Prof. Vlatka Hlupic, PhD
Author & Speaker, CEO of The Management Shift Consulting

The leaders' role in The Management Shift and the meeting culture

Sherpany: What role, if any, does leadership play in meeting management change: can we distinguish between good and poor organisers or meeting chairs?

Prof. Hlupic: Leadership plays an important role in management change. I have spent many years doing research on leadership practices and learning from these helped me map the five levels of the Management Shift Model. Before linking these levels to the meeting management in particular, I'd like to emphasise that in the traditional management the first level reflects an Apathetic culture which shows little concern for people, the second level indicates an Stagnating culture in which people are reluctant to engage, whereas, the third level indicates an Orderly culture based on the notion of "command & control". At level four, the culture is Collaborative, based on transparency and trust, and level five demonstrates Unbounded culture which leads to innovation and high performance.

The five levels I captured form the essence of The Management Shift.

When connecting these to meeting management, there are several keywords that characterise them. At level one, meeting management can be depicted as chaotic. Meetings are unorganised, with people feeling unease and fear. At level two, meeting management can be described as random. Meetings are not very well organised and people are lethargic and do little. At level three, meeting management is structured. Meetings are organised, yet, show little flexibility for people to contribute and make their voices heard.

The big shift occurs from level three to four.

Level four is more flexible. At this level, meetings enable more informal discussions based on collaboration, which leads to increased innovation, better engagement and higher performance. Any organisation that aims to achieve innovation needs to operate from level four. At level five, meeting management is creative. Meetings are less structured and offer greater possibility for people to brainstorm and test ideas. This aspect is beneficial, especially for those teams facing customers. It can help them get the knowledge on how to improve things faster or achieve some important innovations.

Yet, 85% to 90% of organisations operate below level four. While you can have pockets of different levels within the same organisation, there is a dominant level which is largely determined by the mindset of its leaders.

SherpanyIn your opinion, who or what should change first: leaders, employees or the system? Why?

Prof. Hlupic: Leaders should take the first steps towards change. We need to look at organisations as living organisms, and see how everything is interconnected. It is a holistic approach that helps us view the interdependency between individual values, believes, mental models and organisational change.

Organisational culture is the reflection of a leader's consciousness. When they influence culture, they put their imprint on the behaviours of people. This, in turn, leads to new behaviours that influence the culture. Everything is interconnected. With our mirror neuron brain cells, we pick up the emotions of others around us and emulate their behaviour, and that will, in time, influence organisational culture.

Sherpany: In your career, you have come across various types of leadership practices. Please share with us an example of an organisation whose meeting culture has contributed positively to both leaders' and employees' welfare and productivity. In which way do you believe that particular meeting culture differentiates itself from others?

Prof. Hlupic: I'll share two examples that I've come across while researching for my books.

The first one is from a case study from my book, "Humane Capital". It is about a small-sized media enterprise from Brighton, UK, whose CEO lives in the French Alps. For his team meetings, the CEO flies them in the French Alps to work together in nature. His main focus is on people's wellbeing, their talents and passions. This type of meetings in nature is efficient and employees come up with the best ideas. They also have a system in place, called the "dream machine", where each employee writes down on a piece of paper his or her dream, such as a trip with the family somewhere or a trip to see the World Cup. Each month, as soon as the team reaches the established targets, they pick up a piece of paper with the dream written on it and the company pays for somebody's dream to come true. Needless to say, revenues have experienced an increase thanks to this system and some other initiatives.

So, that is one example that you don't see every day.

The second one refers to another case study published in my other book, "The Management Shift". It presents the great evolution of an insurance company from UK, which managed to shift from a level three to a level four model. We have conducted an organisational diagnostics using the 6 Box Leadership online diagnostic tool. It revealed that there was an organisational issue connected to people. They were complaining that the management meetings' content was not made available to them. After diagnosing the situation, we worked with the team to design a one-year action plan to leverage strengths and address weaknesses in key six areas: Culture, Relationships, Individuals, Strategy, Systems and Resources. We proposed a re-organisation of how management meetings are presented to employees. In the end, the insurance company heard its people's voices and started using technology to become more transparent. They've used the organisation's intranet system to start communicating with its employees more about the content of the management meetings. It made people feel more included and engaged.

