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"Self-management is not just 'getting better organized'“ – Interview with Coach and Author Dr Bernreiter

Dr Christian Bernreiter studied psychology, philosophy and theology. After years of research in the field of personal development and professional supervision, he now works as a leadership consultant, coach and supervisor. Currently, he is executive director of the German Association for Consulting, Cologne (DGfB), author and managing director/owner of the company eigen.wert Unternehmensberatung & Coaching, Munich --
Written on 08/01/22
Dr. Christian Bernreiter

You have been working as a systemic coach and supervisor with employers and employees for many years, gaining valuable insights into different working environments. The topic of self-management in everyday work is important for all employees, regardless of their professional field. What experiences have you had with your customers - where do problems usually arise and what tips would you pass on to help them organize themselves better? 

It is important to note - self-management is not just "getting better organized". It is much more, and more significant than that. Self-management consists of "self" and "management." The core question is: Who am I and what are my innate strengths and weaknesses and how can I use them to optimum effect in my job. In other words, it is about the management of one's "own self". And incidentally, this also, and in fact especially, applies to managers. 

People who know their potential have an easier time in life and at work. Managers who know what abilities and talents are dormant in their employees will be successful. Leadership will be successful if it can create a culture in which the employee unleashes this potential for the company. And in which they do so voluntarily! This is not always a matter of course. Because if it does not succeed, then leadership and the company are sitting on "a treasure" (a human resource) that remains hidden and undiscovered. This is a missed opportunity and is fatal for every company. 
But this also applies to the employees: a beneficial self-culture is created when colleagues know their own assets, can appreciate them and know how to use them practically. Love for one's own strengths and respect for what still seems capable of being developed allows people to be successful and allows work to succeed. 

For managers, it is an enormous advantage to know their own assets and the assets of their employees. But: before success, there is the orientation towards working on yourself. Self-management is first defined as working on yourself. The consequence of this is success. You could say: success follows, but first comes the orientation to self-work. 
My tip: I can't repeat it often enough - recognize and appreciate your assets and use them for your own good, for shaping your private life and for the good of the company. Only then will employment become successful work. 

The world of work has changed fundamentally in the meantime - for many employees, everyday work takes place between working from home and in the office. Does this change in where we work bring new fundamental changes? 

This is a significant and very topical issue. Because of measures necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, many jobs can now be done from home. What had previously been unthinkable in some organizations became the norm overnight. The solution is by no means either/or! A successful future design of a post-pandemic corporate culture, can only be a "both…and ", as a solution with a personal touch for each individual company.
Sensible managers will not switch completely to working from home. But they will certainly question conventional practices and abandon old structures. The good in the bad lies in evaluating this pandemic. Preferably together with the whole team. The company that seizes the opportunity in this crisis and learns from it will win. In the future, effective managers will no longer answer these questions alone in their ivory towers, but together with the employees concerned. Team development is a key word here for reinventing sustainable structures in the company. 

As far as leadership is concerned, one thing is clear: many management tasks can certainly be performed from home, but humanely motivating leadership cannot. Here, more than just an announcement is needed; physical presence is required. Smart administration and numerous administrative tasks also suit working from home. The generation of "really new" and the uncoupling of creativity is a matter of networked neuronal exchange between  people. Here you need people who develop something together. If working with one another is to become working for one another, then it needs real cooperation between people. Here, too, team development is a valuable development space. However, there are areas where the so-called home office can also become a valuable think tank. I am thinking in particular of introverted creatives whose genius lies in exchanging ideas with themselves. Great thinkers have shown us: "Truly great things are almost never created in teamwork!"

Coordinating work tasks is also an area that can be handled well when working from home. In contrast, collaboration, hand-to-hand or person-to-person, needs great charisma and needs you to be present. A top soccer match cannot be played virtually on smart devices, no matter how good they are. It doesn't work! 22 screens do not make an impact and do not develop the power of the WE that is needed to create a pull. The opportunity after the crisis must be tangibly felt. Only then will it have an effect. The distance from the standards of old structures literally smells of success and departure. Team building is the new magic word. Culture becomes visible and tangible. The WE is of great importance in team development. The team can handle many issues and everyday problems well on its own with the resources available. 

The new work situation also poses new challenges for teams. While people used to be able to see each other every day in the office, much of the interaction now takes place only via electronic media. How can teams organize themselves better in digital times and where are the opportunities, but also the risks?

As mentioned before, people who work together need a means of contact. A place to meet. And not just on the screen. Team development once a year should be possible for every team. Meetings with the entire team should be scheduled and shared. Managers can work with team members to prepare and experience these meetings. Meetings should be meeting spaces. Solution spaces for current issues and places where employees get to know and appreciate each other. 

Everyone in the team is different. And this difference must be encouraged and respected. Working in a team according to type is the key to success at work. I have written a new book about this with bestselling author Stefanie Stahl. "That's just how I am. In my job" (Kailash-Verlag) is a workbook for leadership but also for all committed employees who want to be successful. The aim is to harness the differences between individuals. A personality test in the book invites you to get to know yourself better. 

It is also important to develop meetings in a virtual space. You can't just switch to "online." The virtual space needs to be designed. Different instruments and tools have to be used and tried out. There are currently many valuable methods to make excellent use of the digital world. Everything is permitted, which brings people closer, although they are sitting by themselves at home in front of the PC. 

Thank you for the interview!