In 2013, a handful of people decided to found a company from a loose association of like-minded consultants. The reason for this was and still is our motivation to accompany and support companies in their transformation. This works better in a permanent team, because transformation requires common values, clear principles of success and goal-oriented methods.

In the past ten years we have been able to accompany many people in companies in their change processes and learn together with them: How can agile methods become the new standard repertoire? How does self-organization succeed? How does New Work actually work? How are we all becoming more digital year after year? How do we remain a community despite all individual flexibility? Co-creation is and will remain an integral part of the way we work. We use proven approaches, but do not prescribe generic recipes. We go beyond PowerPoint change and develop the change together with the people in the company.

Our principles have remained stable: we see ourselves as partners of our clients and everyone at Consulting Impact works together in a spirit of partnership – regardless of role and experience. Impact is in our company name because we want to make a real, measurable difference in the work we do with our clients. That’s how all of us at Consulting Impact measure up. We live innovation, because the world of work can be shaped now. Internationality is something that distinguishes us and gives us satisfaction. If we can build bridges between people of different cultures, we have made a small contribution.

In 2023, 30 women and men work with Consulting Impact. We are all very different in terms of our experience, our backgrounds and our lifestyles. And that is a good thing. We all share the joy of working with people and making an impact on the business.

The past ten years have been turbulent with personal ups and downs, a lot of growth and development, a pandemic, a war in Europe and a global energy crisis. We do not hope for further crises, but we assume that it will remain turbulent. And we are determined to continue to help shape the world of work.

Success Factors for Teams in Hybrid Work Environments

How We Combine The Best of Both Worlds in a Meaningful Way

Dominik Bachmair

Come to stay. Hybrid is the new normal

Before the pandemic, working in the office was normal. During the pandemic, home office was our normal. And now it’s both. We call it hybrid working: we do one part in the office and the other part flexibly and remotely. This poses major challenges for all companies. While no one wants to give up the benefits of virtual and flexible working, everyone realizes that it doesn’t work without a physical presence either. So how do we shape the new hybrid working world to harness the benefits?

Everything Starts with the Right Question

Most companies are discussing one question right now: how many days do employees need to be in the office? 2 days? 3 days? Flexible? We think this is the wrong question. After all, what’s the point of having employees in the office, but locked in and only participating in video conferences? Nor is it helpful if everyone is flexible, but this means that collaboration no longer takes place. The question must be different: for which activities is face-to-face work better suited and when are virtual and flexible working models better suited and applicable? And how do teams solve the challenges of the hybrid world?

4 Challenges in Hybrid Working Environments

Challenge Connectedness: Remote work has a negative impact on our sense of belonging and can weaken team identity. As a result, turnover can increase. Hybrid High Performance Teams spend sufficient time and work specifically on relationship and trust.

Challenge Coordination: As we are less often together in one place, the organization of collaboration within the team and with key stakeholders becomes more difficult. Hybrid high performance teams work much more methodically.

Challenge Complexity: The flexibility of hybrid working increases complexity in the organization. This is especially true for communication. Today, there are many more channels, formats and target groups. Teams get lost in the possibilities. Hybrid high-performance teams therefore have a clear communication set-up.

Ego Challenge: Hybrid working promotes concentration on individual interests. One’s own work-life balance becomes important at the expense of the team’s interests. Hybrid high performance teams therefore have a clear business focus and a framework for action.

What do Hybrid High Performance Teams do differently?

… driven by a business mission. In hybrid work environments, teams work more flexibly and decentrally. To prevent a team from falling apart, it needs a clear framework for action. This consists of a common mission, clear priorities, team goals and individual goals.

… coordinates team-work efficiently. Hybrid High Performance Teams do the right things in the right set-up. They have regular face-to-face meetings, especially for strategy work, goal setting, team building and feedback. For everything else, they use virtual meetings, but they are very efficient and always focused.

… invests in learning and development. The hybrid working world is new. We all have a lot to learn. Hybrid high-performance teams don’t design learning as a hobby, but pursue it professionally. They have team retrospectives 2-4 times a year, they know the future competencies relevant to them and develop them in a targeted manner, and they learn to deal with the challenges of the hybrid world together.

… communicates openly. Transparency and feedback are central to the success of a team. Virtual communication platforms offer a variety of opportunities to share important information. Feedback is institutionalized methodically and with tools.

… builds trustful relationships. Hybrid High Performance Teams recognize that their success is also due to the quality of the relationship. They therefore invest specifically in trust building and team building. More often than before, they meet off-site to work on themselves.

