughout project journeys.

For teams embarking on large-scale projects, creating work plans based on the GRPI model is an effective way to ensure everyone is on the same page. While every team might structure their planning differently, addressing these four factors enables the right work to take place from the get-go.

In addition to this, the GRPI model serves as an excellent diagnostic tool throughout a project journey. If conflict or negative group dynamics exist, using questionnaires designed around the GRPI model can help identify the root cause of these challenges. These questionnaires ask team members to write down their understanding of the four GRPI factors, and also rank team alignment and dynamics on a scale.

Through the analysis of the gathered responses, there will be an understanding of where there is perceived alignment, and where individual answers differ amongst team members. With this data collected and analyzed, it will be evident where clarity needs to be recreated and energy needs to be shifted to get the work back on track.

A necessary driver in using the GRPI model is strong leadership at the helm of the work. As team members strive to complete their individual portions of projects, having leaders monitoring the bigger picture will ensure all facets of the model are enabling the right work environment. 

A strong leader must play a crucial role in defining and communicating organizational goals and motivates team members to achieve their best. By ensuring that team goals are in alignment with the broader vision, leaders set the stage for success. Leaders need to articulate the ‘why’ behind each goal, fostering a sense of purpose and commitment among team members. 

The GRPI model serves as a comprehensive framework for optimizing team performance. When combined with effective leadership and execution, it can create a clear work plan for successful team development and ensure a trajectory of continual growth and achievement. As leaders start their teams in a structured manner, they enable the right progress to unfold, and create a team dynamic that is able to tackle challenges as they emerge.

Looking to use the GRPI Model in your team’s work plan? Reach out to us here to learn how MagnoliaTree can help facilitate this work.

Gold at the HR Excellence Awards

Our third award in 2023

On 24 November 2023, we received our third award this year in Berlin: the prestigious HR Excellence Award in the Diversity & Inclusion Management category.

The HR Excellence Awards recognise outstanding HR management in German-speaking countries and are presented annually. During the pitch, we were able to impress in the Diversity & Inclusion Management category with our Tipping Point Leaders programme for Strategy&. We received our trophy in the evening.

Our award-winning project with Strategy&

Our pioneering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Tipping Point Leaders Programme for Strategy& was awarded the European Training Award back in the spring and a few weeks ago won second prize in the Ethics and Values category with the Constantinus Award. This programme, initiated as a grassroots initiative by dedicated employees, aims to embed a deep understanding and practical application of DEI principles in the corporate culture. The programme promotes awareness and change in thought and behaviour patterns at all organisational levels and is characterised by open discussions, the involvement of younger employees, the creation of scope for personal initiative and the promotion of a learning culture in management.

Read more about this multi-award-winning project in the interview with Strategy& project manager Nicole Hildebrandt:

2nd place at the Constantinus Award

After winning gold at the European Training Award in the spring, we are now proudly holding our second trophy in our hands. At the Constantinus Award ceremony, we were honoured with second place in the “Ethics & Values” category.

The Constantinus Award

The Constantinus Award, which has been presented annually in Austria since 2003, is a prestigious recognition of outstanding achievements in consulting, accounting and IT. Initiated by the UBIT trade association, this award highlights quality in eight categories, including digitalisation, human resources, IT and the newly introduced category of ethics and values. In this special category, in which we were honoured, the focus is on value management, ethical corporate governance and sustainability. It recognises projects that are characterised by social responsibility, data protection, ethical standards and compliance with regulatory frameworks, which underlines our commitment to ethical practices and sustainable business management.

Our award-winning project with Strategy&

Back in spring, our pioneering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Tipping Point Leaders Programme for Strategy& was awarded the European Training Award. This programme, initiated as a grassroots initiative by dedicated employees, aims to embed a deep understanding and practical application of DEI principles in the corporate culture. The programme promotes awareness and change in thought and behaviour patterns at all organisational levels and is characterised by open discussions, the involvement of younger employees, the creation of scope for personal initiative and the promotion of a learning culture in management.

Read more about this multi-award-winning project in the interview with Strategy& project manager Nicole Hildebrandt:

Behind the scenes of a DEI project with Strategy&.

Interview with Nicole Hildebrandt from Strategy& about our award-winning Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Tipping Point Leaders Program.

In April 2023, we received the golden European Training Award for our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Tipping Point Leaders Program for PwC Strategy& in the Mixed Training category. The following interview with Strategy&’s project leader, Nicole Hildebrandt, not only describes the specifics that made the joint program a success, but also shares tips on how other companies can successfully implement DEI measures.

