Last year a MGX Alumni Community was set up and one of our goals was to get back in touch with former tribe members and cross-pollinate when possible. That is exactly what happened during the double interview with Tom Koninckx and our VP People Mireille. Tom worked for MGX from 2000-2002 and he is now an Integral Master Coach. His main activity today is to accompany organizations on their unique path of transformation. He does this together with his colleagues at Phusis (www.phusis-partners.com)
Tom: I was reading the article with Mireille in ‘HR Magazine, right at the time I received the request to become member of the Alumni Community. It’s as if we went full circle! I have very good memories of MEDIAGENIX. What you’re doing now… this fertile soil was already there in 2000. As if the seed just kept on growing! Back in the days, it was still a startup. I did Kanal 5, TVN Poland with a lot of autonomy and agility. Nothing was set in stone. But now, when you are growing – definitely with offices in different regions, you need to manage collaboration and complexity while safeguarding all the energy, the motivation and the potential and see to it that it’s still efficient. Collaborative governance is incredible if it goes hand in hand with culture. I left the company, but I still cherish the very good memories about the way we worked together. That type of collaborative governance was actually already there without calling it ‘sociocracy’. There were a number of strong personalities coming together from diversity and doing extraordinary stuff together!
Mireille: I recognize that very much. We wanted to preserve what was going well and stay on top of the growth, even if the kitchen table was no longer the setting. When I started there were about 70 to 80 people, we all knew each other and we all were involved in everything. We wanted to maintain that involvement in a growing context, making it scalable for the future. The strong personalities at MEDAGENIX was one of the reasons to choose consent decision making. If everyone has an opinion about everything, it inevitably leads to inertia in a growing organization. Such a pattern serves its purpose so you can keep the speed and make sure everybody is heard, which is after all what sociocracy is built upon if you combine it with ‘tap the wisdom from the group’.
Tom: You guys care a lot about culture and values, that is the soul of an organization. And it’s all about letting the energy flow and if managers get stuck, which move do you make so that the energy can start flowing again? It’s about self-organization of energy, not about egos or whatever!
Mireille: Leadership and self-organization, it seems a contradiction, but we learned it’s not. I compare the pursuit of self-organization to meditation. It’s starting all over every day. You can’t just say: I check the box now! You have new teams who require a different kind of leadership to move into self-organization. You have mature teams that only need boundaries. There are so many forms and it’s in the agility of your leadership to see what every team needs and to steer from that context in combination with getting the purpose of the company across in a transparent way.
Tom: 5 years ago, I stepped out of my career. I was a director at Bisnode, but I felt unfulfilled and was no longer interested in pursuing that career at that moment. My soul was yearning for more depth. I stepped out and let it all go. I surrendered to an intense period of self-discovery and deep change to find greater purpose, deeper happiness and fulfillment in my life. I followed an Integral Master Coaching training with Integral Coaching Canada, started working around collective intelligence and community building and discovered collaborative governance.
Now I’m an independent, working 3 days a week in a close partnership with Phusis and I do career coaching for My Future Works. I also have some other non-profit collaborations which are close to my heart. I work with ‘We have the choice’, an organization created to remember the attacks in Brussels, for which I facilitate sharing circles. I think enabling connection between people is vital! I work with Mankind Project on gender and men. I also facilitated citizen participation projects (e.g. in Vilvoorde). That seems like a whole lot of different things, but it is actually always coming down to the same: going back to the essence and looking for purpose. I have a toolkit and I hold space for what wants to emerge, we build a new narrative around the shared purpose.
Karolien: What is the result you’re most proud of so far?
Tom: The reconciliation of efficiency and being humane. Nowadays I’m getting to know the people a lot better by going to the essence. In ‘normal’ times, you quickly do a check in and what does it even mean? We have been practicing and all of a sudden it goes much deeper. And I notice the relation between the quality of the check in and the quality of the meeting. Even in this crisis, with the fear… we are becoming more efficient. The connection and the trust make the difference. They are fundamental to be able to collaborate fluidly and efficiently. And it’s not just smaller companies, bigger ones can do it too. And this gives me hope for humanity.