Designing Effective Virtual Coaching Processes

Field Report

Christine Fuchs-Jonsson

Virtual Coaching

In order to successfully conduct virtual coaching, the classic coaching skills are still required. But building on this, there are some factors that are important for virtual settings. Using the power of the process, establishing contact through presence, and building empathy digitally in a targeted way. As a basis, technological competencies of both the coach and coachee are essential. 

Power of Process

Coaching has always drawn part of its power from the individual setting. Coach and coachee build a trusting relationship, and the collaboration is highly individualized in terms of content and process. This also applies to virtual coaching. For these to be effective, more frequent interaction is usually necessary. So we continue to think in terms of a coaching process, but even more small-scale. A good combination of coaching conversations in video conferences with individual reflection methods has proven to be particularly effective. For example, we work with diaries that a coaching client keeps, reflection sheets or test instruments. In virtual settings, we can interact more easily and quickly. We stay on task, which is especially helpful for counseling-related and solution-focused coaching. Coaches can more easily vary interventions in the process: when is a longer and more in-depth conversation needed, when is a short check-in enough, how can coaching clients continue to work between conversations.

Factors for Successful Virtual Coaching

Power of Process

Contact through Presence

Digital Empathy

Technological Competencies for Coaches

Contact through Presence

Contact is a real challenge in coaching. Everything is limited to audiovisual perception – body perception does not take place. We do not feel ourselves. Three aspects make it even more difficult: workload, acceleration and declining attention. Most people work more and faster, breaks are rare and they stumble out of a virtual meeting and into virtual coaching. They’re also more quickly distracted in the meeting itself: e-mails pop up, family members come into the room, a new message constantly flashes in the chat. Many coaching clients are more on tenterhooks virtually and less in touch. 

To create contact in virtual coaching sessions, it is first important as a coach not to fall into the same traps, but to be present yourself. What rituals do I have as a coach to adjust to the situation and my coaching client. Video conferences are for us coaches what stage performances are for actors. Tense and nervous inside, they need ways to focus, arrive and build strength. This is how they get in touch with their audience. This ritual of inner gathering is also important for virtual coaching. After all, the more present I am as a coach, the more I can establish contact via the camera as well. 

How is my own virtual coaching space designed? As in physical coaching, the design of the space also plays a big role for contact in virtual coaching. For my own feeling, for example, it makes a big difference if I sit at a table, work with a large TV monitor, run the sound through an external speaker with an integrated microphone. I feel more free and closer to people than when I’m wearing a headset and staring into my notebook. There are initial research results that show that it is also important for coaching clients to see their coach in a larger picture. (cf. Claudia Deniers) 

Focusing the conversation is particularly important in virtual coaching sessions, since the attention span online is usually shorter. For coaches, this means taking enough time to allow coaching clients to clarify themselves and create focus for the coaching. Slowing down the conversation by increasing paraphrasing and asking more in-depth questions. Pauses seem dauntingly long in virtual meetings, but this is where they are helpful. It’s also important to sensitize our coaching clients to the way conversations are conducted. We learn together how communication works online and therefore have to go to the meta level again and again to reflect and discuss just that. Particularly when it comes to conducting conversations, we can draw on years of experience from the telephone counselling service, who also conduct empathetic counselling sessions and do not even have a video image.

Digital Empathy

No, we don’t feel each other virtually. And yet we can build empathy. If we understand empathy as I feel what you feel, then this works very difficult in a video conference. But if we understand empathy as I understand what you feel, then it works very well online. We can work specifically on the relationship level and on emotions. 

Talk to a stranger is what science calls the phenomenon that many people often open up faster and more strongly online than in physical meetings. The term originated in reference to a meeting on a train, when you suddenly tell strangers very personal things. In virtual coaching, we can take advantage of this phenomenon. When coaches establish contact as a prerequisite and create psychological safety, they are welcome to be bold and address observation more quickly, asking directly about emotions or biographical patterns. In the discussion at the Consulting Impact Workshop, one aspect was particularly emphasized in this context: We can be courageous, but we should always make this transparent in coaching, reflect on the approach and interventions with our coaching clients, and always leave the decision about the process with the coaching client. 

