Lindsay Uittenbogaard founded Mirror Mirror in 2016.
With twenty-five years of commercial experience, Lindsay spent the first ten years of her career in entrepreneurial and small business management roles. She moved across to communication leadership positions in multinational organisations in 2001.
Since then she has gained international communications experience across the energy, IT, and telecommunications industries.
Manuela Damant, Co-Founder and Owner of Open the Door Leadership, which focuses on empowering high potential women, interviewed Lindsay about her work with Mirror Mirror.
Hello Lindsay. You clearly saw a gap in the market and a need. What first inspired you to develop it?
Mirror Mirror was born out of personal frustration actually. During my 15 years in organizational communication, I found it difficult working in teams where people don’t think that the views and feelings of their team members are relevant to the performance of the team; who think diplomacy should come before honesty; and who think they need to own a space and control it. To me, this kind of thinking is out of date. It seems almost bizarre that with all we know today, it’s still quite prevalent.
At the same time, I know that if people can let go of trying so hard, open up to their colleagues, and start sharing the responsibility to make progress, it can be very refreshing, constructive.
Experience has taught me that change only happens when it makes sense to people, and at the same time, we know that most efforts fail. It’s obvious to me that when people in a team don’t have a clear and aligned view of ‘where we are now’, they will be less able to point in the same direction and get to where they want to go, efficiently and effectively.
‘Where we are now’ is not made up of a strap line or single statement. It is a collective understanding between the leader and their team members about why they are a team, what’s important and why, how they can influence things, where the gaps and opportunities are, and who will do what.
And that’s what Mirror Mirror does. It helps teams get to grips with a team view of ‘where they are now’ and get them started on making progress together, more effectively than they would have done without it.
So how is Mirror Mirror different to the other team effectiveness offerings out there?
Mirror Mirror is the only structured, repeatable process that allows teams to identify and explore their shared current reality as a way of creating the clarity, alignment, and momentum they need to get to the next level.
It is not a concept or theoretical model that needs to be translated back into the workplace: it is an entirely practical action learning process that connects effectiveness with the identification of the whole team context, so that everyone in the team is already engaged and committed to move forward together.
What tip would you give to team leaders who have concerns about the alignment of their team?
Leaders and Managers have a tough job (I have written about this in my blog). Teams are not naturally aligning, harmonious units. Most team leaders try to keep on top of things by having conversations with people one-on-one or in groups, but when things speed up, diverge and change, it’s hard to keep everyone properly in the loop, and this is not necessarily a reflection on the Team Leader. My tip would be to focus on anchoring on the truth – be clear about what is happening and how it is being interpreted – and give them space to come to their own interpretations and provide you with feedback. Let people know what to expect and have the difficult but meaningful conversations that get to the heart of learning about what can go better. Ask questions upwards, keep the dialogue going, don’t struggle on defiantly with a wall around you.
Mirror Mirror concentrates on teams in transition. Is there an ideal point in time at which leaders could take advantage of Mirror Mirror?
It’s a mantra these days that change is constant. In principle, anytime is a good time for leaders to help prepare their teams for the next step. But some times are better than others. New leaders and team members can compress their onboarding time significantly with Mirror Mirror – that’s a good time. Pressure to get different results – that’s a good time. A stale team in need of a jumpstart – that’s a good time.
What do you feel is lacking in business today when it comes to team effectiveness?
There’s a general sense of disappointment about some of the leadership learning models and concepts out there and how the ROI from using that doesn’t seem to be coming through. The good intentions effects seem to disappear when we return to the workplace. Why? Because of the culture and other contextual factors at work are simply overpowering. We fall back into our old ways and habits.
A good friend of mine who has worked in HR Management with a large global organization for the past 15 years remarked that with all the millions they have spent on leadership development and performance management programmes over the years, the evidence just wasn’t there to show a return on investment.
With the low levels of trust in leaders, the perceived fake news, and the increasing complexity in all sectors, we are missing tangible, practical, quick and easy ways to move forward that are anchored in the workplace context.
Mirror Mirror was founded solely by you along with the support of various industry partners. What is the hardest part about launching a new offering into such a busy market?
When people ‘get’ Mirror Mirror’ they are very enthusiastic and want to help spread the word. However, there are multiple potential buyers and users, depending on which organization you are talking to – from the HR Director to the Team Leader, from the L&D Manager to the Organizational Effectiveness consultant. People can interpret the words in our marketing materials in different ways, so it’s quite hard to communicate Mirror Mirror on paper / digitally in a way that is immediately understandable. Face to face meetings are much more effective, and everything we do is geared around building relationships rather than sharing information.
Finally, what excites you about working in this industry?
What I hear about the future excites me. I’m hearing a hunger for more transparency, honesty, employee involvement, and employee enablement. I’m hearing a need for simple, practical, and immediately actionable learning rather than month-long programmes. I’m picking up on the willingness of people to look at the latest offerings on the market. All this means there’s a lot of scope to deliver low cost, low intensive options that make a big impact.