MagnoliaTree (MT): Dear Nicole, what was the motivation for starting the project?

Nicole Hildebrandt (NH): At Strategy&, we have been intensively pursuing various sustainability initiatives for several years, and the topic of DEI has become increasingly important. It was originally a grassroots initiative by committed employees who wanted to actively pursue change instead of passively waiting. It is part of our corporate culture to take initiative and responsibility.

MT: What were the factors that made this program a success?

NH: Three aspects come to my mind: First, top management support. Second, the mobilization of the organization at all levels. And third, the high level of commitment and passion of the employees who participated in the initiative.

Nicole about the surprising moments of the program.

At first, the topic was new for many of us, including me. I was constantly encountering new aspects and perspectives. Second, I realized that awareness is only the first step. It takes concrete practice in everyday life to really change patterns of thinking and behavior. In the end, the work on the program was very touching and many very personal contacts and conversations arose.

MT: What are the next steps for this program?

NH: DEI content, initially made available only to selected groups, is now accessible to all employees. They are presented in our DEI morning sessions, a short, inspiring online format that summarizes the most important topics around DEI. More info is available on the Strategy& DEI web page.

MT: What do you think is needed to create awareness for this topic, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), in companies?

NH: It starts with open conversations at all levels and channels. Showing and addressing personal concern is the next step. Then, targeted programs should be planned to impart basic knowledge until it is firmly anchored in the corporate culture.

MT: Do you have advice for other companies looking to implement such a program?

NH: Absolutely. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Consult younger employees – they are often already further along in these topics.
  2. Create space for initiative and commitment.
  3. Create awareness among management and foster an attitude that allows companies to learn from younger employees.
  4. Provide practical examples and implementation tips to make the topic tangible and actionable.
  5. Create safe spaces for honest conversations.

MT: Thank you very much for this insightful interview, Nicole. We wish you and your company all the best as you continue to implement the program and hope that other companies can benefit from your valuable tips.

NH: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to share my experience.

MagnoliaTree is winner of the European Training Awards 2023

We won the golden European Training Award for our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Tipping Point Leaders program in the category Mixed Trainings.

Words of the jury

“A highly realistic approach to engaging people on a difficult topic. The aim is to promote diversity and the entrants succeed in this through a diverse, varied and goal-oriented concept. The jury is impressed with this exemplary concept.”


Many companies are adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their procurement, but often lack focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As a result, many companies run the risk of being left behind in a rapidly changing market. Studies show that diverse companies are more talented, motivated, financially successful, innovative, and competitive. Therefore, DEI is not an option but a strategy for a company’s success. Since it is not just about knowledge transfer but also about culture change, the Tipping Point Method over a longer period of time is a suitable and promising approach.

With our Tipping Point Leaders program, we have been able to change the behaviour of at least 33% of employees of an international strategy consulting firm across Europe (i.e DACH, NL, TR) regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. This created an awareness of DEI and provided concrete tools and techniques to remain competitive and create a sense of belonging. Additionally, the program fundamentally opened up the traditional organizational culture to better reflect the reality of society. The result was a culture change and discussions accompanied by curiosity, openness, and interest.

We are incredibly proud of this achievement as it honors the intensive engagement with this topic over the past years.

A special thanks goes to BDVT (registered association) for giving us this great opportunity. It was an honor for us to be in the final with so many talented and dedicated people and to receive this award.

MagnoliaTree is finalist at European Training Awards

We are thrilled to announce that MagnoliaTree has been selected as a finalist at the European Training Awards, recognizing our commitment to providing exceptional training and development solutions. This is a significant achievement for our company, as the European Training Awards recognize the most innovative and effective training programs from organizations across the continent.

At MagnoliaTree, we pride ourselves on delivering tailored training programs that meet the unique needs of our clients. Being named a finalist at the European Training Awards is a testament to the quality of our solutions and the hard work of our dedicated team. We believe that investing in people’s growth and development is crucial for both personal and professional success, and we are honored to be among the finalists.

We would like to express our gratitude to our clients and partners who have supported us on our journey towards excellence in training and development. We look forward to the final results being announced. Stay tuned for updates on the final results of the European Training Awards!


In January 2023, we at MagnoliaTree had a special team meeting. For the most part, we played with Lego®. Now you may find that inappropriate or childish. We don’t. Because we used it to work on our direction, our strengths and weaknesses as a team, and most importantly, our vision for the year.

