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:
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 Programmefor 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:
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:
Consult younger employees – they are often already further along in these topics.
Create space for initiative and commitment.
Create awareness among management and foster an attitude that allows companies to learn from younger employees.
Provide practical examples and implementation tips to make the topic tangible and actionable.
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.
“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.
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.
According to a survey by Deloitte 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 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.  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.
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.  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%.  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.
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.
This article appeared in an abridged version on forbes.com.
In Chinese, the character for crisis is made up of two parts. The first can be translated as danger, the other as opportunity. We find both qualities in crises. Not all crises are opportunities, but more than we think.
„Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
When we recognize that in all of life’s struggles we are empowered and not helplessly at the mercy of fate, valuable perspectives and options for action can emerge.
Why it is more important than ever for leaders to engage in crisis management
Leaders have a responsibility to ensure the well-being and continuity of the systems they lead. This duty weighs heavily, but you can prepare accordingly in advance. Believe me when I tell you that you already have everything you need for this within you today. For sure, you are much more crisis-proof than you suspect.
Make a list
Which life crises have you already overcome?
How did you overcome them?
What have you learned?
How do you transfer what you learned to the here and now?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) conducted a survey in 2022 to survey global risks. Respondents included academics, leaders, government officials, civil society individuals, and thought leaders. The WEF report covers human suffering, societal disruption, economic shocks, environmental degradation, and political instability. The climate crisis and its ecological consequences dominate the WEF’s list. Even more, nearly half of all respondents (41.8%) said they see the outlook for the next three years as constantly fluctuating with many shocks.
It is important to know the difference between crisis and risk management. In corporate practice, the two portfolios overlap. While risk management focuses on how to prevent threats, crisis management focuses on developing action plans for responding to emergencies and executing those plans.
The 5 essential elements of crisis management can be summarized as follows
Prevent Identify, avoid, and/or minimize risks and threats
Plan Developing contingency plans
Inform A wide range of current information and news must be used. Networks can carry and give good impetus.
Practice Testing the contingency plans
Execute Effective execution when needed
Crises put leaders to the test
Crises separate the wheat from the chaff. They test leaders on their leadership skills, creativity and resilience. These skills cannot be learned from a guide or manual. In many ways, successful crisis management for leaders is an intense examination of themselves and the challenging acquisition of necessary skills.
Leaders need confidence in themselves and others
Leaders must be role models within a group, be the rock of the group and make their decisions based on facts. Above all, this requires self-confidence. At the same time, they must be less likely to overestimate or underestimate themselves, they must know where their limits are, what they can take on themselves and when they need to hand over tasks. They must be able to take over, but also to let go. To be able to do this, they need to have a stable personality that can trust in themselves and others.
2 Leaders must be empathetic
Good leaders must have a good sense of their team and recognize what team members need, especially in times of crisis that trigger uncertainty and powerlessness. Empathy is not a nice-to-have, it is a strategic imperative that must be an indispensable leadership quality even away from crises. Empathy is a key driver of innovation, engagement and inclusion. Recent research shows that cultivating empathic leadership is one of the most important strategies for responding to crises. An empathic leader shows (caring) concern and understanding for the circumstances of his or her employees.
Creativity is the key to getting through a crisis and reorganizing after a crisis. In order to be successful through severe crises Leaders need to discover and use the creativity of their employees. Leaders need to rethink their ideas of what creativity means in order to foster it. Creativity is universal. It is part of being human. Creativity involves the use of our individual imaginations, the ability to share ideas and interpret the world around us. Promote a culture that reinforces diversity. People want to hear others’ ideas so they can inspire or sharpen their own. But above all, encourage your own creativity. Paint, tinker with a model train, do a puzzle and let your thoughts run wild. Creativity expands the scope of action and allows ideas to mature like an incubator, promotes associative thinking and relaxes.
Leaders must (be able to) communicate
Especially in times of crisis, it is of particular importance for leaders to communicate with everyone at all levels. Clearly, calmly, factually. It is also possible to communicate what is still uncertain or in the decision-making process. Especially in uncertain times, your employees want to know what is coming up and it is reassuring to know that you are actively dealing with these problems. A “I don’t have an answer yet, but I’ll give you feedback as soon as I do” is more confidence-building than beating around the bush or not talking about it at all. Also address your concerns and fears: What is negative, what is interesting, what is a positive benefit from the situation?
Leaders must remain calm
Crises narrow our field of vision, be reinforce prejudices and selective perception of the world. To deal with crises emotionally, our brain tries to simplify as much as possible. The catch? Our room for maneuver becomes narrower. Neuroscientists call this effect “predatory fear”: the less threatened we feel, the more room we have to think through scenarios and act strategically; the more threatened we feel, the less room for action our brain allows. Without our active intervention, we react reflexively, are less creative in finding solutions to problems than under normal circumstances, and explain the world to ourselves more simply and as we like it, but not more truthfully. Therefore, it is important for leaders in threat scenarios to inform themselves more broadly than usual, to be open to facts and other perspectives. And: Leaders should focus on meditation and mindfulness exercises especially when everyone around them is acting in panic. Meditation sharpens skills such as attention, memory, emotional intelligence, social awareness and, most importantly, the inner calm that leaders need to manage crises.
These skills cannot be acquired in a weekend workshop. They require intensive work with oneself, time, patience and, above all, lots of practice. They are not skills that leaders should only pull out of their first aid kit when an emergency occurs. They are the basic skills of great leaders that should be used even in the calmest of winds.
We are very pleased to announce that Sabine Gromer is now a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. Forbes Councils is an invitation-only professional organization where top CEOs and entrepreneurs can build their professional skills and gain connections and visibility on Forbes.com. Her first article for Forbes will be published soon.
Susan Scott is the master of positive change through powerful communication and author of Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time. To be successful, you need to have difficult conversations at work (or even at home) using effective methods to get a message across – and get what you want.
In her book, Scott shows how you can:
Overcome obstacles to meaningful communication
Expand and enrich relationships with colleagues, friends, and family
Mehr Klarheit und besseres Verständnis schaffen
Deal with strong emotions – on both sides of the table
Connect with colleagues, clients and family on a deep level.
Watch the video below to learn more about how to successfully manage difficult conversations.
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