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the Bank: Professor Pircher-Friedrich, in addition to trust, recognizing meaning is the basis for corporate management that is motivating, enhances value and at the same time protects your health. Your justification?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: First, we humans are essentially meaningful and value-oriented. That is why people, companies and society fall ill when meaning and values are lacking. Second, numerous empirical studies show that meaning has a salutogenic and motivational character. Current neurobiological studies also show that the brain rewards us by releasing feel-good hormones when we do something meaningful.
And thirdly, successful executives demonstrate: workforces who know the company's mission, what for, and how to create benefits develop a greater degree of commitment on their own initiative. The fact that in daily practice many employees do not even know what their work is really good for is a major reason for the motivational crisis and the lack of personal responsibility. Motivation demands self-confidence, only those who know what they are responsible for also understand the meaning and purpose of their actions.
the Bank: In relation to day-to-day operations, this means ...
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: ... every employee must know the mission, the company's vision of the meaning, must know what social benefit the company creates. This brings about an experience of meaning and, in turn, self-motivation. And that's what matters.
the Bank: Would that mean that a company's competitive strength is essentially linked to the question of meaning?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: Definitely yes. And company-wide, meaning-oriented thinking must be disseminated by the customer. Together with all employees, it should be considered how the customer benefit can be permanently improved. What needs do the customers have, and what solutions or products can be offered for these needs? The higher the customer benefit, the more certain a company's sales opportunities are.
the Bank: All theory is gray. How is that
to achieve the stated goal in concrete terms?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: Experience teaches that it is a three-step process. First: clarify values that are to be lived internally and externally in the company. It is important to clarify these values and to make them an orientation mark for everything that is done and not done. Second: Promote meaningful processes by repeatedly clarifying the for and for whom for goals and tasks, so that the meaningfulness of the action remains recognizable in the hurry of the day. Third: As a manager, live these orientation marks with your own behavior.
the Bank: Why does a less sensible way of managing employees and companies make larger companies in particular unstable and susceptible to crises?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: Large, mostly listed companies are exposed to the pressure of short-term successes. Because of this pressure, the exact opposite of what would be necessary for long-term, stable success is often done. What also plays a role: Larger units are usually not as flexible in adapting as smaller companies. In addition: The increasingly complex framework conditions of the globalized world and the resulting problems cannot be solved overnight with if-then approaches - and certainly not with the egocentric internal competitive behavior that often shapes what happens in larger companies.
the Bank: This means …
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: ... the mechanistic leadership philosophies and concepts with their abbreviated images of human beings, which for example almost completely ignore the emotional area, reveal themselves not only as outdated, but also as dangerously counterproductive against the current background. An exclusive and also short-term focus on shareholder value harms companies, people and society. If management performance is measured solely on the basis of the figures provided and on the capital market, the existentially decisive creative, innovative potential of the workforce comes, and I also include contradiction and experimental behavior, inevitably too short.
the Bank: Assuming that you were at the head of a company that was tumbling in the market overnight, what would you do first, last, and not at all?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: First, I would take care of the company's long-term performance and competitiveness and therefore reflect on the image of people anchored in the company and, above all, in the top management. I would base the process of change from top to bottom on a worthy image of man. On this basis, I would try to get all company members excited about the company's vision and mission and to hold them responsible for it.
Then I would strictly align the strategic decisions with the customer benefit and encourage all managers and employees with challenging goals and clear values. On this basis, I would create courage for a hopeful future and promote the self-creation and self-development mandate of all company members. In addition, I would anchor purpose, values and strategy in the company's management system.
What I wouldn't do is keep falling victim to number fetishism. Because the numbers, important as they are, are always only the result of human thought and action. Significant changes in a company's ability to learn can only happen if the way people think and interact with one another is improved. This presupposes that, in their role as leaders, but also as employees, they rethink the old paradigms and, as a result of critical self-reflection, breathe a new life - a new spirit - into the organization.
the Bank: What is elementary for managers?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: We know from theory and successful leaders already live it: Leadership begins with the self. In order to appeal to employees, managers must first arrive at themselves. This means that they internalize their self-development process as a basic requirement and work hard on their personal development. Of course, this is the most challenging path, and it doesn't suit everyone.
the Bank: Professor Pircher-Friedrich, look to the future. Which companies have the best chances of asserting themselves in the market?
Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich: Companies that see the crisis as an opportunity in a new, different sense. As an opportunity for developing meaningful attitudes and for human growth. Companies that base their decisions, actions and actions on the basis of a worthy image of human beings. Companies that create customer and social benefits through their actual vision of meaning. Companies that cheer on their workforce on this basis, give their best and offer them the opportunity to recognize and develop their potential through their work and to become who they can be. In this way, the widespread longing for a better quality of life in the workplace could be fulfilled - for the benefit of the entire company.
the Bank: Thank you for the interview.
Dr. Anna Maria Pircher-Friedrich is professor for quality, service and human resources management at the Management Center Innsbruck.
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