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Changing the way we work: Shifting attitudes and flexible working

Lynne Copp

Lynne Copp reveals her top tips on changing the culture of a business and helping employees to find the perfect work/life balance

As an executive coach, I have supported many women and men in their attempt to achieve work and life balance; to dance to their own tunes and find ways to support their unique needs. However, it was a bit like taking a frog from a muddy pond, cleaning it up, and putting it back in the muddy pond and expecting it to stay clean! Frogs don’t need cleaned, ponds do!

The mud in the business pond manifests as the culture and environment in which people are expected to thrive. Since the 80’s we have observed the growth of the performance culture in the pond, this choking weed of imbalance has created a toxic environment. 


The performance culture focuses on two things:

  •  Cost Control (of time, people, resources and productivity)
  •  Performance (of results, profits, turnover, revenue, people, quality and cost)

In a performance culture, ‘raising the bar’ and ‘more for less!’ have become the battle-cries – and ‘less’ usually means less cost and that invariably means less people. Over the years, we have seen the culling of people from organisations, in an effort to improve the bottom line – a short-term strategy with long-term negative impact on people and results. When an organisation focuses on a vision of  ‘more for less’, the action is ‘more’ and the goal becomes ‘less’. Organisations, through negative directional metaphor, are creating a self-fulfilling prophecies of ‘more for less’: more costs, more turnover of staff, hours of work, short-termism, workload, and sickness absence. the outcome of the goal is less innovation, satisfaction, customer loyalty, success, profit and market share. Just like the pond, every aspect of business health is being suffocated by this out-of-date and toxic leadership model; one that benefits neither gender.

If businesses are inherently performance driven (masculine), then could this be a contributing factor in the lack of women either balancing work and life, or breaking through the metaphorical glass ceiling? Remember, there is no ceiling on a pond, just mud and toxins in the water! The mud for women is the expectation of time and target, and the toxins are lack of investment in values driven environments and direction. If performance is measured in ‘more’ then more time in the office is seen as a badge of commitment – women with caring responsibilities cannot do this, and are therefore regarded as less committed. Flexible working systems are seen as ‘giving to the employee’ and a measure of inability to step up to the macho culture of presenteeism. So what needs to happen to clean the pond? 

These questions and others formed the basis for a major research project, entitled Living Leadership to define the leadership practices needed for today’s workplace, and also those aspects that would create a more balanced culture – a blend of the masculine and feminine; one that better serves both genders. 

The results of the research are compelling and the findings and case-studies are currently being compiled into a book, entitled ‘Living Leadership - Changing the Way Work, Works…for Good!’

The key to Living Leadership is redressing the balance within the business by identifying those areas that are working well and those that require adjustment or change. 

Living Leadership is divided into ‘align’ and ‘allow’. When combined they create balance, customer advocacy and results. 

  • Begin with direction – what are the underlying metaphors that are running your business? Is it ‘good to great’, or ‘more for less’?
  • Values – hire for attitude, you can train the rest! Recruitment and performance management systems must measure values and behaviours, not just competencies
  • Play to strengths – re-design your performance management, business systems and products/services to focus on strengths not weaknesses
  • Flexible working is a tool, not a solution! Align your people to your customers in every way possible (physically and emotionally) and set them free to deliver in ways that suit their work and life. Flexible working should be reason-neutral – everyone in the business, not just a few
  • Develop employee affinity through customer aligned process improvement, communication, diversity and fun. Allow a culture of devolved leadership, emotional intelligence and strong sense of legacy

Work/life balance is the result of creating a customer-aligned, flexible, agile and talent focused team, supported by modern leaders who have let go of old legacy controls and expectations, embraced the new and tapped into the minds and hearts of every person in their business for the sake of the customer and future success.

Lynne Copp is founder, The Worklife Company.


  • John Eary

    Good practical advice. McGregor categorised managers as Theory X or Theory Y. A Theory X manager believes that people inherently dislike work and prefer to be directed and must be coerced or controlled. A Theory Y manager believes that people like work and learn to accept and seek responsibility and and trust them to get on with the job. Theory Y managers have a much greater chance of successfully managing Agile Workers - see

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