Stewarding – one way of showing guidance and leadership at Gini
The special thing about Gini is that we are working in self-organized teams. As a result, we do not have bosses who tell us what to do and what to work on. Therefore, the question of “who is our go-to person and who takes care of our personal and professional development?“ arises.
This blog article provides an answer by explaining the concept of stewarding. You will learn why we have stewards, what they are and are not, and which tasks and responsibilities they have. Furthermore, you will understand how stewarding looks in practice and how to become a steward at Gini.
Gini Stewards (May 2021)
Why do we have stewards?
Gini’s purpose is about putting people first. To make it explicit, Ginis work and act according to the claim “first, create happy people”. This is not only lived internally within Gini but externally when we are in contact with candidates and partners.
Regarding the internal part, we noticed that one component was still missing to be truly happy. While there was no longer hierarchy and Ginis had lots of autonomy and responsibility, a contact person was missing. A person they could ask all their questions to, who supported them, who was interested in their personal and professional growth, and who acted as their sparring partner. Due to this issue, we introduced the stewarding concept at Gini. This concept is one of our ways to show guidance and leadership within our organization.
What is a steward and what isn’t?
We like to think of a steward as someone who supports the growth of an individual Gini through guidance within our self-organized culture and sparring of growth options. Additionally, a steward is a Gini’s personal contact with the organization.
And to make it explicit, stewards are not managers or supervisors that track someone’s workload, assign them tasks, and do their performance evaluation. They aren’t mentors either, who might provide advice or technical knowledge. A steward is someone who accompanies fellow peers along a development path.
Which tasks and responsibilities does a steward have?
Stewards are considered to be the go-to person for whatever need a Gini has around culture, processes, structure, and personal development. Stewards help to navigate through our organizational structure so that, especially new Ginis, feel comfortable as well as effective and productive. In other words, stewards are the voice and face of Gini and support and communicate Gini’s expectations. They serve as sparring partners and work together on topics their stewardee has identified. In addition, a steward will challenge their stewardee with the clear intention to enable them and support their personal growth. Another task is to give support in case of conflict situations in which the steward facilitates, but is not the one who fixes it. Stewards ensure the personal and professional development of their stewardees and facilitate their 360° feedback rounds every few months.
Stewards are our internal coaches, and work on all these topics with their stewardees:
- Current mood and well-being
- Workload and energy level
- Personal and professional development
- Clear tasks, roles, and mandates
- Team collaboration
- Self-organization and org structure
What does stewarding look like in practice?
Every permanent part- and full-time Gini has a steward, which implies that every steward has a steward as well. It is important to understand that stewarding is not limited to a certain period of time, such as onboarding, but accompanies an employee throughout their tenure all the time at Gini. Over time, a relationship of trust develops between the steward and the stewardee which contributes to efficient, open, and trusted cooperation. Stewarding is based on the systemic approach, which means that the focus is entirely on the stewardee. The motto is, “helping Ginis to help themselves.” Of course, Gini as an organization also plays a role, too, but a secondary one. This also means, for example, that a steward would support their stewardee in leaving the company if it is the best way forward for the stewardee. Consequently, the stewardee gives directions and communicates what they need and what is good for them.
Stewarding sessions happen through regular 1-on-1 meetings, which are usually weekly or bi-weekly with a timeframe of 30 to 60 minutes. They can happen in person at the office, but they can also take place online, via zoom video call, or even at a location not in the office, like going outside for a walk.
Stewarding sessions are characterized by the following aspects:
In order to give you an insight into our stewarding practice, the following list shows how the first three sessions often look like:
First stewarding session:
- Get to know each other and set a foundation of trust
- Explain the stewarding concept and its purpose
- Talk about meeting rhythm
- Clarify open questions of stewardee
Second stewarding session:
- Talk about expectations between steward and stewardee
- Go through the collected team expectations for the stewardee
- Explain Gini’s learning budget and how we handle it
- Clarify open questions of stewardee
Third stewarding session:
- The first reflection of start at Gini
- Deepen getting to know each other
- Explain the feedback process at Gini
- Clarify open questions of stewardee
Generally, stewards use different kinds of tools, processes, and models. In particular, systemic questioning techniques are frequently used and play a big role. With that, Ginis are encouraged to think as they are confronted with a question. In addition, stewards give their stewardees the opportunity to reflect calmly about different kinds of issues in regular intervals, which is often neglected in everyday life. So sometimes there is just a little question needed to start a stewarding session.
Here are some sample questions we use:
- How are you feeling?
- How would you describe your current mood?
- What topic do you want to talk about today?
- Which topic are you thinking about at the moment?
- Which questions do you have?
- What gives you energy at work?
- What drains your energy at the moment?
- What is the biggest challenge for you currently?
- What challenges would you like to tackle?
- How would you describe your current workload?
- What would enable you to do your best work?
- What would you like to use your learning budget for?
How to become a steward at Gini?
Becoming a steward at Gini is not a promotion in the traditional sense, where someone switches to a department of experts. We see it as someone taking on a role because they are highly empathic, have a good understanding of people, and a high level of interest in the development of other Ginis. This means that the person continues to work in their area of expertise and takes on an additional role as a steward.
There are several ways of identifying new stewarding candidates. For example, an interested Gini can proactively approach their steward in this regard or a Gini proposes another Gini who they think might be a good fit for stewarding.
If the steward-to-be wants to start the journey towards stewarding Ginis, there will be an assessment by the stewarding team whether the candidate is a role model in living the Gini values and whether she or he has great potential to coach others in their personal development. The steward-to-be should be established in their other role(s) first, before taking on this extra responsibility. After the stewarding team has considered somebody eligible, a second check is undertaken by a professional business coach. As soon as the go is given, the stewarding training can start:
- Fourteen sessions with our external business coach
- Three days of an external basic seminar for systemic business coaching
- Two days of external tough conversation training
During the training phase, the steward-to-be is already involved in internal stewarding-meetings. This makes it easier to take on the new role and to understand how stewards work together at Gini.
Overall, experience has shown how valuable stewarding is. In the meantime, the concept has become an essential part of Gini which is incredibly beneficial for every Gini. It is great to know that there’s a go-to person with whom one can discuss everything. Of course, the stewarding concept is not perfect yet, so we are working on constant improvement. With that, we are in line with our Gini value of “opportunities rather than risks” which means that we constantly question the status quo. Overall, we are very proud to have developed such a great concept at Gini.
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Are you interested in learning more about our stewarding concept?
Don’t hesitate to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to get in touch with you!