Last year, our employee Elke Pichler took the training to become a Lego® Serious Play® trainer and accompanied us during our meeting. The method is not only fun, it brings interesting insights that are wonderful to build on.

What is the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method?

The goal of the Lego® Serious Play® method is to transform “lean backward meetings” into “lean forward meetings” that lead to more participation, more insights, more engagement, and ultimately more commitment and faster implementation.

The method is a facilitated thinking, communication and problem solving method for organizations, teams and individuals. It draws on extensive research from the fields of business, organizational development, psychology and learning and is based on the concept of “hand-knowledge”. As such, it is much more than a mere gimmick.

The fundamentals of the Method

To better understand the Lego® Serious Play® method, it is important to know the fundamentals of the method.

  • Leaders don’t have the answers to everything.
  • The success of leaders is based on hearing the voices of all employees.
  • People inherently want to contribute, be part of something bigger, and take responsibility.
  • Too often, teams work suboptimally because the knowledge of many team members goes unused.
  • We live in a complex world. More sustainable and successful companies are created when every member is given the opportunity to contribute and express themselves.

The Lego® Serious Play® method is not based on any new or groundbreaking science, but on findings from action research and a number of other existing scientific disciplines.

The beginning of Lego® Serious Play®

The story of the Lego® Serious Play® method began in 1996, when professors Johan Roos and Bart Victor of the Institute for Management Development (IMD) developed the concept and process of the method to give leaders the opportunity to describe, create and challenge their view of their company.

The Lego® Serious Play® method developed into a consulting method that is now successfully used by companies such as Daimler Chrysler, Roche, SABMiller, Tupperware, Nokia and Orange.

At the same time, Johan Roos and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the CEO of Lego®, founded the research department of the “Imagination Lab,” a Swiss think tank that published 74 research papers, numerous journal articles and four books between 2001 and 2006.

If you have stopped playing as an adult, you should start again now at the latest.

The 4-day week

Why change might make sense

According to a survey by Deloitte[1] 22% of millennials plan to quit their jobs because they are dissatisfied with their work-life balance. Never before has it been so important for a working generation to have a work-life balance. This makes a focus on this matter all the more important. If this is not taken into account, it will have a huge impact on talent acquisition and employee retention. After all, work-life balance and personal well-being are already more important to Generation Z than they are to Millennials. Paid time off and mental health days are essential for them.

“The Millennial generation has a different set of values than the generations before it. We are moving toward a post-material economy. People value intangible experiences more than money, and they need time for those experiences,” says Benjamin Hunnicutt, a professor at the University of Iowa who studies work and leisure.

This societal shift is not entirely surprising, given that the “standard” of work has changed repeatedly over time and the 8-hour workday is not an inherent “law of nature.” Let’s take a look at history.

The arrival of the 5-day, 40-work-hour workweek

Until 1908, the 6-day workweek was the norm. Only on Sundays could the workers take a rest day. Then, in 1908, a mill in the U.S. changed its system to a 5-day week because its employees, most of whom were Jewish, asked to be allowed to keep the Sabbath on Saturdays. This example was followed by many other companies. In the 1930s, the 5-day week was finally introduced across the board. The new work week with five days and 40 hours was also intended to combat unemployment.

In Germany, the development of the 5-day week was due to a regulation for factories in 1918, which was introduced under the leadership of social politician Ferdinand Hanusch and enshrined in law in 1918. At that time, however, it was still the rule to work up to 60 hours per 5-day workweek. In the following years, working hours were successively reduced: on February 1st, 1959, from 48 to 45 working hours and, from 1969 to 1975, gradually to 40 hours per week.

The 4-day workweek put to the test

The 4-day workweek is not a spontaneous trend in the business world. It has been tested or introduced by several companies. Microsoft Japan, for example, tested the concept in the summer of 2019 and found quite positive results: productivity increased by 40 percent as a result of the 4-day work week. Iceland has been studying the effects of the shortened working week in detail in a large experiment since 2015. The first test run involved up to 2,500 workers. In the second test run, more than 400 people participated, starting in 2017.

Iceland’s five findings from these test phases

  • Performance and productivity have remained constant with the 4-day week.
  • Overtime did not increase excessively compared to the 5-day week.
  • Conversion to the 4-day week is not as burdensome as feared.
  • Employees took less sick leave overall compared to the 40-hour week.
  • The 4-day week meant that many employees used their free time (more) wisely.

