Niklaus Gerber

is a passionate and transformative leader with over 15 years of industry experience in digital, innovation and human-centric design.

He assists companies with human leadership, change management, digital innovation, and delivering best-in-class digital products and services.

He guides teams, shapes products, refines strategies, and makes things simpler, smarter, and more helpful.

Deep experience in facilitation, mentorship, group dynamics, enabling high-performance teams and achieving long-term positive relationships with all critical stakeholders in highly complex, uncertain and volatile environments.

Hyper Island alumni, currently leading the experience design team at Vorwerk. Previously headed the digital product development for Neue Züricher Zeitung.

Management README

Get a more profound understanding of how I function as a leader, boss, and human being.

About this document

Welcome to my README. This document is a user guide on me and how I work. It captures my guiding values and how I work as a human. Hopefully, it will help you understand me better and allow us to work together more meaningfully. This is a living document. It is incomplete and will undoubtedly continue to grow and change as I grow and change.

Why am I here?

I am here to help you and support you. My job is to provide the necessary context on what you are working on. I also represent you and the team to the rest of the company. My goal is for our team to be successful and happy.

My assumptions

You’re very good at your job: You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. If you feel like I’m asking you too many questions, it is because I want to have a better understanding of the overall context.I’m not very good at your job: You’re the expert. My job is to provide you with the necessary context, ask questions, and help you achieve better results. It’s not about overruling you.You let me know if you can’t do your job: One of my primary responsibilities is ensuring you are successful. It may be that I am not 100% there for you. Please let me know if you feel that you will need more support from me.You feel safe when you discuss with me: Ideas usually get better when you look at them from all angles. Even though I sometimes will give you the feeling that I know everything better, it is generally more about working with you to find the best possible solution.Trust is the default mode of working: Trust in a relationship is the foundation for that relationship’s success. Without trust between individuals or a team, mediocrity and failure are the most likely results. I believe that we will not be able to succeed if we can’t trust each other. My default working mode will always be that I trust you and that you trust me.I start with an assumption of positive intent for everyone involved: This has worked well for me.

My expectations

I have high expectations for you and my team. However, you can demand those things from me as well.

  • We all have a high degree of personal responsibility.

  • We are honest and open with each other.

  • We challenge and support each other.

  • We hold each other accountable.

  • We strive for excellence in our work and our collaboration.

  • We are continually learning new things, and improving our skills and the way we work.

  • We have fun at work.

Just behave like the sort of person you want as your coworker. Treat everyone like you want to be treated. We must be the kind of team where people look forward to coming to work in the morning. Life is too short for anything else.

What I also appreciate

Critical thinking: Nothing is sacred, and “Because we’ve always done it this way” is not a work culture.Self-reflection: Self-reflection is an essential part of our development. Without it, you miss many opportunities. If you still have little experience with self-reflection, I will be happy to improve your skills in this area.Empathy: Understanding, our customers, is essential for developing the best products and services. Compassion for our colleagues helps us to be a strong team.

Your performance

I’ll always give you feedback on your performance in our One-On-Ones. If I’m worried about your performance, I’ll let you know. If you are concerned about your performance, please let me know.

How you can help me

Do a great job: That’s the expectation. Please let me know immediately if anything prevents you from achieving your goals.Don’t always agree with me: The best solutions come from a healthy discussion. We need to be able to separate our ideas from our egos. I will challenge your ideas to find the best possible solution. I hope that you also challenge my ideas.Please communicate with me: One of my tasks is to provide context. Is there a lack of context? Let me know, and I will give you the necessary context. If this is not possible, I will try to find the required information.

How to efficiently work and communicate with me

Please don’t hold back: Challenge my ideas and opinions. Direct, candid feedback, ideally in the moment or after you have seen something you did not appreciate. Even better if you provide a suggestion on how I could improve. I appreciate positive feedback – if there is a valid reason for it.Ask me anything: I am as transparent as possible. Please understand that I might not be able to share personnel-related and confidential information.No politics: No cc-ing of me to pressure the person you are writing to. Only escalate a conflict once you fail to resolve it yourself.Work in iterations: If you want my input, ask me several times in the process instead of coming up with the end product. E.g., start with an outline of your idea, then bring it to 60%, then finalise it – and do problem-solving with me at these stages.Act like an owner: Do your job. Don’t try to put your monkeys on my shoulder. If you need support or want your ideas challenged, I am always there to help.Disciplined meeting management: I expect an “Intention” and “Desired Outcome” in the meeting invite; something like the IDOARRT approach might help. When I feel that I cannot contribute to a meeting or that the meeting is poorly prepared, I will mention this to the moderator and ask the person whether I am required, and then I will leave. I expect the meeting to be run efficiently and respectful of everyone’s time and contributions.Use the power of asynchronous: A vital update can be sent via email. Feedback can be gathered in a shared doc. Questions can be answered in a direct message. Decisions can be reached without everyone in the same room. Asynchronous communication is not always the best, but it’s a good default. It gives people to choose the right moment, and the time they need to engage.

My availability

Very few things are more important to me than having a conversation with you. If you want to talk, let’s talk. Have you heard a rumour? Do you need more clarification? Is something blocking your work? I prefer to know about these things sooner rather than later. Come by my place or write me a message. There is no reason to wait for the next One-On-One. You can also book an appointment on my calendar at any time. I have a demanding job, and my calendar tends to fill quickly. I can only think of a few things that might be more important than being there for you if you need me. So please don't be shy and let me know if you need my help. I promise you that I will take time for you whenever possible.