Working on emotions in a targeted way. There is also a wide range of methods in virtual settings. First, coaches can address their own emotions. Explain what triggers a particular behavior, for example, and thus open up another level of conversation. We can mirror in virtual meetings, feedback our perceptions.  Visualization is important for working on the emotional or personal issues. Here we can work analog-digital (draw a picture and hold it up to the camera), use whiteboards, work with constellation figures and a second camera (Lothar Wüst gave an impressive presentation here at the workshop.) or with metaphors and analogies, which often works better online than in face-to-face meetings.

Learning Journey

Formats For A New Working World

Dr. Stephanie Metz

Away from school-based learning – towards independent and collaborative learning

We want to create impact in learning and development programs. Classic training or leadership curricula no longer served the purpose for us here. That is why we have implemented and experimented with learning journeys in many different companies. Learning journeys are a combination of different learning formats. They form a framework in which participants learn both independently and with each other. You design your own journey. In the attached PDF as a download, we have made available, how this can also happen successfully in the virtual space.

Challenge: Virtual Learning Journeys

Cognitive Overload – Virtual formats invite cognitive knowledge transfer – reflection of attitude issues and emotional work become difficult. Holding Attention – The participants are busy elsewhere! Virtual learning tempts people to get distracted and thus quickly lose their attention. Binge-Learning – The participants let themselves be sprinkled! Content is consumed without actively dealing with it and getting involved. Engagement and personal responsibility are missing. To meet these challenges, we work with different design approaches for virtual learning journeys.

Flipped Classroom – The theory and impulses for concrete topics are made available via various formats BEFORE a joint virtual meeting (e.g. in the form of readers, videos, podcasts). In this way, a common theoretical basis can be created in advance, which can be worked on in a self-directed manner, independent of location and time.  The time spent together in the webinar can thus be used for experimentation, reflection and application.

Social Learning – Learning together, sharing experiences, and participating in the experiences of others must be consciously planned in the virtual space and specifically integrated into a learning journey. Properly designed, various social learning formats have an immense professional and interpersonal impact. For these formats to work virtually, very clear and detailed didactic instructions are important. We primarily use networking and peer group work here.

Analogue/Emotional Formats – In order to consciously address the relationship level in virtual learning journeys, we use analogue methods, e.g. picture stories. After reading an article, for example about the Growth Mindset, participants are given the task of finding pictures that symbolize the core of the theory. They then share these pictures with the group in the next webinar. On the one hand, this makes abstract concepts vivid and concrete, and on the other, people share something personal in the group. This creates an atmosphere of openness in which emotional aspects can also be shared. Another method that works in a similar way is storytelling. Participants prepare and tell a personal story about the topic of the learning journey.

Nudging – small nudges in the course of a learning journey – is proving to be a suitable method for maintaining the attention and engagement of participants throughout a virtual learning journey and thus increasing the effectiveness of learning. It is the necessary glue that holds the other elements together. 

If you would like to delve deeper, you can find a more in-depth experience report on virtual learning journeys in the download here.

rear view. young woman doing a report for a group of young people. business and education

Field Report External Peer Reflection

A New Kind of Leadership Development

Dominik Bachmair

Learning With and From Each Other

Our working world is changing dynamically – the need to build new competencies is clear. Many managers want to further develop their leadership skills, to prepare themselves for these very challenges of the working world. But the question is how? Most have already been in the leadership curricula of their companies and received basic training. That’s a good foundation, but it doesn’t provide the answers to executives’ questions by a long shot. Cross-company programs can be the next step. This is where multiple companies from different industries work together. External Peer Reflection is a program jointly hosted by seven companies from southern Germany.

How Does the External Peer Reflection Work

24 managers from six companies, a joint program for experience exchange and collegial consultation. The External Peer Reflection consists of the following elements:

  • Kick Off Meeting in presence: all 24 participants come together, get to know each other and the method of collegial consultation.
  • Mid Year: the coach gives impulses to deepen the coaching competencies and to lead transformations. The whole group works on real cases.
  • Closing: networking takes place once again in the whole group and the learnings are anchored.
  • The Reflecting Teams: self-organized groups of 6 that conduct collegial consultations and meet between the modules at the respective companies.
Program Overview External Peer Reflection

What is Special About the External Peer Reflection

People make the difference. 24 leaders sharing similar challenges, advising each other and benefiting from each other’s experiences.

An open and trusting atmosphere. We create a framework in which participants can open up more easily. After all, if you don’t meet again the next day in a company meeting, you dare to be more open and thus accelerate your own learning process.

Both the coach and the method provide more depth. It should not just be a chat – the collegial consultation helps the managers to go into depth and thus make the joint work more fruitful for everyone.