After the trial was completed, Icelandic unions and associations negotiated permanent reductions in working hours. Overall, about 86% of the total Icelandic working population now has the right to reduced working hours.

The benefits of the 4-day week at a glance

Increased motivation and health

Employees have longer recovery periods. This provides a great boost to motivation and can increase the willingness to work overtime on the four working days per week. Working time is used productively, and superfluous time wasters are usually eliminated. The three days for relaxation in turn have a positive effect on health. 

Employees have more time to sleep in, pursue hobbies, or spend time with their families. This has a positive effect on mental and physical health, and illnesses can be better cured or even prevented during the 4-day work week. Sickness-related absences are reduced as a result. A study by Henley Business School[2] shows that in companies that have introduced a four-day workweek, more than three-quarters of employees (78%) are happier, have less stress (70%), and take fewer sick days (62%).

The free working day can be used sensibly and without downtime in companies

If a visit to the doctor or the office is due, or if the car has to go to the workshop, the working day freed up by the 4-day week can be used for this purpose. This means that employees will not be absent from work.

Companies become more attractive to job seekers

The 4-day week has not yet become generally accepted in the labor market. Thus, companies can positively emphasize this offer when looking for employees and appear particularly innovative and flexible. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of employers said that introducing a four-day week has helped them attract and retain talent. [3] In addition, the 4-day week increases employee retention, as employees are less likely to quit due to the increased work-life balance.

4-day week increases productivity

As mentioned above, Microsoft was able to demonstrate a 40% increase in productivity during the test phase of the 4-day week in Japan. A New Zealand trust company switched to a 4-day work week and saw a 27% decrease in work stress, a 20% increase in productivity, and a 45% improvement in work-life balance.[4]

The 4-day week has a positive impact on climate and gender equality

UK workers estimate that they would drive on average just under 900km less per week, resulting in fewer transport emissions. [5] Applied to the entire globe, the four-day week thus appears to be a promising weapon in the fight against global warming. A study by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, predicts, “If we spent 10% less time working, our carbon footprint would be reduced by 14.6%, largely due to less commuting or reaching for high-carbon convenience foods during our breaks. So a full day off during the week would reduce our carbon footprint by nearly 30%. [6] But it’s not just the climate that would benefit.

A switch would also have a positive impact on gender equality. A recent report argues that it could help women by sharing childcare responsibilities more equally between women and men. It would also enable greater flexibility for parents to use their extra day off to run necessary errands and take care of other family matters, allowing them to be more focused and productive during work hours.[7]

Are there any disadvantages?

The primary disadvantage stems from the industrial age mindset that work doesn’t get done when employees aren’t physically present on all 5 days a week, and that essential customer relationships could suffer as a result. But with COVID and the rise of remote work, we’ve learned that the ability to get one’s work done successfully doesn’t necessarily hinge on a round-the-clock presence in organizations. The biggest challenge is in the mindsets of managers. It’s not about working less or the decline in work ethic. It’s just about a different way of thinking about work.

The shift to a 4-day work week. How it can work.

Switching to a 4-day workweek needs good preparation. It cannot work overnight.

  • It needs a good transition phase. Appropriate time must be planned for this.
  • Employees need to be involved and a common strategy needs to be developed to make the 4-day week work.
  • Good external communications are needed with customers and business partners.
  • In many industries, a sophisticated shift system is needed to ensure that service, production, and availability continue to be guaranteed within the working week.
  • Managers should lead by example and also work only four days per week.

The introduction of the 4-day week does not automatically have to be accompanied by a reduction in working hours. There is both the 4 x 10-hour and the 4 x 8-hour model. Which model makes sense for companies has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. After motivation and productivity are increased by a 4-day week, a reduction in working hours may well be possible.

At MagnoliaTree, we give a lot of thought to the work-life balance. We offer our employees flexible time and work models, and we feel it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/deloitte-2019-millennial-survey.pdf

[2] https://www.henley.ac.uk/news/2019/four-day-week-pays-off-for-uk-business

[3] https://www.henley.ac.uk/news/2019/four-day-week-pays-off-for-uk-business

[4] https://www.fingerprintforsuccess.com/blog/four-day-work-week

[5] https://www.henley.ac.uk/news/2019/four-day-week-pays-off-for-uk-business

[6] https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190802-how-shorter-workweeks-could-save-earth

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/05/24/will-coronavirus-pandemic-open-door-four-day-workweek/