In an organization without managers, where the employees’ internal motivations are the engine for every decision, leadership takes on particular importance. "There’s a big difference between acting with a job description behind you and leading when you yourself think it’s necessary.”
So says Torbjörn Eriksson, CEO of Tenant & Partner, who’s breaking the norms of company structure.
Tenant & Partner are consultants within workplace development and for the last couple of years have been working according to the Teal organization method.
Or have they?
Torbjörn Eriksson, CEO and founder, is unwilling to attach labels to his method. How they work is more a consequence of the reason why they actually exist and that’s the more important question. For anyone who really wants a name for their way of working, employee-driven network organization is closest to the truth.
“We have lots of leaders but no managers. Nor do we have a management group or classic chain of command, where a small group sets the strategy for the rest of the company. We’re more like a living organism, with a clear direction and a shared mission”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
To understand what this means and try to get closer to understanding why Tenant & Partner exists, we have to go back to 2015. That was when Torbjörn Eriksson and the existing leadership team started to redesign Tenant & Partner's services and their working principles. But this wasn’t due to poor results – on the contrary, everything was looking good. Instead it was an insight that the next generation of companies wouldn’t be the same as the last – or even modern companies. Factors such as globalization, changing values and transparency were (and continue to be) something that all companies must take into account. Not the least, Tenant & Partner.
Together with a conviction that there were other ways of working, which would better capture each individual’s potential, they chose to rebuild the company from the ground up.
“We wanted to create a company that was based on people’s internal motivations – the genuine playfulness that’s unfortunately often repressed by corporate structures”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
In the ‘new’ Tenant & Partner, the focus moved from profitability in the traditional sense to sustainability – in a non-traditional sense. Because it includes dealing with the company’s interested parties in a completely different way.
“We aren’t here merely for our shareholders, but also for our customers, employees, collaboration partners, owners and of course the planet – which we have loaned from future generations. We consider all of these to have the same value. By placing value creation for customers first and at the same time considering value creation for other interested parties, we create a positive spiral where the result is a winning situation for everyone. Through this, we want to show that you can run a company in a more mature way”, says Torbjörn Eriksson, who adds with humility that of course they have a ways still to go.
“Together we create an inspiring and meaningful working life.” This is Tenant & Partner’s purpose. Reflected in terms of what they do for customers, this means that Tenant & Partner helps companies to develop the physical, digital, and human workplace.
“Almost all of our customers have roughly the same problems – finding talent, engaging their employees, shortening decision processes, releasing innovation from stagnating structures, working outside silos and freeing management groups from severe stress about digitization. We try to work out what kind of environment they need to achieve their visions and become successful”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
Employees at Tenant & Partner strive to achieve the same purpose. Or rather, the answer to the question: How can I live my own values, and grow as a person and in my professional role at the same time that I contribute to the organization’s goals? No other job description exists.
“We’re characterized by a large amount of self-leadership. So it’s extremely important for us to be clear with our direction and our priorities. That’s the key to our success”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
When it comes to leadership, according to Torbjörn Eriksson that’s a whole chapter of its own.
“It's one of the most important cogs in making this machine work. Compared with traditional companies, we employ a more developed leadership style, a more adaptive way of steering the business towards our visions and goals.”
He compares it to steering a sailboat, where you must constantly trim the sails to maintain the right course and to avoid losing speed or running aground. One of Tenant & Partner’s navigation tools is &frankly, in which they have set a particular focus on wellbeing. For them, this is a factor and a metric that’s at least as important as the financial KPIs.
“Among other things, we use &frankly to check on health and wellbeing, development, coaching structures and communication. With &frankly we get frequent, direct feedback that our team uses to continuously ensure development”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
The results in &frankly are captured at a team level, in skills groups and at the main monthly meeting, or the Friday trip to the pub (which is what it actually is). How wellbeing data correlates with other KPIs is also completely transparent.
“All of the data is on our internal dashboard. There we can see in real-time how health and other KPIs affect each other”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
Questions relating to issues of health and well-being are brought together in a ‘Health Forum’. This makes an overall analysis of the state of the organization and actions are suggested.
Tenant & Partner’s dashboard. Data is transferred easily via &franklys API and can be compared in a clear way with other business data.
“If the health trend is moving in the right direction, of course that’s good. But when somebody’s in the wrong quadrant, that’s a catastrophe. So it’s important to understand what caused the change. High stress levels needn’t mean you have too much to do. They perhaps reflect unclear expectations instead”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
Regardless of organizational form, size or purpose, it’s rare that everything works exactly as intended. A basic concept is that everyone develops continuously, including the organization.
“Just because things don’t turn out as you'd hoped doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Every ‘tension’ that arises is instead an opportunity to learn something new about oneself, an opportunity to help someone else and an opportunity to strengthen the entire system. If you have this attitude, you get an organization in which everyone's constantly pushing each other forward”, says Torbjörn Eriksson.
Torbjörn Eriksson on the benefits and challenges of working in a purpose-driven organization:
+ Major opportunities to utilize your potential and motivation.
+ Endless possibilities for impacting the workplace so it becomes one you want to work in.
+ The power and pride in contributing to something meaningful with other people.
– It sets demands on everyone to ‘dive in’ and get the work done. Everyone is visible, and you have to network and seek out the help you need.
– Because the employees themselves affect such large aspects of their working life, it can be difficult to know what expectations have been set.
Tenant & Partner are consultants within workplace development, and have been around for more than 25 years. Including subsidiaries, the company consists of 100 employees and in the last 12 years has been on the list of Sweden's best workplaces. The company has always been profitable.