Karolien: Why is it that you believe your work can change our society?
Tom: I coach people and I’m very much aware of the fact that when I have a profound connection with an individual, I also touch his/her ecosystem. We change each other! We should be aware of our social responsibility as a company!
Mireille: It is inevitably intertwined! If something is moving over here, there is bound to be something moving elsewhere…
Tom: Currently at Phusis I am working on an implementation at Partena with a staff of 1800 people. We worked with the management team first to do a readiness check, because if they are not willing to go all the way, it will get stuck at some point one way or another. It’s just as much about personal transformation. We started off at Partena with two circles as a pilot to anchor the first learnings and we incrementally launched new waves where we are increasing the number of circles. Along the path we cross-fertilize our learnings. We use holaspirit as a tool to build the circle structure and create transparence on the core purpose, accountabilities, roles, strategy, objectives, key results, meeting reports etc.
Mireille: Sounds like a nice project! We at MEDIAGENIX are in the phase of moving to processes with our implementation of the ‘Collaboration Framework’. By bringing in patterns we thought that self-leadership would come automatically from the people. But it’s not that easy. People look at leadership for framework, processes and boundaries. At a certain point in time it was not so clear for us anymore: what is a manager, what does he/she still do, what do we still do ourselves? Our first choice not to intervene, because that is in our culture, was not the right choice. After a while we felt the need to describe the processes and the expectation of leadership in self-organization to let it evolve.
Tom: We base ourselves on blended holacracy/sociocracy with a whole system approach: culturally and organization-wise, using non-violent communication to support the cultural change. The intention of holacracy and sociocracy is to set up an organization like a living system. And when you watch nature, you will notice that living systems are creating chaos constantly. You have to diverge in order to converge. And in that divergence zone you will create chaos. Containing that zone to go from chaos to order is the hard part and that is where a lot of organizations struggle. Every organization is different and you can’t just force it, it has to emerge. In these collective transformation processes, you need to bring people back to being creative: using collective intelligence and making it tangible. This is the zone where the magic happens and where autonomy and diversity are getting more and more interesting.
Mireille: In order to shine, it must first be sanded? You trigger me, Tom, in the way you are describing it. That collective wisdom is a phase I would like to get started. We have a number of teams in Delivery who have good practices around governance and these people have made a huge effort in actively installing habits and effectively bringing this in to practice, but we’d love to see that happen in the whole organisation. I’d love to invite you over when we’re out of the lockdown to pick your brain on that topic.
Tom: Thank you for the invitation. I feel that there is still so much of MEDIAGENIX inside of me, so I’d love to come visit to discuss. When I think back of MEDIAGENIX I specifically remember the relationships with our clients, the UAB, the whole client-centric approach. I did not go to a client just for a meeting, they invited me to go to a concert… And all the while we were professionals! Having that balance between being professional and being human. We were never a ‘consultant’ wearing a tie. At MEDIAGENIX you could enter in a relationship, do your job well and connect.
Karolien: How is the pandemic going to affect us?
Tom: I see a lot of fear but I also witness a lot of resilience. And being in this together… I’m touched with the online meetings I’m facilitating currently. I enter the living rooms of each individual and there are a lot of families with children. Our check in used to take about 3 minutes and now they can take up to 30 minutes or more if needed. We share where we are and we connect. This creates the space and trust to be efficient!
Mireille: Isn’t that bizarre? A couple of weeks ago we all went to work in the office and a sort of uniformity was created. And now you inevitably deal with the immense diversity in people. There is nothing left of the uniformity but the content of the work you share. This offers a great opportunity to look at people differently.
Tom: I’m also convinced that these days, a lot of people are looking for purpose. Can you as an employee identify with the roadmap of your company? Are those my colleagues or my partners in achieving the company goal? Does this make sense to me? What motivates people most is that they can develop themselves, that there is a form of inclusivity… I‘m sure that if people feel better professionally, this will ultimately benefit our society.
Karolien: Thank you both for taking the time to do this double interview. Tom, I heard Mireille say that she is going to invite you over in the new normal to see how you can be of assistance to MEDIAGENIX and we definitely hope to see you soon at an alumni event!