One-On-Ones

Our One-On-One is your space where you can talk about anything you want. The meetings are primarily for you. Let me know your feelings, needs, and other essential wishes. Share your thoughts about the team or your teammates and your goals. For me, One-On-Ones are not status meetings unless you want to talk about the status of a project.I will reserve some time each week for you to meet in person. If you need additional time, let me know, and I will adapt to your wishes. From experience, it makes sense to note a few things you want to discuss in advance.

Feedback

I always want to give you clear and timely feedback and I hope you do the same for me. If you have feedback for me, please share it with me. It could be something you liked and want to see more of. It could also be something you thought I could do better. Maybe I screwed up. In any case, I want to learn more from you. If you feel I would rather not hear something, I would like to know why you think so. If we give each other feedback, those three points should be kept in mind:

  • You are safe. Please don’t be afraid of reprisals.

  • The amount of work required to provide feedback should be low.

  • The benefits should be high – positive results.

I prefer a personal conversation. Should it happen that you would like to start a discussion over e-mail or any other channel, I prefer that rather than not bringing it up.

There is life beyond work

Let us agree that work isn’t everything and that we can only be our best selves at work when we take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Our work is important to us — otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. But there’s life beyond work; we have our obligations and the occasional unexpected challenge. And sometimes, we need to prioritise those.I don’t advocate for strict boundaries but the flexibility that goes both ways. I will always go the extra mile when it’s most needed and expect it from you, too. On the other hand, that means we trust each other when someone needs to leave early or take a day off.You arrive later at the office because you have had a bad night’s sleep or leave at 16:30 because you want to pick up your children from the daycare centre. Maybe you need some time off for a momentous family occasion. Let me know about it, and we will find a solution. Unless there is an emergency, I don’t expect you to be available outside office hours. I also don’t expect you to work on e-mails or messages outside your working hours.Please let me know what is essential to you. It would be best if you didn’t do unnecessary overtime – especially at the expense of your health or family. If you are unhappy with a situation, talk to me.

Writing

My thoughts on leadership, life, productivity, design, and innovation.

Two iPhone tweaks that simplify my life
A new way to streamline your workflow on iOS, which you have not tried yet.
Good reasons to worry less about things you can't control
A fundamental lesson of Stoicism to reflect on.
Two mindfulness habits worth adapting
Small changes that help you to be more intentional.
All the books I have been listening to in 2021
A short personal review.
Embracing the cold shower
I hated cold showers, and now they are my daily treat. I am sharing some tactics that worked for me to embrace the cold.
Keeping track of human interactions
My system on how I keep track with whom I meet and what we talked about.
I prefer to read the weekly news
The new system I adopted gave me more time and peace of mind.
Self-reflection
A short overview of my preferred self-reflection framework.
Strategies that helped me to procrastinate less
If you struggle with procrastination, I might help you improve your current situation.
How to keep your digital self safe
A short and actionable guide on how to stay safe online.
Fear setting
Understanding your fear helps you make difficult choices, which can lead to happiness and peace.
Mindfulness
Another idea if meditation does not work for you.
My thoughts on reducing distraction
How some small changes on your devices can help you reclaim time.
How I type and listen faster and why it matters
Improving these core skills will save you time and can make you more productive.
How I try to be kinder and more grateful in 2021
An experiment on shared gratitude.
My preferred apps 2020
These apps made my life simpler in 2020.
Giving feedback is easy, receiving feedback is hard
My thoughts and experience on why receiving feedback is demanding and how you can become better at it.
Put the fire with the rest of the fire
Choose your battles wisely, acknowledge when you know things are broken, but you decide not to fix them.
Why do humans not provide a manual?
And why they absolutely should.
Why we should talk less and listen more
My thoughts on why people don‘t listen.
Daily Pages
An easy way to build new healthy habits and to train self-reflection.
Deep dive: How I manage my tasks with P.A.R.A. and Notion
A new system that serves me well.
How I found a more mindful way to manage my todos
My tool-agnostic way to task management.
Are you feeling like an imposter at work?
Here is what helped me.
A first step to become more confident and to embrace your learning journey
Reframing how you think.
Remote team retrospective canvas
How to run an effective remote team retrospective.
What is innovation?
A beginner’s guide into different models, terminologies and methodologies.
Team Check-Ins and Check-Outs
How Check-Ins and Check-Outs will help you to build stronger teams.
Business transformation
Thoughts on building innovation capabilities.
A critical review of design thinking
Design thinking is a proven, repeatable and reliable problem-solving process.

Better Human

Better Human will help you become an improved version of yourself — in work, at home and in life. Exploring how you can bring your whole self to everything you do. You will gain access to real-life proven frameworks, strategies methods and tools that support you to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life: Subscribe to better human

Bookshelf

A glimpse into my bookshelf. You will find books I enjoyed reading from 2021 onwards.

Please join me on Oku to get a deeper insight into my reading habits. Feel free to use this referral link to create your account.

Steal my stuff

The more we share, the more we have.

I have the firm belief that if we have found a way of doing something that works, we share it whenever we can instead of reinventing the wheel every time. This curated catalogue includes frameworks, guides, tools, processes, and methods that helped me become a better leader.

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