We know from a research published in the Harvard Business Review that 67% of projects fail through execution. So, if people take part in the strategy development, then execution will be more successful. It's all about people, and when their voices are not heard, they are less engaged. Meetings and technology can play a role in that, in supporting the democratisation of needs and organisational culture.

SherpanyWhat are the key challenges in shifting from a disorganised, arbitrary meeting culture to a structured, collaborative one?

Prof. Hlupic: A key challenge is to spread the awareness that everybody wins at level four. The biggest shift occurs from level three to four. This implies a vertical development, and not just an horizontal one, where things improve, but do not visibly change. That's where the leadership power resides. Because when leaders let go of the power, more is achieved with less effort. It's also where employees are more productive, engaged and proactive towards customers.

As part of the shift, communication in all directions is also very important. It creates the link between leaders and dissatisfaction with the status quo. Are they satisfied or just surviving? Some of my clients find me through "inspiration or desperation" when they come to realise that business as usual is not an option anymore. Inspirational CEOs, presently at level four, want to do better and establish long term performance, whereas the other CEOs come to realise that if they don't change, they are not going to survive as a company.

I've interviewed 58 leaders for my latest book to understand what is their perception on change, and how this actually sustains the survival of their organisations. The majority replied that if they had not gone through the shift, they would not have been around as a company. Because there is more to it than mere existence and getting to the next pay check. It's a matter of surviving and thriving.

SherpanyWhat can leaders do to ensure an efficient and engaging meeting culture that motivates colleagues and employees alike?

Prof. Hlupic: If they have not yet reached level four, then leaders should be willing to go through this big shift. They should be transparent, seek consensus when practicable and allow people's voices to be heard. More so, they should allow people to make decisions on the basis of their knowledge rather than on the formal position in the organisational hierarchy. And, delegate responsibilities rather than tasks as a proof of trust in people's abilities to do their job well. In a nutshell, these are some of the recommendations.

Sherpany: In your book, "The Management Shift", you mention that dynamic change occurs in six dimensions (culture, relationships, individuals, strategy, systems and resources) which results in the 6 Box Leadership Model. In which dimension, if in any, are technology and digitisation included?

Prof. Hlupic: Technology and digitisation appear in the Systems box of the 6 Box Leadership Model. In this box, we look into the alignment of, for example, systems and processes, systems and strategy, the accuracy of information and so on.

SherpanyWhat impact does digitisation have on meeting management change, and how should leaders prepare themselves for it?

Prof. Hlupic: To get the most out of technology, we need intelligent organisational design. In other words, we need a level four culture. That is because at level three or below, the flow of information is going one way down in a disempowering and disengaging manner. So, we need a level four culture where everybody is interconnected and informed. It's a learning type of organisation in which processes of dissemination of information are embedded in the culture. That's the only way forward in the 4th Industrial Revolution, and technology will allow for a more empowering, engaging and innovative two-way communication. This will lead to more transparency, a participative management and a democratisation of workplaces. It will be possible with the right mindset, the right technology, the right organisational design - all aligned at the right level.

Prof. Vlatka Hlupic, PhD
Prof. Vlatka Hlupic, PhD
Author & Speaker, CEO of The Management Shift Consulting
Prof. Vlatka Hlupic is an international award-winning thought leader and a professional keynote and TEDx speaker. She is an activist for humanising management, having written two groundbreaking books "The Management Shift" (2014) and "Humane Capital" (2018). She was voted one of the Most Influential HR Thinkers in the world by HR Magazine in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. She is a visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London, and Professor of Business and Management at the University of Westminster. Apart from her academia career, she is also a management consultant and Board adviser. Her role as CEO of The Management Shift Consulting, enables her to help organisations improve performance, engagement, innovation and profit. She advises major international organisations, including the House of Commons, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, The National Health Service, Learndirect, Brand Velocity USA, the Drucker Institute USA, the Croatian Government and the Hungarian National Bank.

For more information, contact Prof. Hlupic at or visit

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