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 organizations 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?
We know that progress and change is slow and inefficient when people in a team aren’t heard and they aren’t pointing in the same direction. I’ve seen the frustration and wastage this causes. And that’s where the Mirror Mirror concept came from. It’s a process that helps teams make better and faster progress by helping them develop a shared understanding and more ownership.
If people can open up and hear the views of others to recognize the common ground and find compatibility among the differences, what happens is better actions and decisions, and ultimately more effectiveness.
So how is Mirror Mirror different to the other team effectiveness offerings out there?
A wide range of tools are used in organizations for learning & development, and engagement of employees and managers, such as employee engagement surveys, 360 feedback tools, psychometric profiling, Line Manager engagement training and coaching and so on. It is difficult to assign causality between these activities and performance improvements.
Mirror Mirror is a systemic team effectiveness process that takes a structured, focused, common sense approach to shared understanding and ownership in a way that brings multiple, lasting benefits.
A shared understanding: we recognize that people naturally see things differently, especially in complex work environments. Misunderstandings, assumptions, interpretations, information gaps, biases: un-managed, these can lead to misalignment, conflicting decisions and actions, frustration, wasted time and money, and poor performance. We handle this with a perception comparison and dialogue process.
Shared ownership: we recognize that people need to be heard and understood to feel belonging and interest. And we know that senior leaders operating outside of those teams rarely have the answers, let alone the ability to stay in touch with what’s really happening and what’s needed within those teams. We handle this by channeling clear and concise insights and feedback to sponsors for tomorrow’s strategy planning and communications.
Mirror Mirror 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 aligned, 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 the confusion and disconnects that occur are not necessarily a reflection on the Team Leader. My tip would be to spend time understanding what the views of your team are, and why. That way you’ll know how to engage with them. 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. Good learnings and intentions 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 20 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 in such a busy market?
When people ‘get’ Mirror Mirror’ they are very enthusiastic and want to help spread the word. But it’s quite hard to communicate Mirror Mirror in a way that immediately makes sense to people. It’s a new idea, a new way of thinking.
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. I find it hugely exciting!